Monday, 28 January 2008

on where love has gone

Things aren't good in Kenya.
I honestly have no words for it,
just a heavy heart that sort of aches more than prays.

I'm so far away from it all here.

I went to church on Sunday perilously hung over, as I had promised to bring a friend. And during the service I was irritated with this older woman who was sitting on Joe's right with a cane with a plastic glitter filled head, who was kind of rude and overly loud and chatty during the service--just a bit off centre... And seated on my left was a woman I've realized has some serious troubles, I think she's homeless and lives in a shelter, and she comes nearly every Sunday but is jittery and has to go outside to smoke every twenty minutes or so and has this terrible permanent black crusted burn on her fingers where I guess she lets the cigarettes burn down too low. She is usually quite out of it and startles like a deer when you say hello to her--but she is also friendly and always says a sweetly eager hello back, after she gets over the shock. So she and I said hello and then she got up her nerve to ask me where we were in the liturgy booklet and I realized that she had trouble reading numbers and maybe reading altogether, so I started helping her find her place in the liturgy booklet. And then afterwards, after we finished singing Siyahamba, the annoying older woman just marched straight up to Aileen, who had just gotten up her nerve to exchange names for the first time in a year and a half of nodding acquaintance... And the woman started gently checking in with her about her life, and then gave her this huge cuddle, just seized Aileen's head and pressed it into her enormous old lady bosum, then released her, looked closely at her and said, Need another cuddle? and grabbed her again, three times in all, and Aileen was just smiling and nearly crying, and I realized that this annoying off-kiltre old woman was the first person in the church that I've ever seen touch Aileen.

So thank God for her, for both of them, and that we're all there, somehow, together, in our untidy ark of a church... No matter what state we're in. Lost, drunk, or over loud. At least we're there. Next week is art week, when we transfigure the space for Lent and I'm going to roll up my sleeves and paint all afternoon in celebration of how the church's beautiful worship space is our collective effort. Not the love we have, such as we have, or the grace. Those are gifts from God. But the paint brushes at least remain in our hands.

Maybe this is where the confusion comes in for me about things in Kenya. Where has all the love gone? and the grace? This is a nation with millions of Christians. Where are all the Christian Kikuyus, the Christian Louo, the Christian Kalenjen? Why are they not standing in front of their neighbor's homes saying No, no matter where those people were born. When did it become okay to kill someone else's family because of their ethnicity? This is not acceptable. No matter how angry you are, no matter how much injustice you've suffered under a corrupt regime for long hard years, while the elite eat of the fat of the land. It is not acceptable to kill and to terrorize each other. And I don't see how anyone can, for even one enraged second, think that it is. And my lack of understanding of how ordinary people can keep doing this to each other overwhelms me, so much so that I hardly know what to say to God.

Shall I say, remind them of what love means? Of what compassion feels like? Make them feel ashamed? Write on the sand in front of them, say, let the one without sin cast the first stone, and watch their machetes and torches and stones fall one by one to the sun-baked earth. Remind them. Remind them. Bring them back from the violence and the anger that engulfs them. Extinguish the fires, every fire, in hearts and hands and minds. Let them see people before them and not enemies. Quell the need for revenge and may only sorrow remain. Only sorrow, like a rain to wash the earth free of its blood. Only sorrow, to wash our bloody hands clean.

That is what I shall say. Let it be so.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Regarding Thought Provoking Spam

I missed my self imposed deadline for the goat meat eating brother. However, I did receive some interesting Spam mail today, and I quote:

My name is Mamoon Abd Ali a citizen of Iraq ,It's my pleasure to contact you for a business venture which I intend to establish in your country,Though I have not met with you before but I believe one has to risk, confiding in someone to succeed some times in life.There is this huge amount of funds which my FATHER kept in Europe before his untimely death.

I thought this was rather nicely put... Though he has not met us before, he believes one has to risk, confiding in someone to succeed sometimes in life.

That actually sounds rather reasonable to me. Well, perhaps rather that one must sometimes trust to survive. In the dark early one morning in southern Thailand I got in an unmarked pickup truck with this strange guy who said he'd take me to where the backpackers caught the ferry out to Koh Tao, and I did wonder, as I did so, if I would pay for such reckless trust. But he was as good as his word.

I met with my advisors this morning. They said that right now I need to write about what I know, and we'll sort out the daunting theoretical framing later.

And I wonder whether perhaps it isn't recklessness that I need to write this PhD, climbing into an unmarked truck in the dark, trusting that if I say what I can, what I must, the world will receive it, and I will not be harmed. Perhaps.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

I promise my brother, who is eating too much goat, to write on Saturday

I promise my brother, who is eating too much goat,
and dreaming of our Vietnamese noodle shop,
bowls of steaming soup brimming over with flat rice noodles,
and rare beef, and anise and garlic, and fermented bean paste
and chili--clearly this food features in my dreams as well,
to write a thoughtful and measured post on Saturday.

I went to Israel for Christmas.
I was actually in Bethlehem Christmas morning.
In writing that sounds much more Biblical than the reality
of the present moment, which involves a big wall and
checkpoints and economic depression and angry Christian
caretakers getting into a broom fight over someone sweeping
someone's else corner in the Church of the Nativity.

Then again. Christmas, from the first, was a time of oppression,
and anger, a time of pain and and jealous kings, massacre and flight.
An unexpected time and place for good news, just like so many troubled
corners of our world today, particularly my dear childhood home of Kenya.
But good news can come unexpectedly, in a moment, in a flash, to the most
downtrodden unhappy out-of-the-way place.
Pray God it comes to us again, here now,
in all the dark places of the world that need the season of Epiphany--
stars and revelations and journeying hard and long to find the one
who can save the world.