A good friend of mine, The Rev. Jim Lewis, has a den in the same shape as mine. When I visited he and Judy, I saw stacks of books everywhere around his reading chair. I smiled and commented about my house. He told me that this is usually a sign of an individual who believed he/she would live forever, having time to read them all to the end.
The past couple of weeks have stood as reminders that we do not live forever and there will be books I do not finish. Maybe I should tell my daughter that she must finish them for me. But those thoughts are for a different day.
While I have been reading, I have been secretly thankful that there would not be a test at the end. My brain is full and I am sure that I am not retaining everything I have read.
The area in which I would not want to be grilled is: why has Sudan been in turmoil for centuries? I would rather see the dentist or visit the IRS.
In reading Emma's War by Deborah Scroggins, I was reminded about those wonderful cellophane diagrams used in the old encyclopedias. You know the books, hard cover books.
Remember the human body diagrams peeling away the skin, then the muscles, then the blood vessels, finally revealing the skeleton? I loved that stuff.
Well, that is what I need to understand Sudan's civil wars.
Here are some of the layers: "the northern government versus the southern rebels, and under that a layer of religious conflict - Muslim versus Christians and pagans, and under that a map of all the sectarian divisions within these categories, and under that a layer of ethnic divisions - Arab and Arabized versus Nilotic and Equatorian - all of them containing a multitude of clan and tribal subdivisions, and under that a layer of linguistic conflicts, and under that a layer of economic divisions - the more developed north with fewer natural resources versus the poorer south with its rich mineral and fossil fuel deposits, and under that a layer of colonial divisions, and under that a layer of racial divisions related to slavery. And so on an so on..."
What does this mean to me?
I will make no assumptions about the person I am speaking with. It would be so naive if I thought that I knew who they were.
What else does this mean to me?
Lots more opportunities to develop relationships.
I remember: to know where you are going you have to know where you have been. So, this afternoon I revisited one of my earlier blogs and Max Ehrmann's Desiderata popped back out at me. Max was a gift from Judy, a dear friend.
In a previous blog, I had included the quote:
"And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should".
Voila! It is supposed to be foggy. I am supposed to wonder if I am still in the boat. Do not panic.
I have not been writing much. Too much to do and time seems compressed. The more compressed, the more precious. What seemed to have been so much time, now seems not enough. And, there is a difference between time here and time in Sudan and NY, relativity aside. The answers to questions cannot come as quickly as I would like.
So today, I decided to arrive and leave through Khartoum. I will get my tickets for Juba and Kampala once I arrive in Khartoum. I have asked a friend to check on the house issue in Juba, when he visits Sudan this week. It has been determined that new computers are needed in Sudan. NY is working on this as well. I will have to take a vacation day to travel to DC to turn in my Visa request at the Sudanese Embassy. They only take applications Monday- Friday, 10 AM - Noon. Yikes. I will have lunch or dinner with friends.
Friends. That is what I have forgotten. I am not alone on this journey, not alone in the boat. My friends are beacons in the fog, the oars for the boat, my deckhands.
Bless you all.
Today, I finished reading an article entitled Friends Death in Iraq by Todd Pittman, AP.
Why? Because I am still reeling from President Bush telling a soldier about how romantic it must be while stationed in Afganistan.
Wow! Romance and war, two words I would not have thought to have used together. Then I read this story. www.comcast.net/news/articles/general/2008/03/15/Iraq.Through.the.Looking.Glass/
"The lure of a war is illogical, impossible to explain. When you feel it, going is rarely a choice."
It's a matter of perspective as to whether you find romance in war.
And perspective brings me to M.C. Escher and his unique perspectives. Mentioned by Keith Olbermann on Countdown this past Friday, he referenced stairs that go up and down at the same time.
I have located a website dedicated to his works. ww.mcescher.com/Gallery/gallery-symmetry
Enjoy, but try not to get a headache.
Finally, "When you feel it, going is rarely a choice."
However, to know me is to know nature. Just sitting at my desk in the den and looking around, I see the four seasons represented in art, decorations and furniture. The color of the walls and furniture are all colors found in my gardens, pinks, blues, some lavender, and, of course, various shades of green. Here in the den is a ficus tree, with little white lights. In my bedroom, the walls are bright yellow, like the sun.
I am an avid maker of gardens. The more, the merrier I am. I am on a mission to replace most of the open space with gardens. Perpetual gardens that renew each spring. As they mature, I transplant, enlarge, remove. Gardens are my heaven on earth. In fact, my mother gave me a garden plaque that says the same thing.
What is this rambling leading up to?
I am having a difficult time adjusting to this man made "daylight savings time", the changing of the natural. I remind myself of the crabby old lady cards sold by Hallmark.
"Just as sunflowers turn their heads to catch every sunbeam, so too have we discovered a simple way to get more from our sun," the heading from a website dedicated to Day Light Savings Time at www.webexhibits.org.
And I have Benjamin Franklin to blame for the initial idea. (Probably thought of it after being struck by lightening. )
Bolluck, the English would say and, I love these old English words.
Here are some of the reasons given for "shifting" time:
* People like it
* Fewer violent crimes ( this has worked well)
* Safe for Trick or Treaters ( a one night event)
* Increased voter turnout ( a one day event)
* Fewer traffic accidents ( not in Delaware)
* Energy conservation (let's see the research on this)
However, to force myself to adjust, last night I dimmed the lights at 10 PM and set the alarm for 5 AM. Before Sunday, I would rise as the sun was rising, now I beat the sun by an hour and a half. I grudgingly got out of bed and set about tasks that I put off last night. I am getting a lot accomplished but at what cost?
The cats know the real time. They have not even risen. Ridiculous they say, it is 4 AM. Get back to bed. But I move on. Some wash, moving beds and furniture around. In the next few minutes, I will leave to get gas in the car, go through the Starbucks drive through, and return home to do some yoga.
While traveling, it took me about four days, once I landed, to adjust to the new rhythm of the earth. African time. Then I had to turn around and return to Eastern Daylight time. I will be thankful for the longer visit coming up. More time to let my body discover the time the sun rises and sets each day.
And, they do not observe Day Light Savings time.
I had coffee with a friend at Border's this Saturday and the discussion turned towards my trip. She related to me that one of the "lost boys", Salva Dut, has started a program called Water for Sudan. Her daughter's father-in-law is actively supporting this program about drilling for new water wells in southern Sudan. You can check out information about Mr. Dut and Water for Sudan by going to www.waterforsudan.org. I have been to the website and it is a wealth of information about when to drill, why to drill, how to drill and how to contribute. Groups from across the states are supporting this project.
I will be contacting Mr. Dut to share my experience and to see if I had been close to an area where his wells had been drilled. Of course, alot of the time, it is digging my human hands. Everyone around involved.
One mother, when asked about how her children would use the time in the day usually spent carrying water, replied "they will go to school."
This morning Cate, my friend and Life Coach, approached me with an opportunity to be part of building a new school in Kiloiiro, Uganda, a small rural community deep in the bush of central Uganda. Of course, my ears picked up and I smiled. This building mission was started by Beau Bressler, a 13 year-old boy, as part of his mitzvah project.
Just Like My Child, www.justlikemychild.com is collaborating with the villagers who are investing their time, energy and resources to create their own school. Educated girls grow up and make sure their families are educated. Education has been shown to save lives. Education gives children, especially girls, options other than early parenthood.
So google these links and expand your world.
I discovered him watching The Fortunes of War a 1987 television adaptation of the series of books by Olivia Manning. The series stars Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh.
According to Wikipedia, William Hazlitt was an English literary critic, 1778-1830, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, often esteemed as one of the greatest English literary critics. "Hazlitt's writings and remarks on Shakespeare's plays and characters are ... known for... "their depth, insight, originality, and imagination."
In the middle of this World War II movie set in Romania, the British ex-pats perform Troiles and Cressida. This Shakespearean play, set in Troy, has all that is needed for war: Trojans and Greeks fighting over Helen. As the actors perform their lines, the movie displays scenes showing the Germans and French fighting over Paris.
Branagh, while speaking of the play about war in a movie about war, differentiates between those for and against facism with this quote:
"The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves."
That statement stuck with me.
Thanks to Google, I was able to determine that William Hazlitt wrote it.
So how does that jibe with the second great commandment: Thou shalt love your neighbor as thyself" in Matthew 22:39 or Mark 12:31.
The similarity between the two is the use of the word love. Do others equate with neighbor?
In the movie, Thompson worries about Branagh wanting to assist all people in need all the time. That everyone he meets that is down on their luck, is worthy of assistance regardless of whether they are "good" or "bad." Good or bad seems to be determined by Thompson, Branagh's wife. To be concerned this way, he equates with liberty or freedom. To believe otherwise, is to love ourselves first, which is the basis for having power over others. The epitome of this belief system is Hitler and the Nazis.
Is this the answer: by focusing outwards rather than inwards (the commandment) do we obtain freedom?
However, which comes first? Liberty or the love of others? The chicken or the egg?
However, I am heading to the City in April and we needed to agree on a play to see and the Times is the place to go. We all wanted "funny" and we decided on Spamalot. Now it's time to decided where to stay, what else to see, and where to have dinner before the play. But, we have the dates, the place and the play. Good start.
In today's paper, the sports section was about the Yankees. Go Yankees. There was a special Sports magazine section that dealt with everything New York and Sports. Life after George. Another Yay!
In other circumstances, I would have glanced at the headlines and plowed into the good stuff in the back. Today, the headlines pulled me in. "Scorched-Earth Strategy Returns to Darfur."
To be honest, it was not the headline that pulled me in, but the picture below it.
I have been through parts of Sudan that have looked like this. Except, I could not see it from the air. Since my trip, I can now imagine what this village would have looked like before the janjaweed came through and burned the village down.
There would have been families in these huts. Clothes hanging in the breeze to dry, food cooking over coals. Goats and sheep running around. The only greenery, the trees. But, there was life. And in Juba, a sense of peace and moving forward.
Janjaweed are the "fearsome Arab militias" employed by the Sudanese government in Khartoum. The Sudanese army that accompanied them, are not from Southern Sudan. These battles have been Arab versus African. To get a better understanding read the article on line by Lydia Polgreen who writes from Suleia, Sudan.
Another surprise. The role of China. That was totally unexpected. China is a trade partner with Khartoum. The trade being arms. There is pressure on China to pressure Khartoum over their actions in Darfur. China is reluctant. But the Olympics are this year. Might there be a chance that China might respond to Darfur in light of the world's attention focusing on it in 2008?
As if this article were not enough, the Sunday Opinion pages delivered the second blow, in Nicholas D. Kristof's opinion "Africa's Next Slaughter". Oh please, I thought. Not another on Darfur.
While in Sudan, I received a brief, very brief, synopsis of what the year 2011 means in Sudan. In 2011, Southern Sudan could vote to separate from the rest of Sudan and become a separate country. In 2011, the area known as Abyei is to make some determination about their status.
However, Abyei is the place that "the northern government pumps oils from wells it refuses to give up." Abyei sits on the edge of southern Sudan. Abyei is between the rock and the hard place.
Once again, we hear "It's the oil, stupid".
According to Mr. Kristof, if war breaks out in Sudan again, somewhere other than Darfur, it will be here. The sale and use of this oil means prosperity and power to those that control it. I recommend his article.
What does this mean for my four month stay in Sudan?
Nothing, I expect.