Archive | September, 2013

Walden and Antarctica

20 Sep
“I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what I had to teach, and not, when I came time to die, discover that I had not lived.” –Thoreau
I think I’m going through my Thoreau stage of life. I mean…I don’t necessarily want to take off to Walden Pond and live in a shack, but I reflect often about the meat and bones of life and what practices really yield true happiness and true growth, and then I think about everything else. It seems like there are so many “everything else” type distractions from “the essential facts of life” and often time and energy is squandered on fluff that just does not matter. I get tired of the bright colored time wasters and want to spend my time on fruitful life-giving activities.
When I went to the University of Utah, I had the honor of being in a poetry class taught by Utah’s Poet Laureate, Katharine Coles. I think she encompassed this Thoreau-ism nicely. She talked about how she once had long, beautiful, flowing hair and would spend hours upon hours fussing about her hair until finally she realized all the time that was being wasted on her hair and she shaved it off. She’s had a shaved head ever since.
I’m not saying the solution to really living is shaving our heads, but the metaphor is beautiful—each person can search to identify what distracts their energy, focus and time from really living and cut it off to spend time on practices that make life joyful. This can be different for each person. Katharine Coles recently spent time in Antarctica writing poetry and learning about the sciences.
I think I’ll spend some more time thinking about what my Walden Pond or Antarctica really is and report back, but for starters, I simply want to slow down.

Thank you, Sahar Qumsiyeh

17 Sep

I can’t imagine having a wall built around my city separating people of different nationalities.  I can’t imagine half the people in my country labeling anyone with different passport papers as an enemy.  I can’t imagine widespread discrimination that leads to daily acts of terror and brutality.

Today, I attended a lecture at Brigham Young University given by Sahar Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian woman, United Nations employee, and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who has suffered through years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

She talked about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and shared her personal stories of growing up a Palestinian woman in a divided and violent area.  She told stories of long nights filled with darkness and gun shots, and talked about the day when her own hate for Israeli soldiers arose.

She related how one day a group of Palestinian students decided to lead a protest and wave a Palestinian flag from the University’s main building.  The protesters were immediately met with gunfire and tear gas.  Her friend, Irshad, was shot in the head, but did not instantly die.  The students protected his body, but Israeli soldiers wouldn’t let anyone leave the university to get medical care.  When the students were finally released, the Israeli soldiers took Irshad’s body to his parents house, forced his parents to follow them into the woods, dug a hole and made the parents watch as they filled the hole with their son’s body and dirt. She talked about hate.

Then, she talked about forgiveness.  She talked about praying for the gift of charity and then waiting on the Lord.  She talked about finally being able to look into the eyes of Israeli soldiers and feel love and peace.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict seems so far away, but for so many people, it is daily life.  This kind of violence is literally beyond my comprehension and I am so thankful that I don’t have to live in fear every day.  I am so thankful that I live in a blessed country where we are blessed with freedom and peace.

Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints myself, it was a humbling reminder that the atonement of Jesus Christ is real and that we can have internal peace by applying gospel principles to our daily situations, even if our daily situations seem trivial compared to what others suffer through.

Sahar has every reason to hate, violently protest and lead a miserable life, but instead she travels and spreads a message of peace and hope.  She encourages everyone that the key to peace, even in destructive situations, is to have internal peace through the atonement of Jesus Christ.  She talks about understanding that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father, to qualify ourselves to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and to forgive others.

Understanding a message like that is what softens hearts and helps tear down the walls that separate us.

Thank you, Sahar, for sharing such an inspiring message.  Thank you for your courage.  Thank you for sharing your testimony and message of peace. I promise to always be grateful for the freedom and protection I enjoy.