September 16, 2006

The GF remains enigmatic

Victor here, posting some pictures the gf sent to me from the road at her request. Sadly, she neglected to give me upload rights.


Still, I'll do my best. The first picture was taken outside of Dillsburg, PA, and it's a great view of (I'll do my best here) her father's right arm on the steering wheel, with an even better view of his forehead in the rear-view mirror. It seems to be farmland beneath the mirror, or a housing development, or perhaps a river (lousy VGA resolution camera picture!), and to the right is the passenger-side headrest. Believe you me, my description does not do this picture justice.

Second is a picture of the top of a Subway sub shop in Watertown NY. I confess this one has me a bit puzzled; there are Subway shops in Maryland, too.

Finally, a box of Timbits. These seem to come in boxes of ten, which explains why Americans, with their boxes of a dozen, are fatter than Canadians. The quantity is given in French ("boîte de 10") which is kinda funky if you run it thru Bable Fish using an English keyboard which doesn't have that bizarre "î" character. Spell it "boite de 10" and it's translated as "limp of 10" which I find hilarious.

Also, Nic claims Tim Horton's coffee is better than 7-11 coffee, an idea which just turns my world upside down.

UPDATE: I used the incredible power of my massive mind and came up with a way to get them posted. Just to make this a game, I'll post them in an order different from my description, and you try to figure out what order they go in. It's fun!




Posted by Victor at 07:17 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 08, 2004

Wangari Maathai wins Nobel Peace Prize

Kenyan Environmental Activist [Wangari Maathai] Wins Nobel Peace Prize

This is excellent. I first read about Wangari Maathai's work in Hope's Edge, and in that chapter Frances Moore Lappe related how the Green Belt movement was about more than planting trees:

"Even if you enter with trees," explains Wangari, "until people understand their rights, especially their environmental rights; how to stand up for their rights and have the courage to stand up--until then, even the planting of trees is not safe. People can always be intimidated. They can always be pushed back."

Wangari also uses the "wrong bus syndrome" to illustrate that, though there are many reasons why you may find yourself going in the wrong direction, you still have control:

"Without denying the big obstacles we all face, especially these villagers, we do create many of our own problems--either through omission or commission. Many problems we have a capacity to change. So, I tell them, 'We can change our lives. We can change our destiny. If you've been misled--and many people are in that category--and you discover you were misled, you have a choice. You can decide to continue in the wrong direction and take a chance wherever the bus will lead you. Or you can decide to get out of that bus.'"

From the Nobel Committee press release:

Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment. Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women's rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally.

Maathai stood up courageously against the former oppressive regime in Kenya. Her unique forms of action have contributed to drawing attention to political oppression - nationally and internationally. She has served as inspiration for many in the fight for democratic rights and has especially encouraged women to better their situation.

I've been trying recently to articulate the idea that peace and nonviolence are not passive, and Wangari Maathai illustrates this point boldly.

Congratulations, Dr. Maathai.

Posted by Nic at 01:17 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2004

A week of reflecting on peace

I didn't really know where this project was going to go when I started it last week. It just seemed fitting that in a week bookended by a tragedy and an anniversary of a tragedy that I really think about what causes hate and destruction and death, and whether there is a damn thing I can do about it.

I wrote and deleted more in preparing these posts than I have in my entire year-plus of blogging. I thought more about what I believe, and why, and how to articulate it...and I suspect I still came up short in trying to explain. I even lost some sleep over the fear that people I respect and like weren't going to like me anymore because I came off like a crackpot, but in the end...Victor still likes me, and he's the one who really matters.

Anyway...personally, for me, this week was valuable. It is making me redouble my efforts to choose positive reactions over negative ones, no matter how horrific the situation. Late in the week it occurred to me that I've been grasping for faith, a reason for my existence, a guide for how I ought to be living. I've been wanting the clouds to part with a beam of light and a booming voice to say "Nic, it's God. Here are your answers." Instead, I'm thinking...whoa, maybe this is it. I get it.

What I don't have, of course, are the specific answers for how to fix specific situations. I don't think that swords will be beaten into plowshares in a day. A generation is a miniscule part of eternity, and maybe to have hope I need to think in terms of a longer time frame. In this generation there are a few who get it and work for peace...maybe a few more in the next generation, and a few more after that.

Another thing that I believe, and that I need to remember every day, is that we are all human. There is no "those people" and "that kind;" I can be one of those people. The same zygote becomes the same baby but is born into different circumstances and taught different things. One sits here typing about peace, another is ready to blow herself up to kill a bus full of people. If what makes us different is the circumstances of our lives and what we have been taught, these external factors can change. Right up to the moment she detonates the bomb, something could change that terrorist's heart and mind. I think that is the same idea Miroslav Volf had in saying "We can never close the door to reconciliation and all our actions must be directed toward the goal of reconciliation."

I am not going to shave my head and hand out pamphlets in the airport; I'm not going to quit my job and move to [pick a violence-torn locale] and try to enlighten extremists. I'm not going to prostletize...converting someone else to my views was never my intention here, and besides, I'm just forming these views myself. My main reason for blogging is to write things down as I work them out for myself. If something I write leads someone to follow a link, to read and think things out and reach a conclusion, that's a wonderful thing, but it wasn't my objective.

And while I think I'm on the way to faith, I'm not on the way to identifying as a member of a specific religion. Quoting the Dalai Lama doesn't imply an intention to become Buddhist (Mom...not that you'd mind, I guess). So from the Dalai Lama again:

External peace is impossible without inner peace. It is noble to work at external solutions, but they cannot be successfully implemented so long as people have hatred and anger in their minds. This is where profound change has to begin.
Posted by Nic at 10:47 AM | Comments (1)

September 10, 2004

Peace - Part 6

I would never tell someone how to grieve.

I don't know how I would react if someone took the life of a loved one...these philosophies of peace and nonviolence might go right to hell if I faced the situation. I hope not, but I admit I can't know for sure. And I hope I never know.

I do believe, from my experiences with situations less than death, that rage and retribution and violent thoughts (without even the actual violence) get in the way of peace.

I think there is a lot to be learned from those who can see peace through grief, like Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, who fight the death penalty. One of the directors is Bud Welch:

Bud's daughter Julie Marie was killed in the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building in April 1995. When Bud travels the country and tells about the day, audiences are drawn into one particular heart of a tragedy that they felt vividly, and in some sense collectively, when it originally took place. Bud talks about how wrecked he felt after the bombing, how strong was his desire to retaliate by killing McVeigh and Nichols himself. When he learned that President Clinton and Attorney General Reno would seek the death penalty, he looked forward to it, "because here I had been crushed, I had been hurt, and that was the big fix."

What do you do with the hurting? For weeks Bud smoked too much, drank too much, felt what he now recalls as a kind of temporary insanity.
Then about nine months after the bombing, he went down to the place where it happened and stood under an old American elm tree which had survived that April day. He let his mind wander to the upcoming trials and the likely executions, and he said to himself, "How's that going to help me? It isn't going to bring Julie back." He realized that the death penalty "is all about revenge and hate, and revenge and hate is why Julie and 167 others are dead today."

A few weeks ago there was a Washington Post story about Judea Pearl, father of Daniel Pearl, who sits on stage with Islamic lecturer Akbar Ahmed to discuss Jewish/Muslim relations. Dr. Pearl's aim:

"I'm driven by pragmatics," he says. Even if he could retaliate against the murderers, "What do I achieve? There will be 100 more." True revenge, he decided, meant taking aim "at the whole ideology that created the madness." So when he tells audiences that he's offering a "weapon" -- a little intake of breath generally follows -- he explains that he wants to "tame that hate."

And there is Peaceful Tomorrows, family members of victims of September 11 who have, in the words of their mission statement "united to turn our grief into action for peace." (Thank you, Zenchick, for pointing me here.)

From their statement dated tomorrow:

Every day, we choose to create the world we want to live in, through our words and through our actions. Today, we reach out to others around the world who recognize that war is not the answer. Today, three years after September 11th, we continue to choose peace.
Posted by Nic at 02:31 PM | Comments (8)

September 09, 2004

Peace - Part 5

More from Thich Nhat Hanh today, from his book Peace is Every Step. This is the "walking meditation when angry," but I can say that the walking part isn't imperative.

Breathing in, I know that anger is here.
Breathing out, I know that the anger is me.
Breathing in, I know that anger is unpleasant.
Breathing out, I know this feeling will pass.
Breathing in, I am calm.
Breathing out, I am strong enough to take care of this anger.

When I opened the book to look this up, I reread the foreword, which was by the Dalai Lama. He said

Although attempting to bring about world peace through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way.

Something occurred to me...I'm despairing because I can't fix things. Realistically I still think that what I said last week, that I don't expect to ever see a time without news photographs of horrified adults holding bloodied children, is a grim fact of my lifetime.

But I have a thought, an actual hopeful thought: Just because it won't happen in my lifetime doesn't mean it won't happen, and the world is not on my timetable.

Posted by Nic at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2004

Peace...part 4

I could spend much more than a week just sharing the writings of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Here is today's thought:

We begin by recognizing that, in the depths of our consciousness, we have the seeds of both compassion and violence. We become aware that our mind is like a garden that contains all kinds of seeds: seeds of understanding, seeds of forgiveness, seeds of mindfulness, and also seeds of ignorance, fear, and hatred. We realize that at any moment, we can behave with violence or compassion, depending on the strength of these seeds within us.

When the seeds of anger, violence, and fear are watered in us several times a day, they will grow stronger. Then we cannot be happy or accept ourselves; we suffer and make those around us suffer. Yet when we know how to cultivate the seeds of love, compassion, and understanding in us every day, those seeds will become stronger, and the seeds of violence and hatred will become weaker and weaker.

True peace is always possible. Yet it requires strength and practice, particularly in times of great difficulty. To some, peace and nonviolence are synonymous with passivity and weakness. In truth, practicing peace and nonviolence is far from passive. To practice peace, to make peace alive in us, is to actively cultivate understanding, love, and compassion, even in the face of misperception and conflict. Practicing peace, especially in times of war, requires courage.

Quoted in Spirituality & Health

Posted by Nic at 08:35 AM | Comments (1)

September 07, 2004

You don't have to be a hippie to believe in peace - Part 3 - Macro to micro

It is all well and good to read and agree with people like Miroslav Volf when they call for forgiveness and reconciliation, but in the great big world, I feel entirely powerless. That's one of the things that was paining me so on Friday as I watched the news from Beslan...there's nothing I can do to stop this from happening again.

Remembering the "let peace begin with me" lyric reminded me of something I wrote last winter:

But part of my...philosophy? that there is good and there is evil, and I need to try, constantly and mindfully, to choose good.

Minor example: guy cuts me off in traffic. Not only does the bastard cut me off, he makes me miss the light. Not only that, but the sonovabitch is driving a T-Bird, a car I can't afford. I hate that jerk. Reckless maniac, I hope he wrecks the car.

Deep I'm two minutes later getting home. Big deal. So I don't have a T-Bird. I do have a car, a reasonably safe and reliable car, and I'm not standing outside in the slush waiting to catch a bus. And that guy is driving recklessly...I hope he doesn't have a wreck, I hope he doesn't hurt himself or anyone else driving that way.

Today's quote is about peace on the micro-est level, individual peace. I found it in the novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven:

Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.
Posted by Nic at 11:59 AM | Comments (1)

September 06, 2004

You don't have to be a hippie to believe in peace - part 2

Thinking about yesterday's "Love your enemies " quote reminded me about something I'd read by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I went to Google hoping to find it, and while I didn't see what I was looking for, I found something else that fits right in with my theme of the week: To Embrace the Enemy, an interview with Croatian theology professor Miroslav Volf from September 2001.

Every word of it was worth reading, but here are two of the things Dr. Volf said that particularly struck me:

The naming of the deeds as evil and the protection of those who are innocent is extraordinarily important. But none of these things means we should not also seek to forgive the offender and reconcile with the offender. We can never close the door to reconciliation and all our actions must be directed toward the goal of reconciliation. Just reconciliation, of course, because justice is an integral part of reconciliation.


There has been much talk about "hunting down" and "punishing" the terrorists. That is very dangerous language. Animals are hunted down. That language serves to take the perpetrators out of the very community of our species—"They are the barbarians and animals, and we are the good and decent ones." I agree that we must work to find out who did it and, in a carefully qualified sense, bring those people to justice. But we shouldn't speak in a way that debases their humanity. That kind of language seems to put the perpetrator beyond redemption.

Incidentally, this interview was published on the Christianity Today site, not one of my regular reads. Skimming through some of the other articles I found myself frustrated, because there are some real hot-button issues for me on these pages. But that's another reminder for me that I can try to understand differing views and work to change people's views without, I hope, resorting to anger, disrespect, and denegration. (Another day, another struggle...another 1440 struggles...)

Posted by Nic at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2004

You don't have to be a hippie to believe in peace

I honestly don't remember when I started reading about spirituality and faith, whether it was before or after September 2001. It was in that general time frame, though.

After I turned off my computer Friday night I kept thinking of more things I wanted to say on the subject of peace, and I realized that peace might not be a bad theme for this week. I'm not quite sure where this will take might just be some quotes I've underlined from the books I've read over the last three years, or I might find my muse and write more myself.

I'm going to start with the Bible because that's where I started:

You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

I remember in an elementry school (second grade, maybe) religion class trying to work through this with a teacher. I could actually wrap my mind around the concept of making up with the playground bully, because that had happened. But I had just recently learned about the Holocaust, and I wanted to know how this applied to Hitler.

I don't remember the conclusion then, and for a number of years I didn't think about it all. I guess I am making up for lost time.

On another note, I just saw some Weather Channel coverage of the hurricane. It looks like pretty much the entire state is affected. I hope everyone is safe and stays that way.

Posted by Nic at 10:52 AM | Comments (2)

September 03, 2004

Let it begin with me

Every time I have opened a news web page this morning I have seen a different picture of a bloodied child carried by a horror-struck adult.

I'm struck with horror myself, and thinking...I care about holiday weekend traffic? I worry about hockey?

But on the other hand, what can I do, except read the articles and feel sick?

These huge and violent situations...not my issues, not my struggles. I have no ideas at all how they can be solved, unless you count "everybody just stop killing anybody." Is that hopelessly naive? I feel hopeless. I don't expect to ever see a time without news photographs of horrified adults holding bloodied children.

This gnawed at me all day today.

I don't have any answers, but a thought went through my mind late this afternoon...actually, words to a song we sang in church when I was a kid and still went to church.

Let peace begin with me,
Let this be the moment now;
With every step I take,
Let this be my solemn vow:

To take each moment and live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.

All I can do is my best to do no more harm, in my own small ways.

Posted by Nic at 05:49 PM | Comments (3)