Monday, September 18, 2006

The Battle Within

A good friend of mine and pastor, Hans, wrote about Stanley Hauerwas in his blog. It is really cool because Hauerwas' views on pacifism completely echoed my last blog entry. Colman McCarthy quotes, "I say I'm a pacifist because I'm a violent son of a bitch. I'm a Texan." This very blunt statement shows that for him the battle is within. This is the case for me and the case, I believe, in general. Check out the Raskolnikov-effect given in my last post. Earlier he is quoted, "I would not be a pacifist if I were not a Christian, and I find it hard to understand how one can be a Christian without being a pacifist." This is remarkable again given the question on Israel in my last post for so many Christians are staunch Zionists.

A cool juxtoposition has taken place in my studies. I am translating (I'm hoping to be reading at some point) parts of the Iliad and all the Trojan Women by Euripides and parts of the Aenid. What is cool is that the Iliad deals with the war, the Trojan Women with the fallout and the Aenid with the founding of a new city once the baggage of the old is dealt with. In class we watched the Cacoyannis film (the soundtrack and filming is excellent by the way) The Trojan Women. Oh! the horrors of war. Check out this quote from the play:

"I do not commend the fear of one who fears but never yet has reasoned out the cause."

Astyanax, the child of Hector, had just been killed because Odysseus reasoned that one day he may be a threat to the Greeks. Check out how it lines up with Hauerwas says, "[I] recalled that Bush, after urging Americans to go shopping, immediately proclaimed, "We are at war." Hauerwas explained that peculiar juxtaposition this way: "We are frightened, and ironically war makes us feel safe. The way to go on in the face of 9/11 is to find someone to kill. Americans are, moreover, good at killing. We often fail to acknowledge how accomplished we are in the art of killing. We now conduct war in a manner that only the enemy has to die." This is exactly what Euripides was struggling with. The Athenians were adept at war and went campaigning every summer. Also, it is possible that the play was a response to the Athenian's slaughter of an entire city, very similar to Troy's situation. The point, though, is that Euripides definitely took his minerals, in other words, he had balls because he was sponsored by the state and still produced this play (a much harsher critique than Michael Moore's work). As my professor stated, "this play today could easily be set in Iraq, Afghanistan or Darfur".

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Is life an endless cycle of hate? Wars, battles, attacks and daggers in the back? Apparently so, but the cycle can be broken and the stream reversed. What? There must be a catch. There is! The effort that a person makes will not be readily apparent for a long time, much like when one first lifts a heavy piece of furniture the pain is excruciating until raised from a squat the muscles have finished contracting. Then a sense of lightness overcomes the lifter. How can one feel lighter? As Gene Edwards says in A Tale of Three Kings, "One, never learn anything about the fashionable, easily-mastered art of spear-throwing. Two, stay out of the company of all spear throwers. And three, keep your mouth tightly closed". Any other catches? Yeah, one more, a person will go through almost more pain by doing the above three things than if he fought back. What about assertiveness? Be a doormat? Remember the goal! To rise beyond conflict. Ghandi lay like a doormat, but was never used as one. Are people powerless, then? No! A person has incredible power, but it must be harnessed. What? The same hate can be brought out of anyone. In classical speak, anyone can be Raskolnikov; in modern speak everyone must win against their own temptation of the dark-side or the ring. Pass the test and peace will come. Aung San Suu Kyi passes all the tests with flying colours. Look at the size of her enemy and the power they have over her, yet she will win one day since she wins one day at a time. This sounds like passive crap? The battle is in a person, that is why questions like this are asked angrily. Why be defensive, if it's crap? Well then what about Israel? Israel owes its heritage to a pacifist, David. David overcame his own soul first, became king legitimately and then ruled and established the kingdom. Yes, he made mistakes, but he wasn't mad like Saul. And yes he could have deposed of Saul since Saul had served his purpose. What about fame and power? None is more famous (especially over time) than Jesus, Ghandi, Mother Theressa, Aung San Suu Kyi and many others. Power then? Whose kingdoms have influenced the most outside their lives, i.e. lasting power? Keep up the struggle and acknowledge first temptation, its source and then overcome it for power is not taking but overcoming.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


The subject of control enters my mind often. Control is an illusion that deceives many, for at certain times a person can truly feel in control and actually be in control to a limited extent. Times in life exist where everyone does another's bidding and everything goes that person's way, a person has control. Or does he? Can that one make things go his way or is it the hand that he is dealt. In no way am I minimizing the need for gracious behaviour and seizing the things that are in a person's reach (and we can extend the reach somewhat), but in the end humans are limited. There is a ceiling.

In addition to the temporal nature of control, control, which is the ultimate exertion of power, often has many inconsistencies. In the Constant Gardiner a central character states "I was the control freak who couldn't control himself". He couldn't control his lust nor could he figure out what caused it or where it came from. He was disjointed.

Rather than control, I favour the word influence. Complete control over another person is not natural and is more akin to slavery than anything else. In contrast, there are many ways that a person can influence another without tampering with their self-determination, i.e. when a person does not bend another's will through withholding food, clothing, visas, and passports. Does it violate your existence? If yes, it's control. Influence can be feeding another with ideas and ideals, but brainwashing is the unacceptable limit of this influence. Influence arises from the authority structure present in most, if not all, cultures. Lastly, someone always remains above another; world-records are usually broken, so there is a levelling effect present in influence. I was reminded of these facts when I read the following:

It towered so vast above petty human creation, so elemental in a man-made world, that even if all the men who had lived in all the past millennia had opened up their arms as wide as they could and carried everything they had ever created or intended to create and piled it all up in massive heaps, they could never have raised a mountain ridge as fantastic as the Caucasus. Alexander Solzhenitsyn. August 1914. Trans. Glenny

Fly on! Enjoy the feeling! Breathe it! But remember that you can always fall to the ground because your being is governed by many laws.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

All That Stress

In the previous post I described how adrenaline remained in my system even though it was clear there was no need for it. I just read a movie review of Crank in which the main character must keep moving and awake to retard the effect of a deadly poison. Since it is September and I am starting a very demanding degree, I have been thinking about stress and what causes it. In the past during school I have been like Jason Stratham in the movie, always on the move, adrenaline flowing and without peace. Understandably, university is intense, so my body should react somewhat, but my reaction seems excessive to me even though it is within the normal limits of student stress levels. I have determined that much of my stress results from a feeling of being out-of-control. If I had all the time in the world school would not be stressful, I would be in control. I could study for each test appropriately and do thorough research on my papers. The fact is that I don't have nearly enough time. I feel out-of-control because so many things enter my study time, necessary things. Should I resent going out for coffee with other students? No way, if I want friends and compatriots. Also my grades lie in the hands of my professors, what they will assign and expect.
Control truly is an illusion. Who knows when sickness will scupper all our plans? What can I really control? Is it really that big of a deal? I have heard of those employees who believe that the company will come to a halt if they take a vacation. What will halt is their control of the workplace. So what I can control are my expectations and the demands that I put on myself and not let them control me. The thing about stress is that you cannot lie to your body. If you feel cause for stress you will be stressed, sure, tell yourself it is not a big deal, but if you don't believe it you'll take two hours to get to sleep while fretting about needless details. This need for belief necessitates the change of our mindset, logic must prevail : if I can't change it who can? Many people have their own answers, for me it is he who stated "but trust, for I have conquered the world."

Angel Moment

We have a glass door in our dining room that leads to an outdoor patio and a couple of weeks ago my daughter put her arm through it. Evelyn had just jumped on the couch and she was running back to get the farthest possible start when she tripped. I watched with horror and anxiety as I saw her entire arm go through the glass, stopped from a complete trajectory through the window by her torso. Immediately, I reached for a towel, ran to my daughter and yelled to my wife. My intention was that my wife would start the car while I applied pressure to the wound with the towel. Then we would rush to Emergency and hopefully Evelyn would not lose that much blood. Instead, I got to her and found no blood at all. There was a little glass on her hand and upon later inspection a cut under her arm, but only the first layers were scratched. Evelyn was fine, but I was not. Despite telling myself repeatedly that she was fine, my being would not respond to this information and adrenaline flowed through my veins for a few more hours. Her slight injuries defied my expectation. The next morning I took her to the clinic first thing to ensure that no invisible damage was done. The Dr. said she was fine, but that all the nerves and blood vessels for the arm and hand ran 1cm deep under her cut. Her injuries could have been so much worse. I was thanking God so much for her safety, but remained puzzled by the way the glass broke because two large pieces were pushed through leaving a thin rim remaining around the frame. My conclusion was that some force pushed the glass out just before her fall. In telling this story I have heard many other close-call stories in return, angels really are watching over us.


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