Thursday, June 4, 2009

The day when it would be necessary to exercise discernment in order to tell the difference between a hero or a villain seemed, for a long time, like a far-fetched idea to me, as history and experience generally create a clear distinction between the two; and understandably so, since after all, they happen to be opposites. That is, until recently; when, while listening to a news reporter, a name came to my mind; a name that instantly launched my mental faculties into the deep, dark, and often despised abyss of controversy that necessarily surrounds the name Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Born to a family of eight, Dietrich and his twin sister, Sabina, made their entrance into a sullen, gray world in Breslau, on the chilly night of February 4, 1906. His father, Karl Bonhoeffer, while working as a professor of psychiatry and Neurology at Berlin University, was Germany's leading empirical psychologist. Dietrich received his doctorate from Berlin University in 1927, and lectured in the theological faculty during the early thirties. He was ordained a Lutheran pastor in 1931, and served two Lutheran congregations, St. Paul's and Sydenham, in London from 1933-35.
In 1934, 2000 Lutheran pastors organized the Pastors' Emergency League in opposition to the state church controlled by the Nazis. This organization evolved into the Confessing Church, a free and independent protestant church. Bonhoeffer served as head of the Confessing Church's seminary at Finkenwalde. The activities of the Confessing Church were virtually outlawed and its five seminaries closed by the Nazis in 1937.
Bonhoeffer's active opposition to National Socialism in the thirties continued to escalate until his recruitment into the resistance in 1940. The core of the conspiracy to assassinate Adolph Hitler and overthrow the Third Reich was an elite group within the Abwehr (German Military Intelligence), which included, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Head of Military Intelligence, General Hans Oster (who recruited Bonhoeffer), and Hans von Dohnanyi, who was married to Bonhoeffer's sister, Christine. All three were executed with Bonhoeffer on April 9, 1945. For their role in the conspiracy, the Nazis also executed Bonhoeffer's brother, Klaus, and a second brother-in-law, Rudiger Schleicher, on April 23, 1945, seven days before Hitler himself committed suicide on April 30.
Bonhoeffer's role in the conspiracy was one of courier and diplomat to the British government on behalf of the resistance, since Allied support was essential to stopping the war. Between trips abroad for the resistance, Bonhoeffer stayed at Ettal, a Benedictine monastery outside of Munich, where he worked on his book, Ethics, from 1940 until his arrest in 1943. Bonhoeffer, in effect, was formulating the ethical basis for when the performance of certain extreme actions, such as assassination, were required of a morally responsible person, while at the same time attempting to overthrow the Third Reich in what everyone expected to be a very bloody coup d'etat.
This combination of action and thought surely qualifies as one of the more unique moments in intellectual history, as Dietrich was essentially a modern pioneer in this area of philosophy.
Highly acclaimed throughout history, Bonhoeffer has been hailed as a hero by the conservative community for many years, upheld as a heroic champion for the cause of freedom.
So we know all about a guy that lived 60-ish years ago now. Great guy, plenty of the guts and backbone that make the "grit" we respect in a leader or hero, but what's the point?
This is where the story reverts back to the sparking of this train of thought; the irritating, maddeningly shrill voice of the news reporter doing the job he was trained so well to do: reporting news. The news this particularly unsavory individual had to bear, however, was not the ordinary yawn and finish your coffee before work news. No, instead, the terrible little sounds his voice box was making announced that the famous abortionist George Tiller had been brutally gunned down in his church by a pro-life activist with a weapon and a home-made sense of justice. Murderer of 60,000 innocent children, many of them past the 21 week mark, Tiller was not the type of guy I would have coffee with and chat about world affairs and views; however, killing him is taking it a little too far, right? I mean, after all, despite being the biggest mass murderer in the U.S., he is still a human, and that counts for something, last time I checked. The retard that shot him obviously hadn't thought through the consequences of his actions: the name this would give the pro life community, giving the secular world yet more reason to throw us into the class of dangerous criminals. Gosh, didn't this guy have any brains at all? Did he just wake up sunday morning with an overwhelming impulse to go to church and shoot George? Apparently...
But then I actually started thinking. And a very disturbing thought came to my head that I immediately dispelled, and questioned my mental health for thinking it. But then it came back. A little light bulb came on in my head for a short second (not really: metaphorically speaking. if a light bulb were to actually exist in my head, I'd be really weird, and if it came on, that would be beyond weird and into the realm of freaky) however, it only stayed on for a short second, because it was suddenly flooded by an overpowering wave of confusion: confusion as the "conservative", "pro-life" news service railed on Scott Roeder, calling him a villainous enemy to the conservative cause. But why the confusion? Obviously, Roeder is a murderer! The cowardly act of brutality can be nothing but simply despicable! Oh, but that stupid little thought comes crawling back: Tiller was a mass murderer... The 60,000 innocents whose blood stains his hands equal over a fourth of the number exterminated by the insane rampage of Hitler: a sobering thought when you consider that while Hitler was practically insane and intended to weed out and "purify" the population, Tiller had no motivation beyond the whim of a deceived woman, mislead into making a decision that will ultimately bring her pain and shame. The cruel heartlessness of this monster can very possibly be accurately described as unsurpassed in the history of the world. When a raving maniac went on a murdering spree and killed thousands of innocents leaving a bloody trail of hopelessness behind, a man named Bonhoeffer participated in an assassination plot to stop the terrible evil ravaging the earth, and was consequently lifted up as a hero. Scott Roeder, a long time pro-life activist, saw the exact same situation ignored by the legal system of our land, and consequently took the action he deemed necessary to end the mass slaughter, reaping rejection and criticism from almost the entire nation. Is Roeder a hero for preventing the slaughter of yet more innocents at the hand of Tiller, or is he a villain; a scoundrel responsible for tainting the conservative community and pro-life-ism itself by committing a rash act of unjustifiable violence? Quite frankly, I don't know. I'm confused. Rage finds a compromise with Scriptural commands, yet certain biblical principles and precedent indicate a far different pattern than the current pacifist mental state in which the majority of Christians lie. At the same time, principle clashes with direct command, leaving the head of the student spinning. In the light of my ignorance, and with the haunting words of God "thou shalt not kill" lingering in the back of your mind, I leave you a parting question. If a serial killer were loose in your community, killing innocent children by the thousands, and, by some happenstance, you found it in your power to end the swath of brutal murder with the pull of a trigger, and you knew for certain that if you did not take that action, more innocent lives would be destroyed, would you walk away and let it continue, or would you end it?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

So this is the last post before I leave the stunningly gorgeous continent on which I am currently residing: a post which comes at a time when I'm sitting up rubbing my head saying 'where am I, how did I get here, and where did the last 2 months go?'. That's just one side though. On the other hand, when I think about certain American things, I instantly know that I've been here for what seems like a very long time. Anyway, I've gained a healthy respect for Jennifer, and the work she's doing here, learned that patience is indeed a virtue; while any suppositions that I had any strains of said virtue went sliding down the tube at an incredible velocity, learned that the human digestive system can stand up to some amazing tests, learned that my status as an EMT proves only that I know less than nothing when it comes to anything too far from an ambulance and the supplies it carries, to use the words of an ER nurse with whom I had the privilege of working, and watched in awe as each of my little 'bubbles' was rudely burst, one by one, and reality took their place. In short, I've discovered a very small slice of life in Africa.
Was the trip worth it? Totally. Would I do it again? Sure. I'd change a few things, but I'd do it again. Do I get excited at the thought of the States? Absolutely.
To change the topic to recent happenings, I had an ...interesting... experience yesterday: I decided to hike back to a lake in the bush to get some pictures. So here goes Caleb, all geared up for a bush hike: Machete, backpack with general expedition supplies, 2 litres of Mazo, knife, hiking boots; everything I should need right? Well, with the exception of chest waders, yeah. So I find the lake, decide to walk all the way around it to get various pictures, and with that plan in mind, proceed down the nice little trail that runs along the one side of it. All was going well until the path ended. No big deal, hey? Walking through unblazed bush shouldn't be a problem... Should be kinda cool actually. And it was! Absolutely beautiful area. So after hiking for a while, I choose a spot to sit down for a minute and just take in the view. Good idea, because just after I sit down, a small crocodile runs out of the weeds and into the water, and I was hoping to see one. Excitement gave way to anxiety a moment later when I started feeling the ants. Yeah. Lots of 'em. And these aren't anything like American ants; I decided that after the first bite, and the decision kind of came rushing out in a yell. Fortunately, the top of my combat boots was confusing them for some reason, so the majority of them were staying on the boots, but enough made it over the top to wake me up. The next step was to head a mile or so away from the lake, in an attempt to avoid the deep swamp that blocked my way for as far as I could see, and after discovering that the swamp was not going to end, I had to choose between going back, or crossing the swamp. I took the more intriguing option, and prepared to cross. It was painstakingly slow moving between clumps of grass in order to keep myself on the surface, but manageable. That is, until I had moved a couple hundred yards out, and it suddenly got much deeper, and the grass clumps were scattered farther and farther apart. Inevitably, I finally missed one and sunk almost to my waist before I stopped myself, at which point I decided, heck with it; I'm wading across. Moving was slightly faster after that, despite the heavy mud, and eventually I reached the other side. So, I complete the circuit of the lake, take some snap shots, and strike out for the road. Now, I took a bus out of town to near the spot where I intended to enter the bush, dropped there, and hiked in, with the intent of doing the same in reverse order at the end of my little expedition. Great idea, but the bus drivers didn't think so when they saw me emerge from the woods and prepare to board. Can't say I really blame them either, so, out of options, i walked all the way back. btw, everyone i passed on the way back thought it was absolutely hilarious to see a white guy covered in mud, smelling like a swamp, and clutching a camera, limping down the side of the road. And I didn't.
oh, and apparently I'm not a very dedicated photographer, because from the swamp on out, i forgot to take any pictures.
Anyway, that's pretty much the latest. 2 more weeks, and they're going fast.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Some of you said you were looking forward to another update because you were interested, and some of you said it only to be polite. Either way, a fresh glimpse of events here was requested, for which reason I've decided to do that which I hate most; taking a moment to think of a blog/FB post. Nothing of any terrible importance has transpired since my last note, just the steady construction of the church building, slowly defying gravity as the walls rise, block by block; shaking a concrete fist in the face of that ever present and oft despised law of nature.
I've discovered a new principle of governance which I've considered discussing with the president when I return: that of rule by chiefs. You see, a chief here is like a demi-king, ruling his domain with a sort of limited monarchy very similar to that traditional and historically predominant form of government, varied only in that he is ultimately answerable to the government of the country if he commits an act that could be considered outrageous. Oh, but our governmental system was developed as an improvement on that idea, introducing a form of accountability through checks and balances that tie the hands of the ruling personage, retarding the advance of the corruption that naturally comes with the rule of man over his fellow beings: yes, this is, of course, true, but the positive side would be that the solving of legal difficulties can be significantly expedited by the lack of appeals to higher levels of judgment and the formal processes that drag out court action. In less words, the chief makes a decision when he deems it necessary, and no one argues. That's it. End of discussion.
So pretty much, we could do a Dr. Schulz cleanse on the legal system if this idea were adopted for a short period of time. All the clogged, long drawn out cases that in our comparison would be called toxins and whatever other terrible and disgusting contents you never knew about until you read the ad. for the cleanse, would growl and boil for awhile, and then come spewing out, bringing great relief to the tired system that has for so long endured their presence.
Ok, so I'm kidding a little (I've got to clarify that, because some of you consider my political ideas weird enough that you would believe I was serious) and whether or not you wanted to hear about that, you now know a little about the 'legal' system here.
Moving on, the next thing I'd like to say, is that I've walked more in the last (almost) 2 months, than I've walked in my entire life, ever since I gave up rolling for the more socially acceptable means of transporting one's self. I'd like to go on a little rant about that subject, but taking into consideration the fact that you fat, lazy Americans that hop in the car whenever you want to go to the mailbox probably don't want to hear it, I'll give up that idea, and just sit in a corner and think happy thoughts about the time when going to the store, or any place else i needed or wanted to go involved jumping in my truck, and exercising the hands and feet only to perform the basic functions of driving.
Speaking (or typing) of walking brings to mind another thing i wanted you to know about. The people here walk V E R Y S L O W L Y , picking their way along as if they were walking towards certain doom and wanted to delay arriving at that point of terror for as long as humanly possible. Seriously, I thought there was a limit to how slow a person could walk, but I quickly discovered how ignorantly mistaken my thinking was when I came here. Let me quote Thor Ramsey as best as I can from memory here: Look lady, you stand where he was, and then I'll stand where you were, and then he'll stand where I was... that's how a line works!! Come on! I want at least the illusion of progress..." Ok, I probably slaughtered that, but you get the point. And then, after being so obstinately slow for ever, they have the gall to growl at you when you squeeze by as you pass dozens of them in a single stride, trying to get to the next bus so that you can pick a seat in which you will not have someone sitting on your lap; or attempting to be somewhere even remotely close to 'on time'; or just to stretch out a little after shuffling along with the crowd for what seems like days, packed into the relatively short span of what's probably closer to minutes.
ok, there's another little peek into life here; I sincerely hope you enjoy reading this, because I'm not sure when, or even if, I will create another one of these.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

hip, hip, hurray! A new blog post! Text only, but still... a post!
so this is for those of you who have asked about my journey so far, and have not received a reply. (it's also for anyone who visits this blog, but it makes me look better if i address it to those who's questions I have neglected). With the shallow and somewhat insincere dedication out of the way, I'll start from somewhere near the beginning of my adventure and hopefully bring you up to speed with current events here on the dark, -but sunny- continent of Africa.
The flight from Detroit to London was fairly uneventful, and since the plane was comparatively empty, some degree of comfort was obtained by stretching out across a row of seats. Arrival in London was invigorating, as the prospect of touring this great wealth of history seated in the mother of our great country aroused the mental senses dulled by a long night in the air; and we promptly set about to do that very thing. Fast forward to the scene of a country boy walking through the halls of time, his jaw stretching as he tries to take in the immense grandeur of this city, the stunning scenery of Hyde and green parks, and the hilarious accent of grown men who sound like the children from the little kidnappers,k complimented by cops in their traditional helmets. Buckington Palace was amazing... I briefly considered sneaking my way inside to the resolute desk and peering underneath to see if the little code numbers were there, but thought better of it when the guard came clacking by, after which my mind was quickly diverted to the humor i found in watching the way the march. Instead of writing about London all day (which would not be so hard to do), I'm going to fast forward yet again to Johannesburg, South Africa, where I finally began to feel warm for the first time in many months. Next comes Ndola, with Jennifer, Frazer, and Evans at the airport to welcome us and help load our luggage into the back of a bus they rented to transport us to Kalalushi. Arriving at Jennifer's place, there was pretty much one thought on my mind; a noble goal that most strive to obtain; a goal which, like all others, the busy and hard workers find, and the lazy seek until the end of Time; which high pursuit is known my many names... Hitting the sack, examining the back of the eyelids, getting some shut-eye, turning in, retiring, and, the most common of all, sleep.
After that, its kind of been one long blur, punctuated by brief moments of sleeping and eating; eating being our next topic. I've tried alot of the traditional foods; some of you saw the pictures of me trying caterpillars and termites, but i'm telling you, in spite of things like that, some of the cuisine here almost reaches the level of excellence. I quickly discovered that Nshima with sweet potato leaves is fantastic, and was delighted to discover that okra is readily available at the market. After frying up a bunch of that for dinner one night, Clara cooked some the traditional way to eat with Nshima, and I was once again pleased by the finished product.
Work on the Plot has progressed quickly; we hauled gravel to fill the foundation, after which the entire surface had to be tamped, and then more gravel and sand hauled and dumped in piles to be later mixed with the cement to cast the slab. That was the next major project, with all the water having to be drawn by hand from three of the neighbor's wells. I know now why the biblical woman at the well was so excited by what she at first thought was an offer to relieve her of the effort of ever having to draw water again... to top it off, that day it rained the whole time we were working, and although zambia is pretty much warm all year round, it was COLD that day, and we were soaked to the skint to boot. Anyway, the slab is now complete, and yesterday we finished haluing the last of the blocks in Jennifer's yard to the plot, and building is to commence very soon. Today we went with Pastor Townsend and Bethany to the airport, to bid them farewell on their return journey to the arctic wasteland of MI, after which I took a bus back to Jennifer's place, and discovered that I had locked myself out. I want to take a minute to educate you on public transport here... These people don't know what sardines are, but they have hte concept down to a science. TodayI was packed in with my immediate surroundings being a whole crowd of sweaty (they seem to think that deodorant is overrated) middle aged men, accented here and there with a woman or child, a man nodding off so much that for the most part, he was sleeping on my shoulder on the right side, a squirming nervous older guy with his elbow in my ribs on the left, a pleasantly plump woman who's seat was so close in front of me that the hair from her wig was in my face, and a young boy behind me who's fingers kept accidentally sliding towards the pockets of my backpack. You won't understand unless you try it sometime, but I wanted to complain on here about it anyway, because that's probably the thing that bothers me most of everything i've tried here so far.
No hunting yet; there's too many hippos at the river right now, and they tend to make the crocodiles harder to find from what the bush people tell me so I'm waiting for a good chance, and then maybe i'll do a special post on that if anything exciting happens.
That's all for now... i'm going to get some sleep.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On the morning after the inauguration of the forty fourth president of the United States, an ominous stillness hung in the air, while a quick peek out the slider window served only to increase the sense of foreboding that began to flourish at the sight of the dull, leaden sky, hovering oppressively over the frozen landscape as if attempting to suffocate the inhabitants of the earth under the weight of its steel gray mass, unaware or careless of the the unsuspecting, slumbering victims below. Then, like a flash of lightning, the doom of man was sealed. The world lay broken; divided exactly in half as if divine providence had ordered it, signifying the end of the reign of humanity, the final hour of mortal kingdoms, the fate of the empires of the earth. Ah, it was too late now to weep; too late to beg mercy and attempt to buy time, for the end was come; swiftly, surely, silently, and unstoppable in its march towards infinity and whatever lay in that unknown path.
Who could help us now? What could fix a shattered world, brutally broken and lying scattered on the floor? But wait! A challenger has arisen! A challenger to the idea that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world! She will attempt to stem the tide of fate, an attempt which, if succesfull, will leave the earth forever in her debt, kings at her mercy, empires bowing at her feet, obama in a cotten field. Deft fingers work rapidly, hands accustomed to fixing the mistakes and wanton destructiveness of others putting all they have into this ultimate test of skill vs. the inevitable. And then, as fast as the tragedy had come, it was over. The globe rested on the table, complete, round, smooth, spinning freely in its base, as if no disturbance had ever occured. And the saviour? The name at which the nations and history rejoice, and the guily tremble? She shall be called... ...Mom.