Friday, September 17, 2010

From the dust we came (or Do Something, Even Nothing, Outdoors)

Go. be. outside.

Charles Spurgeon:

"Let a man be naturally as blithe as a bird, he will hardly be able to bear up year after year against such a suicidal process; he will make his study a prison and his books the warders of a gaol, while nature lies outside his window calling him to health and beckoning him to joy.

He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy.

A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours, ramble in the beech woods? umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive.

A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.

Heaviest the heart is in a heavy air,
Ev’ry wind that rises blows away despair.

The ferns and the rabbits, the streams and the trouts, the fir trees and the squirrels, the primroses and the violets, the farm-yard, the new-mown hay, and the fragrant hops—these are the best medicine for hypochondriacs, the surest tonics for the declining, the best refreshments for the weary.

For lack of opportunity, or inclination, these great remedies are neglected, and the student becomes a self-immolated victim."

(Thanks Justin Taylor)

And from Wendell Berry:

"I don't think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is...It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better. Or that has been my experience of it. Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural. This is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine - which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes."

(Thanks Chip Baggett)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Jahangir's "Paradise on Earth" (or The Kashmir Valley and why you should read Curfewed Night)

James Baldwin wrote that “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in people.”

I think we see that in a lot of ways in our own lives, but I also think there are a number of ways that we miss that truth. I would guess that my American and western roots have impacted me in ways that I cannot even recognize.

Culture, people, images, stories, words, geography have all contributed to making me who I am today. I recognize that this it true, but there are a probably a number of ways this plays itself out in my life that I am not aware of.

One of the ways that I can better see the history that is trapped in me is to be exposed to other people and cultures. Exposed to other histories.

Let me recommend to you Basharat Peer’s Curfewed Night. It is a Kashmiri journalist’s account of the conflict in Kashmir. Bill Clinton once believed that Kashmir was ”the most dangerous place on earth. It is a heart-wrenching story of an oppressed people that are longing for freedom. It is, in some ways, similar to reading a true story version of The Kite Runner. Reading the book has been an eye-opening experience for me as it has given names and images and faces to the pain and suffering abroad that I often think about in purely categorical terms.

It is also a cultural experience just to read it. It is well-written, but clearly not written by an American. Check it out. It is a worthwhile read and it will get your mind turning on all sorts of things… Islam, freedom, American isolationism, conflict resolution, death and sin, man’s ability to adapt and survive, the importance of friendship, the inhumanity of many humans, the aspects of humanity that pervade all cultures, the role of literature in shaping history, terrorism, the ethics of torture, hope, the right to free speech, democracy, the power of poetry, God’s providence, poverty, and the persistence of the human will.