Monday, December 17, 2012

Compromise


In a world filled with so many amazing, good-willed people,  I often struggle to comprehend how such evils and atrocities are committed so routinely. How is there still so much economic slavery, war, and oppression in our modern world? I've discovered that there are many different reasons why such things are ever so present. One of the primary reasons is that nearly everyone is willing to make small compromises, for the sake of convenience, pride, fear, or any number of other reasons.

One of the greatest examples of this compromise is in relation to economic slavery. There are currently almost nine million humans who are victims of economic slavery at this time. There are hundreds of millions more who are paid wages so low that they are unable to provide basic necessities for themselves and their families. All around the world, humans made in the image of YHWH are exploited for the cause of materialism. What kind of sick people would perpetuate such a tragedy?

You.
And me.

The companies which employ these slaves and pseudo-slaves are not some foreign, unknown, evil antagonists, sitting on thrones made of skulls on nameless Central American islands. They are the brands we know and love, such as Apple, GE, Nestle, Kraft, Walmart, and Verizon. And these slaves aren't working on building pyramids and monuments of death and evil. No, their lives are spent making clothes and shoes for us. Going without food while building the electronics we're so in love with. Spilling their blood so that we can have cheap chocolate and groceries. In other words, we are the ones that are employing the slaves. 

So, if we really care for these people, why are we keeping them as our slaves? Because it's a lot more convenient than the alternative. Because otherwise, we'd have to go out our way to buy more expensive chocolate and coffee. Because we'd have to go without the new iPhone or Mac. We'd have to find a less convenient grocery store. And we're willing to compromise.

This compromise neither begins nor ends with the issue of human slavery. We may go on tirades about how evil the media is, and how it's ruining our world. Yet we unashamedly go to every big new movie premiere, watch hours of television every day, and fill our social time with conversations about our favorite movies and shows. We listen to music that absolutely stands against everything we Love and believe in. We say we believe that YHWH is Good, yet we live like rats in a maze.

My friends, we have been presented with a society that has been built on all kinds of evils and injustices. You and I didn't initiate most of these evils that we've been presented with, but we do have a choice now.
"If your philosophy does not steep into every area of your life, the way you eat, breathe, relate, feel and talk, by all means, lay it down and adopt a philosophy worthy of your full dedication."
If we do not truly believe in the things we say we believe in, our belief systems are false, and not worth believing.

If the lives of others are not worth putting ourselves at slight inconvenience, we do not know Love.

And who are we if we're not in Love?



**Check out this fantastic website which will help you get started in your battle against compromise: www.slaveryfootprint.org 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quote of the Week

"All wars are civil wars,
Because all men are brothers."

-  Francois Fenelon

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Quote of the Week

"I know falsehood when I see it, and it looks like this whole world you've made." - Aaron Weiss (mewithoutYou)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Who Would Jesus Shoot? Part 2 - The Way


**This is part 2 of a 4-part series by Jeriah Bowser. Read part 1 here, and part 3 here**


Jeriah Bowser is a wilderness guide who teaches primitive living skills to people. He writes provocative and progressive articles for The Hampton Institute, and has a propensity for challenging not the status quo, but the avant garde. Anarchist, Satyagrahi, healer, writer, primitivist.


Who Would Jesus Shoot?
The Way
There is a belief in many Eastern spiritual traditions that there exists a “Universal Truth Current” that runs through all living creatures, whether they realize and manifest it or not. In Taoism, it is referred to as the “The Tao” or “The Way.” In Hinduism, it is referred to as “Prana.” Traditional Chinese Buddhism speaks to the “Qi-Gong” or, “Way of Life.” The Japanese folk religion of Shinto can be literally translated into “Way of the Gods.”

The theme continues in the Western, monotheistic religions, as well. Islam literally means “Submission”, which is referring to submitting to “The Way of Allah”.  In Hebraic scripture, Yahweh is referred to as “The source of all truth and knowledge.” In the Christian religion, Yeshua is often referred to as “The Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Whether or not you believe truth is found in many sources or one, there is an undeniable current of common belief that is found in many spiritual traditions. In this conversation we will explore this “Way” through the teachings of Yeshua, the Rabbi whom the religion of Christianity is loosely based off of. Yeshua was a major proponent of this “Way”, and I have found it central to many of his teachings, yet incredibly absent from the current culture and conversation of the American church.

The Third Way
“The Third Way.” A somewhat harmless and obscure phrase, that when fully understood and acted upon, can overthrow the most powerful empires in the world, heal broken relationships and crippled nations, and create entirely new realms of possibilities in seemingly impossible situations. This phrase, and the implications that come with it, drove the British out of India in 1947, created awareness and equality for African-Americans living in the U.S. in the 60’s, brought awareness and reform to the treatment of farm-workers and immigrant-workers in California in the 60’s, was responsible for the overthrow of the Communist party and creation of the current Democratic government of Czechoslovakia during the Velvet Revolution in 1993, and more recently achieved a long sought-after peace in war-torn Liberia, after a 14 year civil war.

Yeshua spoke directly to this action in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5, verses 38-42:

“You have heard that it was said ’Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also”

Theologian and author Walter Wink has provided an incredible perspective into this teaching that I will paraphrase from. Wink suggests, and I have found the same to be true, that Yeshua is not at all advocating “pacifism” or inaction. Neither is he suggesting that we respond in like with aggression or resistance. Instead, he is introducing a “Third Way”, that transcends the two obvious options of passivity and resistance and yet is still extremely empowering and influential. Confused? Lets provide some context.

In the Jewish culture that Yeshua lived in, there were not sinks or soap to wash your hands after you “took care of business” or dealt with any unpleasant tasks. Therefore, you commonly used your left hand for “unclean” things, and your right hand for “clean” things, such as eating or shaking hands (ever curious why we shake hands with our right hand?) Therefore if you were to slap someone, you would use your right hand, as using your left could get you banished for ten days, or worse. In the context, its assumed that Yeshua was referring to a backhand slap, a slap that was meant to degrade, humiliate, and insult someone. The act of turning to face your assailant who just backhanded you, in the Jewish context of the day, was to effectually say, “I will not let you destroy my equality and I will not let you degrade my humanity. If you will slap me, you will do it face to face, as equals, and you will have to look me in the eyes and see my passionate resolve to love you in face of your actions.” This attitude, if done with the right motive, can completely cripple someone who is used to the reactions of either anger or fear. It puts you, the oppressed, in a position of power and forgiveness, and puts the oppressor in a position of shame and naked humanity. It is love in action. It is the third way.

In the very next sentence, as recorded by Matthew, Yeshua provides another example of this Way.

And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

Again, lets provide some context. First off, the word here for “coat” is the Hebrew word, “kaftan.” A kaftan was a common garment of the poor, a long piece of cloth that is wrapped around your body, essentially an undergarment. In Jewish law (Deuteronomy 24:10-13),  a person who is being sued could have everything taken from them but their undergarments. This was an action only used against poor and marginalized people, who were unable to defend themselves from the power-brokers of the day. Nakedness was (and is) extremely shameful in Jewish culture, and would be very sensational. The act of stripping naked and handing all of your clothes to someone who is suing you would be an act of extreme humility, boldness, and shame, although the shame would be on the person suing. It is to effectually say, “If you are sick enough to sue me for my few possessions I have to satiate your capitalist greed, then I will show you that my possessions don’t matter that much to me. You can have my house, my retirement fund, my car, my clothes, even my underwear. But you cannot my humanity or my dignity.” Again, the incredibly powerful and creative imagination of the third way.

Yeshua leaves us with a final example in his next comment, which speaks directly to the largely Jewish crowd he was addressing.

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”

To first century Jews living under Roman occupation, this was a very familiar scenario. Roman law stated that a Roman soldier could command a civilian to carry his gear (clothes, food, etc.) for a mile, but no further. This way the Roman government could keep their troops more mobile and it constantly reminded the Jews that they were subjects of the Roman empire. It was an embarrassing and inconvenient task which they were regularly subjected to, and one that had much emotion around it. Instead of either refusing (which many did, and suffered a beating or arrest) or cowering in fear and silent hatred, Yeshua offers a third option: carry the soldiers gear for longer than the law requires. Such an action would likely bring an opportunity for conversation between the soldier and civilian, a chance to build bridges of love rather than hate. This action puts the oppressed in the position of power and love, by choosing to carry this heavy gear not because they are supposed to, but because they want to.


It’s incredible how much truth is revealed from a mere four sentences of Yeshua’s teaching! Yeshua is talking about creating a third option to deal with oppression and violence that is neither reactive nor retreating, neither fight nor flight. He isn’t even providing good strategies for “dealing with evil”, because He is completely redefining evil! If you can look in the eyes of someone who just slapped you, a banker who is taking the last of everything you own, or an occupying soldier who is forcing you to work for him and see not an enemy to be resisted, but a brother or sister who is hurt, scared, confused, and needing love, then there is no longer “me” against “them”. It becomes “we”, who are struggling to figure out this wacky puzzle called humanity.
How do we carry out the actions of this third way? How does one learn to manifest this powerful love in everyday speech and actions? What about defending my family or weaker people from oppressors? What about war? Excellent questions, and ones that you should ask yourself and your friends and spiritual communities. Next week I will attempt to provide some insight into these questions that I have learned and experienced in my life.

For now, I leave you with a poem by a third grader in Chicago, who wrote this during a scavenger hunt for peace, in 2010.


Make Things Right
We don’t have to solve problems with violence
We don’t have to fight. All we have to do is reunite
Violence gets you nowhere in life
Dinner is the only time you use a knife
Kids have the power to make things right.


Shalom.



--- Jeriah Bowser ---

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Quote of the Week




"But," says one, "you do not mean that the students should go to work with their hands instead of their heads?" I do not mean that exactly, but I mean something which he might think a good deal like that;


I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living? Methinks this would exercise their minds as much as mathematics. 

If I wished a boy to know something about the arts and sciences, for instance, I would not pursue the common course, which is merely to send him into the neighborhood of some professor, where anything is professed and practised but the art of life


-- to survey the world through a telescope or a microscope, and never with his natural eye; to study chemistry, and not learn how his bread is made, or mechanics, and not learn how it is earned; to discover new satellites to Neptune, and not detect the motes in his eyes, or to what vagabond he is a satellite himself; or to be devoured by the monsters that swarm all around him, while contemplating the monsters in a drop of vinegar. Which would have advanced the most at the end of a month -- the boy who had made his own jackknife from the ore which he had dug and smelted, reading as much as would be necessary for this -- or the boy who had attended the lectures on metallurgy at the Institute in the meanwhile, and had received a Rodgers' penknife from his father? Which would be most likely to cut his fingers?

-- Henry David Thoreau --

Monday, November 5, 2012

Who Would Jesus Shoot? Part 1 - The Journey


** This is part 1 of a 4-part series, Who Would Jesus Shoot? Read part 2 here. **



Jeriah is a wilderness guide who teaches primitive living skills to people. He writes provocative and progressive articles for The Hampton Institute, and has a propensity for challenging not the status quo, but the avant garde. Anarchist, Satyagrahi, healer, writer, primitivist.

Who Would Jesus Shoot?

Preface

My brother asked me to write an article for his blog.  I’m not much of a writer, nor do I think I have any profound insights into this incredibly polarizing and emotionally loaded topic that have not already been addressed by many great thinkers and doers throughout history (Yeshua, Rumi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas K. Gandhi, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Shane Claiborne, Greg Boyd, Chief Ouray, etc).


I will be the first to admit that the idea of putting my beliefs and experiences on an online, public forum, scares the crap out of me. I rarely engage in discussions or controversial conversations online, as I believe there is little actual exchange of ideas and relationship over forums of this nature, and people tend to become very hurt, angry, and hurtful online. I have two major goals for this series of posts, and I would love for you to participate in them with me.

One, I aim to be completely humble and non-violent/aggressive in my communication. I find that I often tend to be very arrogant, polarizing, and controversial in my communication, but I very deeply want to work on changing this part of me.

Two,  I intend to be open, vulnerable, and real in my communication. I find that an individual can become anyone online, and there is very little context for communication. When I discuss things with friends, I know their story. I have heard them tell me their wounds, their dreams, and I know their perspective. There is context for our dialogue. I hope to create context by sharing my own story, and inviting you into it.

I can only speak from my journey, share my own hurt, confusion, and eventual hope around this contentious issue and hopefully you can make some sense out of my mess! I will attempt to summarize my journey towards non-violence to give you the context of my worldview and to allow you into my experience. Thank you for participating in my journey with Truth

The Journey

My early exposure to the combination of religion and war is probably very typical for someone growing up in a white, conservative, Christian home. I learned that Jesus was a white guy with blue eyes and brown hair, voted republican, was one of the founding fathers of this country, and anyone who disagreed with America therefore disagreed with God and should be invaded and taught to obey “Gods law”; which included Democracy, legislated morality, and a free market. When the tragic event of September 11th took place, I believed that it was the result of Islamic terrorists who hated America and Christianity and wanted to hurt us because they were evil and we were good. I therefore believed that it was “just” and right for our country to invade theirs and to defend against the impending doom of “Islamic Terrorism.”

As I became a young man and started making decisions about my life, I quickly became a true-blue conservative, patriotic, machismo-filled young man who was everything George Bush could hope for in a young voter. Due to several unfortunate events in my adolescence, I ended up spending 18 months in a program where my safety was often seriously threatened and I developed a huge complex around being tough, strong, and capable of defending myself and others. When I was 17, I seriously contemplated joining the Marines as a force recon specialist. I trained in many forms of martial arts for years and was planning on becoming a UFC competitor. When I turned 21, I bought myself a gun and a concealed carry permit. I engaged in many heated discussions with individuals of varied faiths and spiritual traditions, convinced that it was my duty as a crusader of Jesus to crush all infidels with the double-edged sword of debate and arrogance (more commonly known as “apologetics“). I voted for Bush, made fun of liberals, went to a big church full of rich white people, kept a gun under my bed and a bible in my pocket, and shopped at Wal-Mart. My worldview was impenetrable, as I had surrounded myself with like-minded friends and teachers.
About two years ago, a good friend and mentor gave me the books “Jesus for President” and “An Irresistible Revolution”  by Shane Claiborne. They were at first offensive, then confusing, and finally fascinating and convicting. Shane clearly laid out all of Yeshua’s teachings on non-violence, forgiveness, and love, and contrasted them with the rampant militarism, widespread capitalist exploitation, and police-state occupation that make up the system we know as “The United States of America”. Shane told stories of incredible forgiveness and love in the face of tyranny. He shared personal experiences with living in the heart of a marginalized, violent, and impoverished neighborhood in Camden, PA. He opened my eyes to the power of simple acts of love, through the life of Mother Teresa, whom he lived with for a period of time. He spoke of the power of “the third way”, of dealing with violence and terror. And I felt a response deep in my soul to the teachings of this young activist.

I wanted more. I read the biographies of Mother Teresa, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Dietrich Bonheoffer, and Martin Luther King Jr., and approached the Hebrew scriptures from a new perspective. I listened to pod casts, read various blogs, subscribed to “Ad-busters“, and absorbed every opinion that I could on this powerful form of resistance known as “active non-violence”. It contrasted so greatly to the image of a crusading white Jesus that I eventually had to completely abandon everything I had ever known about the world, my spirituality, and my role in this crazy thing called humanity. My search for truth deepened as I joined Anarchist clubs and showed up to Communist bookstores to discuss politics and oppression. I tapped into the marginalized social groups in my community, and became friends with drag queens and prostitutes. I hung out with dirty hippies, homeless junkies, and drug dealers, and started seeing my Rabbi in strange places: hidden underneath cardboard boxes, waiting at an abandoned bus stop, in a lonely corner of a street alley, and often times badly needing a shower. I started conversations with Mormon missionaries, Sufi mystics, and regular people with the intent not to “convert”, but to learn from them and to love. I realized the power of non-violent communication in my daily interactions with people, as I moved from an arrogant defensive posture to an open and loving offensive. And I sold my gun ;)

I share my experience with this not to make any claims about truth or to influence your journey or your decisions in any way. I simply believe in the power of vulnerability and relationship, and I would love to engage you, the reader, in the spirit of openness and honesty. Many of my experiences are extremely embarrassing and painful for me to look back on and realize, and this is the first time I have ever really talked about them to anyone but my wife and brother As we move forward in this discussion, I want to encourage you, the reader, to also engage and share your experiences and speak your truth. And I want to thank you for listening and validating my experience. Writing this article is very healing for me.

Also, I highly encourage you to find and read Shane’s books. They can be found here:

If you cannot afford a copy, please let me know and I will gladly buy and send you his book, “Irresistible Revolution“. Whether you name your first child after him or burn his books in a pile behind your church, I don’t really care. I believe they are relevant to this discussion, whether or not you agree with Shane’s perspective.

I leave you with a peace mantra by Satish Kumar, that was popularized by Mother Teresa:

Lead me from death to life,
 From falsehood to truth;
Lead me from despair to hope,
 From fear to trust;
Lead me from hate to love,
 From war to peace;
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe

Shalom



--- Jeriah Bowser ---


*** Read part 2 here.***

Friday, September 21, 2012

Quote of the Week (In honor of International Peace Day)

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

- The Rabbi

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Quote of the Week

“Historically, the most terrible things - war, genocide, and slavery - have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.” 


- Howard Zinn

Saturday, September 1, 2012

What We Saw On The Path

The  mountainous forests of Colorado
Photo by Elisha Hurlocker.
Imagine with me a story. It shouldn't be hard, because it's almost true.

Barack Obama, an Islamic man , a republican woman, you, and me have all briefly put aside our many differences and come together on a Saturday afternoon for a hike through Colorado's forested mountains. It's a narrow path, so we walk single file. Barry O is way up front. The Islamic guy is in the back. You and I are separated by the lady. We're all having a jolly old time when Barry up front says "Aww look at the cute little puppy!" You look down the mountain, to our left, and see a cute bear cub bounding up the hill toward us. I can't see very well because a tree is blocking my vision, but I distinctly hear the panting and footsteps of a large dog and the rattle of a dog collar. The woman between us happens to be an ex-forest ranger. Upon glancing in the direction of the commotion, her eyes widen excitedly. "It's a grizzly!"
And just behind me, in the back of the line the Islamic fellow looks in the direction of the commotion and yells back, "No it's just a rabbit. I can see clearly from here."

After everyone has stated his opinion, we all turn and look at each other. There is confusion in everyone's eyes. Suddenly, the confusion gives way to anger. "How could you fools possibly think that was a bear?"
"Are you nimwits blind?!"
"What crap are you trying to pull? I know what I saw!"

With that, all five of us quickly dig through our packs and whip out knives and brass knuckles. Furious at our inability to agree upon what we all just saw, we all come together in an all out brawl. All kicking, stabbing, punching and yelling obscenities in a fleshy mass of violently shameful humanity.

It is in this moment, having mercilessly attacked a few fellow humans and receiving a few crippling blows myself, that I crawl from the bloody brawl. That I take a few steps back and begin to realize the foolishness of it all. I wipe my hands of some of the blood of my comrades. And I begin to yell at the top of my lungs, "Stop!"

That's where you find me right now. I have my brothers' blood on my hands. I have your blood on my hands.  And mine is on yours.

I find myself asking why. Why did we feel the need to attack each other in the first place? What did we have to gain? And the only answer I can find is that we attacked each other because we couldn't agree upon what we saw. Each person saw and heard something different. Not because they had some evil agenda, but because their position on the path revealed a different glimpse of the picture to each of them.

And when each person revealed their small piece of the picture, instead of working together we used our knowledge against each other. Each individual assumed that all of the others who disagreed with him were not only misinformed, but were in fact engineers of evil, using misinformation for some dastardly purpose. And as a result, we each decided in our hearts that anyone who disagrees with us must be destroyed.

I'm here to tell you that there's a better way of doing things. A young Rabbi a couple thousand years ago came to teach us that another world is possible. We can learn to embrace new ideas that conflict with the ones we hold. We can learn to Love our brothers and sisters.

Where I have used my money and resources to support injustices such as economic slavery and the Western war machine. Where I have used my influence to create division between others. Where I have taken revelations given to me for the sake of encouraging, and have arrogantly used them to divide. I'm mournfully repentant.

None of us could see it through our clouded vision. But if we could only learn to see with new eyes, I think I might know what we might have seen on that mountainside today. There was a majestic lion laying down peacefully with a little white lamb. And a little child was leading them.






Sunday, August 26, 2012

Quote Of The Week

Don't let someone who gave up on their dreams
   
Talk you out of going after yours.

-Unknown

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quote Of The Week

...The tragedy of the church's reaction to September 11th is not that we rallied around the families in New York and D.C. but that our love simply reflected the borders and allegiances of the world. We mourned the deaths of each soldier, as we should, but we did not feel the same anger and pain for each Iraqi death, or for the folks abused in the Abu Ghraib prison incident. We got farther and farther from Jesus' vision, which extends beyond our rational love and the boundaries we have established. There is no doubt that we must mourn those lives on September 11th. We must mourn the lives of the soldiers. But with the same passion and outrage, we must mourn the lives of every Iraqi who is lost. They are just as precious, no more, no less. In our rebirth, every life lost in Iraq is just as tragic as a life lost in New York or D.C. And the lives of the thirty thousand children who die of starvation each day is like six September 11ths every single day, a silent tsunami that happens every week.” 

- Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical

**The Irresistible Revolution is one of the best books ever written. I highly recommend you read it. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Voice of the Tiger


Welcome to the Jungle - Thursday afternoon. August 16, 2012. 
There were about six foreigners and twelve Karen(kuh-REN) teachers and students that came. We took a motorized longboat up the flooded raging Moei river for a couple hours, to a small Karen Village just inside Karen State, Burma. We had lunch at a pastor's house in the village, while all the villagers gathered 'round to watch us eat. They had never seen white people before. An ancient Karen prophecy says that once white people step onto the land, there will be peace. That's not how it's worked in the rest of the world unfortunately, but I pray and believe that it will be true in Karen State, and specifically this village. After a delicious lunch and a few difficult conversations, employing the few Karen words I know, we headed out into the jungle, Pastor Peacefully and a few WWII-gun-toting Karen guerrillas leading the way.

We walked for at least two hours through mud and mud rivers, across skinny single-log bridges, along the side of a few steep hills, and over a lashed bamboo bridge above some crashing rapids. Finally we came to a spot where we stopped and set up camp. While we struggled to set up a tent, our traveling companions got busy building temporary house-like bamboo structures to sleep in. They seriously built houses in the time it took us to set up a single (massive) tent. It was pretty dark and late at this point, so we whipped out our Thai whiskey, talked and laughed around the fire for a little while, then headed off to bed.

Learning from the Hilltribe - Friday morning. August 17, 2012
We woke up after a fitful night's sleep. I grabbed my Kindle and went on a short barefoot walk (I was barefoot 80% of the trip) back to that lashed bamboo bridge. I sat above the turbulent waters below and read some equally turbulent words from JESUS in Luke eight. After spending a bit of time with my Creator in His beautiful creation, I headed back to camp. I watched the Karen teachers and students producing a variety of things from only bamboo, machetes, and their hands. Inspired by their craftiness, I grabbed my machete and joined in. I made a bamboo cup, shot glass, chopsticks, and woven basket. I also took a couple naps and ate some incredible fresh venison. As night fell, I gathered my flashlights, first aid kit, boots, and machete. I tried to gather my courage. And we went out. Into the thick black jungle.

The Hunt. - Friday night. August 17, 2012
Leading the hunt were two Karen guerrilla soldiers. In their hands they held rifles given to them (illegally) by British soldiers after being politically raped by the British government after WWII. The rifles had little wicks of dried grass, which were to be lit with a lighter in order to fire the guns. The Karen soldiers, despite their small stature, are widely recognized as the most effective guerrilla fighters in the world. And we had to keep up with them. We ran, slid in the mud, tripped, cut ourselves on plants and rocks. We froze when we saw four pairs of eyes staring back at us from behind some trees, twenty feet away.

In the midst of the dialog between the soldiers and the teachers with us, one teacher was kind enough to share some information with us English-speakers: "Oh. Too many. Keep moving!"

Too many?! Too many what? Are we going to die?!

"Elephant. Go!"

Elephants? Awesome! Why does he sound so scared though? They just told us that elephants are friendly and present no threat to us.

It wasn't until later that we learned it was just a few water buffalo. Not T-Rexes or tigers. Not elephants. But we did keep encountering elephant footprints along our path. And a couple times we could hear the elephant close by. Once, we heard loud crashing a couple hundred feet away. We all started to shine our lights to look, but a Karen teacher urgently instructed us to turn our lights off and keep quiet. Elephant. Again, I thought elephants were friendly. We sat quietly for a few minutes, then got up and began to run through the jungle again. A little while later they explained: This elephant had recently gone rogue and killed his owner. He was romping through the jungle in an angry frenzy killing everything in his path. And he was tracking us.

So, with a giant grey killer beast on our tail, we kept on running through the jungle. Up steep mountains, coated with slippery mud. Through the fog and clouds. We were shining our lights in the trees in search of monkeys, but we never saw any. After about three hours of running through dense jungle, up and down mountains with only a few brief breaks, I was about ready to pass out. Finally we reached the top of a hill and saw a small barrack with a fire going. The soldiers led us inside, and began to cook up some rice, noodles and tea for us.

The Voice of the Tiger - Wee hours of the morning. Saturday, August 18, 2012
We ate quickly, voraciously hungry, but were also completely exhausted. As soon as we finished eating, a few other soldiers came in with a small bear they'd just shot. They graciously gave it to us to take back to our camp the next morning. Just as we were about to set up to sleep, the soldiers told us,
"Many time we hear the voice of the tiger."
with the Karen teachers translating,  "There many animal here in jungle, come close. Elephant, bear, monkey, snake, boar. Many time we hear the voice of the tiger."

I looked at the entrance to the barrack. No door. Not even a wall. The tiger (or tigress) could just hop in, lick his lips, and then eat me. The soldiers pointed to their meager arsenal of weaponry and assured me we'd be okay. So we found a spot to sleep for a couple hours. They gave us a bamboo mat, a couple blankets, and a burlap sack full of something heavy for a pillow. I looked inside the pillow. Mortars, grenades and AK-47 clips. I was about to sleep on a pillow made of explosives and bullets. Awesome. I attained a bit of a Rambo complex in that moment. The five American, Australian and Karen teachers piled literally on top of each other, on a small space on the floor, and went to sleep.

And Repeat - Saturday morning. August 18, 2012
After a few short, uncomfortable, but restful hours of sleep, we woke up early to head back. We thanked the soldiers profusely, and headed back. Fortunately, we were going mostly downhill this time, so it wasn't quite as exhausting. Unfortunately, running downhill in slippery mud is difficult. I fell several times, and was still pretty exhausted, but we made the four or five miles back in only one hour instead of the three hours it had taken the night before. When we got back to camp, we took down the tents and bamboo houses, packed all our wet belongings (did I mention it was raining all weekend?) and headed out. We walked another ten miles or so back to the village in the now torrential rain, smiled our white smiles at the cute brown children back in the village, and then caught the boat back down the river.

Upon arriving home, I was able to take a shower and put on dry clothes. I'd been wearing the same set of wet clothes for the last forty-eight hours. I checked out all my cuts, bruises, splinters, and gashes. There were a lot of them. I thanked JESUS for giving me the time in the jungle that I'd repeatedly asked Him for. And I took a nap.


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Also check out this great article with pictures written by one of my companions, Evan, about the trip. http://www.thegoodneighborhood.com/2012/08/22/one-love-on-the-burmese-border-adventuring-into-the-burma/

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Quote Of The Week

Albert Einstein
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” 

― Albert Einstein

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ode To The Seldom Sung

*If you have yet to read Bludgeoning Bleam, I recommend doing so first. This poem is a sequel to that poem.

Help!

And I never again and lolligan,
Though a yobbering world I live.
I, in my jobycan pleasures will always delight,
Though an expected smile shared, I misgive.

"Tis the life!"
"Tis the 'J's which you always of dreamed!"
"Knew ye not smiles shared were passed else?"

No, I knew. Yet I clamored still onward.
The divine word.
The divine letter commenced in my name.

For a promise I'd 'made.
An oathstone I'd laid.
"And the bludgeoning heart ne'er again."

For 'laughing', I mused, always starts with an 'L'.
But 'Joy' with the jobycan 'J'.
And though I forget all the poems I've writ,
May I always remember my name!

In a brave new world, I've fought and I've learned
No one's brave and nothing is new.
And world? Will pass, will leave nothing behind
But the Brave. But the New. But the Few.

So a brave old world, I'd have thought to be light.
To bring new to New was a hell of a fight.

To bring old to New, but a fight twice as this?
A fighter, no battle afeared.
But I find my old weapons are strangely amiss

And the Duchess has taken my beard.

For 'laughing' I choked, always startes with an 'L'.
Does the old world have room for a 'J'?
The rhymes have been taken. In silence. In rain.
If I could only
Remember...


Bludgeoning Bleam

In the heart was you stabbed oh my bludgeoning bleam
And you never again shall attain.
I, a forlorn decision has finally is
And the bludgeoning heart ne’er again.

When at first, oh you bludgeoning bleam did appear
Carried with you a lolligan love.
Told me squaggins and squizzies covered up and disguised
By the beauty forementioned above.

Me, I ate and partook and becudgeoned and and
Well I thought I'd expudgeoned the margins.
Alas! You, the bludgeoning bleam be the same
Who created the bludgeoning fargins!

In the heart! Was you stabbed! Oh my bludgeoning bleam!
For a blistering bandcock are ye! 
And a compligant, trutamic kick in the bants
Conversed self to a jombilant jestic.

Joh! Jhe jappily jobycan jinplan-jables jare jhe jery jicostic jaymerry!
In the jeart was I jabbed with a jambicant jostle
And I never again and lolligan. 




**A sequel to this poem is posted here.