Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stones into Schools, Leila, and news from Iran and Haiti

Oh my dear readers, I fear my blog has been dormant too long. Sooner or later, there comes a time in every blogger's life when they become occupied with personal concerns and the blog is neglected. So, I'm going to give a quick whirlwind tour of what I've been reading and thinking about and begin posting regularly once again. I have some new fun hikes planned so hopefully will share some pictures soon!

I finished Greg Mortenson's Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.I enjoyed this book even more than its predecessor, Three Cups of Tea, Greg's personal memoir about a community in Pakistan helping him after a failed attempt on K2 and his resultant desire to benefit the children of that village by building a school. Mortenson's organization, Central Asia Institute, has built 130 schools throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan. The most effective way to combat terrorism is to educate children, especially girls. An educated girl who later becomes a mother is more likely to guide her family to avoid extreme thinking and violence. The most important aspect of the work, however, is not solely avoiding terrorism, but unleashing human potential and the ability of communities to determine their own future by knowledge and literacy.

Interestingly enough, our local hiking group was treated to a wonderful presentation by Bethlehem resident Joe Yannuzzi who summited Everest in May of 2008 and has worked to benefit the residents of Nepal by building libraries in that region. We saw stunning photos of the Everest climb, and also pictures of children enjoying the newly constructed library, and even the yaks hauling in the books!

I also finished Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink, definitely a worthy read. In the author's own words: "Carrots and sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery, and purpose."

I recently saw Crash due to the suggestion of a friend. This movie asks some hard questions about what part racism plays in our lives. We're forced to face our unconscious assumptions and evaluate our actions and our relationships to others. This isn't a family friendly film, but see it with your friends and significant people in your life and have some honest and hard discussions. Definitely worth seeing and talking about.

The Iranian movie Leila was also thought provoking, but in a different way. Leila found out she was unable to have children early in her marriage to Reza. Reza's mother pressured Leila to ask her husband to take a second wife. The movie is about what she decided and the impact which follows. At first it was difficult for me to relate to the characters, the view on marriage was just too different (you want me to WHAT?!). But as I reflected on it, I realized that my own culture is also going through a shift in our views on marriage. Leila and Reza had a love marriage based on companionship and affection but they were pressured by their family's view of marriage as being primarily a vehicle to carry on the male line. Plenty of social commentary has been written on our own shift in culture to the desire for a soul mate marriage, and marriage as a vehicle for personal fulfillment. Our marriages and families are struggling with these relatively new concepts and the resulting shifts in expectations and roles. Phillipe Copeland over at Bahá’í Thought has started an interesting discussion on these topics here.

Junior Youth Class:
Bahá’í Junior Youth class is continuing to go well. This week we had a discussion about media and popular music and how to be conscious consumers. All of us are bombarded with messages many times daily. We enjoy a wide variety of music and movies and books, but ultimately we need to be conscious of the attitudes and perspectives we are absorbing and think critically about them.

The seven Bahá’í leaders in Iran, imprisoned nearly two years without proper legal representation, had their first trial January 12. The next session is February 7. The situation is very grim and the unfounded charges they face carry serious penalty. For background information and to follow the latest news, please see Iran Press Watch.

Of course our hearts are breaking daily with the news out of Haiti.

"When such a crisis sweeps over the world no person should hope to remain intact. We belong to an organic unit and when one part of the organism suffers all the rest of the body will feel its consequence."
- Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance

Our thoughts and prayers are with our neighbors far too long oppressed by poverty and injustice and now, tragically, natural disaster. There are plenty of websites out there that give guidance on where to donate, but two of the most helpful lists I have found are here and here .

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At 7:55 AM, Blogger Racn4acure said...

Hi Anne,
I am reading 3 cups of tea right now, and it is so inspirational. I will read Stones into Schools next. Mortenson should have won the Nobel Peach Prize I think. The talk by Joe Y. sounds facinating.
Sad about the political prisoners in Iran. It is so unjust, and just not right. You know, I never did get a reply of any kind from my Congressman about that.

The situation in Haiti is heartbreaking and unimaginable. At least the world is responding but even when things are going well there (before the quake) it is far from easy for the Haitians.

I will look forward to reading about your hikes. I am planning a few adventures myself. :) Art

At 8:53 AM, Blogger Racn4acure said...

Hi again, I wanted to add a few things. "Leila" sounds really interesting. Yeah, that would not go over so well here in the USA / Canada, eh? Speaking of western marriage, I wonder what percentage of people even meet much less marry their soul mate?
The book Three Cups of Tea had some interesting stories related to marriage, cultural differences from here. Like the men's ability to get a mullah to grant an affair - with Western women no less, infidels - when the men were far from home, but no way would a woman do that and get away from it. Definitely what is good for the gander is not good for the goose in that culture! Also in that book what struck me was the utter hardness of their lives in remote Pakistan, and how amazingly tough the people are.

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Hi Art,
I'm glad you're reading Three Cups of Tea, I know you'll really love it, and Stones into Schools also. I love having a glimpse into a culture and way of life that I have not experienced first hand. I love feeling that our world is interconnected!

Thank you so much for writing your congressperson! Although they may not have responded personally, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives issued statements condemning treatment of Baha'i prisoners in Iran. So our words and letters definitely had an effect. The pressure of world opinion definitely has some impact in these situations.
Yes, the news out of Haiti breaks my heart each day. The only consolation is how the world is working to help them. Yes, their lives were already very difficult before this.
I love seeing the cultural differences in the books and movies, especially with regards to marriage. I'm not so sure I believe the whole "soul mates" concept, I think we can potentially be compatible with a number of people, but we try to find someone we enjoy being with, who has similar goals and visions, who we are attracted to, and who has a good character. Then we both do our very best to nurture that relationship. But, I certainly can't claim any expertise in this area, so who knows!

At 9:50 AM, Blogger Racn4acure said...

I will finish it tonight, and am really enjoying it. It is inspiratonal and thought provoking.

I hate the idea of political prisoners, like in Iran and so many other places. It is pretty awful.

The sad thing about Haiti is that it is in the forefront today, but tomorrow there will be another crisis. Those people need help for years and years, and incredible amounts of money - some of which will just disappear with corrupt officials.

Those are good thoughts about marriage. Hard to imagine in the whole world that each person has one and only one "soul mate" with which they could have a happy life. I am no expert either but what you wrote makes perfect sense to me. Enjoy the day! Art

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Hi Art,
Glad you enjoyed the book, it was a favorite of mine.
Yes, Haiti will need redevelopment help for some time. I guess as always the goal is to empower the people to help themselves and create their own infrastructure. But because of the depth of tragedy this will take a long long time.



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