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Around the table

I spent 10 days recently with a group of people from 17 different countries – 22 if you add in the facilitators and organisers. There was no hassle, no misunderstandings, no grief. We weathered the inevitable communication issues (minor), adjusted well to the various cultural differences, and we got along.

Read any newspaper, turn to any TV channel, switch on social media and you’ll immediately see instances where people are not getting on. And increasingly, it seems to be perceived polarities between Christians and Muslims, between nationals and non-nationals, between politics A and politics B, that are consuming an inordinate amount of energy today. Needlessly consuming. Needlessly consuming valuable energy.

There is no quick fix. No grand solution. No magic bullet. With people come prejudices. We’re conditioned to creating barriers, giving reasons why we can’t do X instead of looking for solutions and finding reasons why we can do Y. Sad to say, it seems to be the nature of the rather nasty beast that man is morphing into.

But occasionally, I get days when what I read or watch or listen to replaces despair with hope and I take solace in the fact that in every corner of the world, someone is working hard to make a change.

Some examples:

What struck me in both videos is how food played an integral part in the harmonious relationship. And I recalled an inspirational Post-it that said: When you have more than you need, build a bigger table. And then I remembered, a great Canadian video I saw a while back:

Two years ago, in November, in Seoul, Korea, ‘food as both as an instigator of unrest as well as its symbolic role in forging peace was the topic of a conference at the Slow Food Asia Pacific Festival’. A report speaks to various initiatives around the world that show the power of food. But on a simpler, more personal note, perhaps we could make the world a better place if we spent more time around the table with each other, talking, eating, appreciating our differences rather than finding fault.

As the Heineken ad asks: Is there more than unites us than divides us…

I’m cooking for six tomorrow evening – six people, five nationalities. Not a personal best, but not bad.

 

 

When walls tell stories

It may seem like I’m a little obsessed with the wall around Bethlehem and perhaps I am. Oddly enough, it was the non-religious aspects of the Holy Land that intrigued me most. The Golan Heights, the Dead Sea, the Wall. What that says about the state of my religion is anyone’s guess. I’ve been trying to figure out why a church-going Catholic might have had difficulties in the holiest of holy lands and have come to the conclusion that the pundits were right. I must be of the pick’n’mix variety. But I digress.

Back to the wall.

IMG_8525 (600x800)IMG_8545 (800x600)In addition the graffiti, there are posters depicting snapshots of the lives of those who live there. They tell their own story. I’ve posted a few here, those that resonated most, and can’t help but believe that any one of them would touch the hardest of hearts.

IMG_8452 (589x800)IMG_8456 (600x800)IMG_8460 (600x800)IMG_8497 (600x800)IMG_8505 (600x800)IMG_8499 (600x800)IMG_8510 (600x800)IMG_8521 (600x800)I hope so, too.

 

Peace and war

When it comes to actor Kevins, Kevin Bacon, Kevin McKidd (remember him from Trainspotting?) , and even Kevin Spacey rate higher than Kevin Costner. He’s never really done it for me (whatever that ‘it’ is).  It was little wonder then that I wasn’t all that excited about treading the same ground as he did back in 1995. He was in Hawaii back in 1995 for the filming of the post-apocalyptic movie Waterworld. It was at Waipi’o Valley on the big island of Hawaii that they finally found land. In Hawaiian, Waipi’o means ‘curved water’.

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For many years, the valley was home to Hawaiian kings and their ancient grass palaces. There’s a road that leads down into the valley, open to 4WD vehicles only and from here you can access the black-sand beach. When there is rain, there are waterfalls.  No water, no falls. So I missed out. Still, though, travelling on roads that could hardly be called roads, was like going back in time. And the views were spectacular.IMG_1732 (800x598)

The valley, apparently, is also home to someViet Nam veterans who have chosen to ignore a world that doesn’t understand and can’t relate to what they’ve been through. Living rough, they hunt and fish and live off the land, hitching a ride to town occasionally for staples they can’t do without. There is no such thing as a fair war, a just war. No side is ever without fault. But it breaks my heart to think that society can be so cruel to those who have fought in its name. Perhaps I’m naive in thinking that the vast majority of soldiers enlist for a greater good, to do their part to serve and protect. I remember being horrified at the welcome the Gulf War veterans received while amputees from the Viet Nam war begged for a living on the streets of LA and suffered people spitting in their faces. To think that as a society we are all too eager to ignore the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder saddens me.

IMG_1754 (600x800)Yes I know that atrocities are committed in the name of war. I know that heinous acts are often read as routine. I know that there are those who are guilty of abusing their uniform and rank. I know all that. And yes, I would prefer a world that wasn’t at war. [Apparently there are ten wars currently going on in the world.] But to ignore those who have fought and served in good faith; to cast them aside and through our lack of understanding and support, force them into the wilderness… that I don’t understand.

The Vietnam Veteran’s Association has among its goals to create a new identity for this generation of veterans, and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans. I wish them well.

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Down in Waipi’o valley, you’d never know that the remnants of wasted lives are be found in the trees that line the mountain sides. As kids play in the river, the image is one of peace and serenity – and yet, in the background, there are broken men whose lives are far from tranquil.  As Aristotle said: we make war so that we can live in peace.