Tuesday, March 31, 2009

hands and hope

I know I talk about this movie constantly, but this is why:

[This is from Slumdog Millionaire, and it's from a part where the two brothers are sleeping on top of the train they live on. They're holding onto each other so they don't fall. You see? How about that metaphor =)]

Friday, March 27, 2009

religion as the cause of war?

Honestly, I'm not fully sure why I'm posting this link. It's an article (or an essay, whatever you want to call it) about how war only exists because religions do. Particularly Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. And while, on the one hand, there is a high correlation between religion and war, it doesn't mean there's causation. You know the study that shows drowning rates are highest when ice cream sales are highest? Ice cream does not drown people. Religion is not the cause of war--it's deeper than that, because it's people. Religious or otherwise.

Just some examples.

This is probably the most ignorant statement I've ever read in my life: "Many people who believe in Allah will, not only kill their enemies and civilians, but they will willingly sacrifice their own lives to preserve this symbol of their faith." Really? There are extremists. Not all Muslims are suicide bombers. If I recall, it's a particular sect. Many people who believe in Allah just want to love Allah. And not kill people, and not be associated with people who do. It isn't a new concept for something to be done in the name of God that is NOT good, that isn't representative of the good and true and just God. The Crusades? I know. As a Christian, I am ashamed by that, and I am sorry for it.

But what I want to talk about is people who commit violent acts for reasons that have nothing to do with religion. A man is hiding in an alley and robs another man and then kills him. This happens every single day, and it has nothing to do with religion, it has to do with greed. Or people who kill people, who rape people. These things have to do with problems we have as people, as humans. What about the mob? I'm pretty sure organized crime is more about I want what I want so I'm going to do what I have to do to get it, about power. Not "Jesus told me to kill your family because you didn't pay me for the cocaine."

Are all people who don't believe in God good? No. Are all people who do believe in God good? Absolutely not. That isn't to say that there aren't atheists who do amazing things for people, because of course there are. And the same is true for people of any religion. I'm saying that this is bigger than belief--that we do awful, horrible things is innate.

The article says this: "We have no born instinct to fight each other; we must teach each other to fight, and this requires a social structure based on beliefs that support it." I very strongly disagree with this, and I'm pretty certain most psychologists would as well. Do toddlers lie? They do, and it's easily argued that many parents do not teach their children to lie. Three are a hundred examples. Read Mere Christianity.

Now I don't mean to be depressing and talk about how horrible each of us is. I think there are so many people who do so many good things. There's some good in us, for sure--I really believe that. But the Bible says this: "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one.'" (Rom. 3:10)

And there are as many people who do terrible things in the name of God as there are who do it in their own name, on their own might. This stretches across all religions, and all forms of unbelief. And this article reads more like an attack--using examples very selectively. Just a question--why wasn't Hinduism included in this? There have been some pretty violent acts done in the name of that religion. And what about the eastern religions that are known as peaceful? I just don't think the article holds.

Tell me your thoughts, people.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


"Hasn't figured out quite yet that it's a problem that he's proud to be an American & that he keeps yelling at all those Mexicans standing by Menard's to get a job."

"Her umbrella was filled with rain she collected on her travels & on hot summer days she would open it up & it would smell of places we had never seen like Nairobi & Tasmania & we would sit on the porch till dusk & watch for tigers in the bushes."

--brian andreas

Sunday, March 22, 2009

more thoughts on slumdog

I just got through reading an article about Slumdog Millionaire, and it's from the perspective of a woman who is not happy about the movie. There's a phrase being used about this film--"poverty porn," they're calling it.

The article is really interesting, actually, and as much as I can say (without ever having been to India or really much of anywhere remotely like the slums of Mumbai), I'm not sure I agree. I see what she's saying--that the film shows the slums, exploits the lives of the people, and has a lot of success and makes a lot of money because of it. Except I don't agree, I don't think that was the point of the film. The comments below the article talk how about how we aren't meant to feel good about the poverty. It's hard to watch, it's heartbreaking. But I think the story is about hope. And with that sort of thing, it's wrenching and terrible and beautiful.


I think that's overlooking something huge. I think maybe this is a Western problem, and it's one I've seen before. First, an example:

When I was in Colombia (and later in Mexico), we went to this farm a few departments (states) outside of Bogotá and the people had outside bathrooms and no plumbing. I'm not sure they had electricity, actually. But we walked around their farm and they showed us everything that was theirs, and they were proud of it. And never once did I think about how awful it was, I didn't feel sorry for them. They didn't have most of the luxuries we have in the States--but they did have the things they needed. Food, water, family. They were happy. They lived simply, and they were happy.

Same in Mexico. Just like in Colombia, I don't have any distinct memories of culture shock. There were certainly poor people. And we went to a rancho one of the days while we were there, and it was fairly similar. They didn't live the way we lived, but it wasn't a bad thing. I wonder how often we forget that having "enough" isn't what we have. And one of the women who went on the trip with me was talking to me on the way back about how she couldn't believe people lived like that, and I remember thinking about how I couldn't understand how there was anything wrong with how they lived. They had what they needed--it wasn't flashy or fancy or luxurious, but it was enough, and it was good.

Now, that isn't to say that the slums as they were depicted in Slumdog Millionaire are like this. I don't think that at all. I think that the sanitation looked horrible, and I know these places the live are made of cardboard and aluminum and things like that, and there is real poverty there. But it's more than that. I mean, yes, it is that. But it's also a huge community of people, and when I use the word community I mean it in the 'together-ness' sense of it. I was watching this video about how in these slums everyone knows everyone and they have votes and it's like a huge family. And there's good in that too.

I don't think it's just looking at something awful. There's a huge amount of good in it too. It's not the West's idea of poverty, I think, of only desperation and filth. It's a powerful dichotomy, Mumbai as a "a city in which sensitivity coexists with despair, commitment with indifference, activism with inaction, and humanism with the inhumane."

I have to remember it's not just about fixing stuff, about going in to help. I'm willing to bet there's more for me to learn than I could ever offer, and I want to go out to the whole world like that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

israelis, palestinians, and rockets

I read this article a few days ago, and while I've always been a little on the fence about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians (that is, I think the Holy Land does belong to the Jewish people, but I also just wish all the violence over it would stop--wishful thinking and all that), this article pretty well set my mind in it. That said, it is written by someone who has very strong opinions on it and who isn't afraid to defend them. So, the most fascinating article I've ever read about Israel:


As a sort of aside, does anyone know the difference between Israelis and Israelites? I mean, I always read Israelis when I read political articles and I'm pretty sure I've only seen Israelites in the bible, but I didn't know if there was any more of a difference than that. Anyone know?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

life of pi

Why you should read this book:

"Or rather, since Christians are so fond of capital letters, a Story."

"[Christianity] is a religion as swift as a swallow, as urgent as an ambulance."

"Things didn't turn out the way they were supposed to, but what can you do? You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it."

"For the first time I noticed--as I would notice repeatedly during my ordeal, between one throe of agony and the next--that my suffering was taking place in a grand setting. I saw my suffering for what it was, finite and insignificant, and I was still. My suffering did not fit anywhere, I realized. And I could accept this. It was all right. (It was daylight that brought my protest: "No! No! No! My suffering does matter. I want to live! I can't help but mix my life with that of the universe. Life is a peephole, a single tiny entry onto a vastness..."

"Faith in God is an opening up, a letting go, a deep trust, a free act of love--but sometimes it was so hard to love."

"Love is hard to belive, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer."

"I applied my reason at every moment. Reason is excellent for getting food, clothing and shelter. Reason is the very best tool kit. Nothing beats reason for keeping tigers away. But be excessively reasonable and you risk throwing out the universe with the bathwater."

"'The world isn't just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn't that make life a story?'"

"'I know what you want. You want a story that won't surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won't make you see higher or further or differently. You want a flat story. An immobile story. You want dry, yeastless factuality."

This book--Life of Pi (Yann Martel)--is incredible and beautiful, and Pi is an absolute wonder of a boy, and I can't do it any justice at all so I'll just say that. And without giving anything away, I will say this: of Pi's stories, I disagree with him. Whether or not they are true and which of them is is desperately, urgently important, maybe the most important thing of all.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

slumdog millionaire

Just saw Slumdog Millionaire. I've been wanting to see it since January when I watched the SAG awards. And let me tell you, it blew me away. It reminded me a bit of The Kite Runner, which also blew me away, but for different reasons.

In the beginning of the movie, the first half hour or forty five minutes or so, I was just completely overwhelmed. I don't even know where to begin to start with that, except that I remember thinking that there is nothing I can do. I'm talking about the slums, the way people live, the things that happen. And how real it is, how huge. And there is nothing I can do. I mean that my immediate reaction was to want to do something, somehow something, and of course I didn't know what, but just that urgency, that want for something good for them. I don't know what to write here. It's so big.

And so that sort of thing--the same true for The Kite Runner--it makes me sad, but something in me moves, and so it's beautiful.

On another note, it was a beautiful love story. It reminds me of something I can't quite place, but I know that it's true that people really do love each other that way, and that it grows boys into men. And that in it, we bloom. I've seen it--it isn't just a movie. It's real, and it's true. =)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

summer night

I want to write. Here I go, I'm in one of those moods. I don't know what it is, but all day I've felt like this. Just contemplative and reminiscent and all my memory senses are going haywire. What I mean that is I've been listening to music that brings me back to all kinds of things I haven't thought of in years, music that's bringing me to places I've never been, letting me know that God has something huge planned for me.

I'm thinking about my brother, I'm thinking about the way we used to play in the woods together, that one time we got in our sleeping bags and laid on the ground behind the trailer together and watched the only meteor shower I've ever seen on one of the coldest nights I've ever slept outside, and how I remember it as cold fingers and lights and warmth playing at the edges of everything. The way the pines and stretched out fields of Onslow County were home to us for a while.

And there is so much that I don't know. But when the seasons start to change like this, when I'm by myself and it's quiet for a while, I'm filled to bursting with memories of things that just knock me down. They aren't even always memories, necessarily. It's feelings of memories, memories of feelings. I remember the light. How in Richlands it was more yellow, and on Rumley Rd. it was orange-pink from the roof of our house, watching the sun go down over the field and everything gone to glow. Greensboro was more clear and bright, running cross country, sharp air. The air, I remember that too. Cool on my skin like night. And then hot and heavy the way it gets in the summer, nothing moving, pressing yourself against walls or concrete to keep cool.

And then the storms. I remember the storms. No matter where we moved, what part of the state. The way everything got really dark and the air changed. Cooler, suddenly, charged. The t.v. got staticky, the sound of that. And how the rain came down so hard and heavy and how when it quit everything seemed too still and too quiet. And lightning like white light. How it would fill the whole room and rush back out and the thunder would shake the china in the cabinet in the dining room at our babysitter's. We'd watch out the screen door when it had quit lightning but was still raining and hope the water would flood over the porch like it always almost did. Rumley Rd. was heat lightning, always on the edges of the world, above the pines a few counties south of us. And I'd sit on the roof on the phone, heat coming from everything, watching a cloud in the distance light up grey and pink and white and then disappear again against night.

One night on Rumley Rd. a moving van got stuck in the field behind our house, and the tires dug a hole big enough Josh could stand in it and had to be lifted out. That's the night I meant before, the one I was thinking about the other day. I don't know why that night is so happy. It must have been hot that day because it had cooled down enough to where you could breathe again but shorts and a tshirt were still fine. And I remember running through the field barefoot and it was dark enough that I couldn't see where I was stepping really, and looking across in the darkness was like seeing in black and white. I remember feeling my way across that field, running through the sound of crickets and night and hope, running toward the barn where the hay had been moved from the truck and all the neighborhood kids were sitting, scaring each other talking about how snakes would get you 'cause you couldn't see them.

That night was lying in the grass under an open world, nothing touching you at all. And voices carrying, shouting and laughing, the small red end of the neighbor's cigarrette burning in the dark. We were all just kids with dirty feet and hands and legs and faces, the kind you'd look at and think weren't worth anything at all. We were the kind whose parents never became anything and money disappeared and family secrets looked like bruises or skinny kids or words like venom. I look back on that night because we were completely hopeless, my brother and I and all the kids in that neighborhood. We were poor white trash, and that's the way it had been, only we never knew. Except that night was the one that didn't know either, and we were nothing but dreams floating up in the sky above the field. We were a summer night that never really ended, stretching on through forever, hope running on the way earth felt under my bare feet, the way it didn't matter to any of us that life was hard because that night was good.

Didn't you know that there was always hope, even when there was none? Didn't you know that this world groans under the weight of kids who are hopeless, who will never become anything because their parents never did and life and circumstance tether them to that exact lie? We were hope. We were the kind that looked nothing like it, and all we had was a summer night I just remembered but I can't forget.

When I talk about remembering feelings I can't understand, having something inside me stir at a thing I can't ever have known, I'm talking about this. I'm talking about memories of lives planned for us before we were born, about the home we were made for and have yet to see. Why is it that the air will feel a certain way and I remember a night six years ago and something in me aches for something I can't describe to you because I don't know what it is, something I should have no reason at all to hope for except I find myself looking toward it. Why do I hope and dream when all those years ago we were kids with nothing but beat-up lives and thick-skinned wishes? I remember that sky, how it didn't end, Mars on the horizon, red like a cigarrette burning, the way some things we'll never forget.

It's that there's something ahead, something huge. Something I was made for, that rises to the way the air feels on my skin and the light hangs, memories I haven't lived yet. All I know is that my God has plans for me bigger than I could ever hope for. Bigger than circumstance and bigger than that summer night.

You guys know this one already, but:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
--Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, March 6, 2009

two-fold on north korea

First, a quote:

"They're talking about partial nuclear disarmament, which is also like talking about partial circumcision.. you either go all the way or forget it."
--Robin Williams


North Korea's trying to test another missile. And I am fuming. Seriously? Does anyone remember the last time they tried to do that? The Japanese were pissed. And I would have been pretty pissed too. Don't even get me started on North Korea. I can't even imagine being a North Korean citizen, or is that a misnomer? Agh. What I'm talking about is Kim Jong-il, and what I'm talking about is human rights (read: the lack of). And I don't know what it makes me want to do.

I'm not talking about coming in with Western ideals, nor am I talking about going in and saying Jesus is gonna overthrow Communism. What I'm talking about is people and rights and life. Honestly, who am I to say? But here's what I think: while that government is busy reassuring itself that it's the best in all things, look at the people. And how meanwhile the money is going to fund nuclear weapons, among other things. And even as I type that I know how close to home that hits for the States, in some ways.

I just don't know. I am pissed. I don't like nuclear weapons. And I hate injustice even more. And I don't know what to do with this. What do you do?

Seriously. What do you do?