Monday, September 01, 2008


This weekend was the first graduation of the beneficiaries of our high school program. Due to unforseen circumstances, I was tasked to step in at the last minute (the last week, actually) to make sure everything went smoothly. It hasn't been as difficult as I worried, but it certainly wasn't easy either. I've been struggling with not only language and cultural barriers, but also the sheer logistics of stepping into something you didn't design, or really have any idea about, until one week before. Answering questions in that position is a bit tricky!

I've had to rely an awful lot on people I hardly know, trusting that things that should be done are, and believing when people tell me what they need, how much and the logistics to get it. I'm a believer in the natural goodness of people, but when you're walking around with a fistful of $20 in your pocket for unforeseen expenses, you begin to feel more like a human cash machine then "partner".

So, imagine my surprise and relief, when I arrived at the high school and everything seemed to be going well. In fact, the whole weekend went off basically, without a hitch (there are a few stories of course, but those are for a different post). I am enormously relieved.

Now that it's all over, I can reflect on the idea of faith. It's so much more than believing in thing you do not see. It takes an enormous amoung of intestinal fortitude, as well.

On the way out here, I read the book "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer. It's about a ritualistic killing that took place in Utah in 1984 by two Mormon fundamentalists that believed God told them to do it. It also underscores the root of Mormonism, and the rise of an essentially "American" faith (having been developed less than 200 years ago).

According to Krakauer, Mormons believe that the angel Moroni came to Joseph Smith in a dream in the early 1800's, claiming there were golden tablets buried on a mountainside in northern New York State. Although these golden tablets have never been discovered, Smith was able to find and transcribe them into what would become the holy Book of Mormon.

Crazy, huh?

One of Krakauer's minor points centers around the scientifically unbelieveable doctrines that most religions focus on. For example - Moses parting of the Red Sea, Jesus rising from the dead, Muhammed riding into heaven on a winged horse or Buddha reaching nirvana. They all ask that one suspends what everyday reality tells them to be impossible and make the leap between knowing with the mind, and knowing with something else. I mean, isn't the essence of religion to ask yourself to believe in something inconceiveable by mind alone?

(In Krakauer's case, he explores if it's crazy to think that two men were told by God to kill that woman and her baby or not).

In my case, it has more practical aspects. I have no prior experience that this graduation is going work; no history with those I was working with (heck, no common LANGUAGE, really); no basis for believing that it would be a success. This caused my greatest amount of stress - just not knowing with my mind.

Yet, in the end, there was precious little I could do. I could've driven myself nuts trying to find out what was going on with every last detail. But I was forced to give up trying to know with my mind, and just float in a sea of limbo - leaping into the sky on a winged horse and hoping to Allah that it really would fly.

It did!

And now I'm in heaven.......

It's over!

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