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Those Far Away Places Could Be Next Door

I knew when I began my first book that my main character would develop a telepathic link with a woman who lived far away. It didn’t realize that my love for places that are difficult for me to get to would continue on into the remaining five books in the collection, with each book each containing events occurring in a remote part of a different continent. But that is how they turned out.

Two things about far away places appeal to me. One is how different they are. The other is how similar they are. I think I like the second fact even better.

The modern and independent young Nigerian woman I write about in x0 has a run in with her village’s older practitioners of traditional medicine, known as dibias. In order to make her conflict as realistic as I could, I researched the history of traditional medicine in her Igbo culture, and enjoyed what I learned. It did not surprise me that mixed in with the sorts of superstitions that plague humans everywhere, was both wisdom and centuries old knowledge of ways to heal the human body.

I tried to include the point of view of the dibias, and to accord them respect, even while my character was in conflict with them. And yes, I loved learning about the ways of others that were so different than my own.

But I never forgot how half of my story ended up taking place in Nigeria in the first place.

It’s a country I have yet to visit, which makes it an odd setting for a beginning novelist. But I began the book right after taking a new job in the Houston office of a Nigerian company. They were cramped on office space, and several of us were crowded into a large workroom. Most of my co-workers were young Nigerian scientists and engineers and over the ensuing months I became seeped in their conversions, their food, and their memories of home.

Did I hear about things that were exotic to my ears? Occasionally, and some of those are in the book. But far more often what I heard were things like this as they made their phone calls home.

“Yes, mom, I am eating well. I know. Vegetables.”

“Of course I miss you, dear. It’s just that last night you caught me still at work, trying to get something done. I had a big presentation today.”

“You’ve got to pass chemistry. Email me the your review sheet your professor gave you. We’ll go over it together. Tell mom not to worry. I’ll help you.”

Sound familiar? Of course it does. It’s the sound of humanity, from my home town and from every one else’s home town in every far away place in the world.

You see, we have our differences, and I think that they are fascinating. But then we have our common ways of showing care and concern for those we love. And I think that commonality is even more amazing. That is why I watch with dismay as the United States turns more towards nationalist politics and embraces a fear of the rest of the world.

I no longer live in Houston. Today, I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so I was interested to find the John Denver Song “Take me Home Country Roads,” being performed by Playing for Change. I’m a big fan of this multimedia music project that “seeks to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music.”

I can’t help but notice that much of the nationalist movement that concerns me so is being driven by people who live on country roads, just as I do. But a lot of the world lives on country roads, and drives home on them each day to those we care about. We all have that, and so much more, in common.

Enjoy this video of musicians from Japan to Brazil  as they sing “take me home country roads.”

(For more thoughts on Far Away Places see Leaving a Light Footprint in a Far Away Place, Caring About Far Away Places, As Far Away Places Edge Closer  and The Courage to Embrace Those Far Away Places.)

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2017 in empathy, music for peace, Nigeria

 

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My iPod works as a fortune cookie

SurpemesMy tiny nano iPod works like a Chinese fortune cookie. It’s so small that I only use it with my alarm clock, and every morning it greets me with a random song that has an uncanny way of setting the stage for my day. You know, just like how you are thinking of maybe going to visit some old friend in another town and the little piece of paper in your dessert says “You are about to embark on a wonderful journey”. So you go. Well, from the Supremes singing to me to “Stop! In the Name of Love” on the day I almost had a car wreck to Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II” on the day that I got hopelessly lost in a previously unexplored suburb of Houston, I’ve decided that it’s eerie how these little things know so much.

I woke up Sunday September 21 intending to write a heartfelt blog post about how it was the thirty-third International Day of Peace, a twenty-four hour period during which the United Nations invites everyone on earth to honor a cessation of both personal and political hostilities. I really like the idea of such a day, but time got away from me. I wrote part of what I intended but postponed finishing the post until the next day.

September 21 was not chosen randomly. It coincided with the opening of the U.N General assembly that year, and in fact the United Nations convenes every year in New York at about the same time. Monday September 22 was opening day this year, and of course it was the day President Obama picked to announce his offensive against ISIS in Syria. It was a wise choice of a day, in that leaders and representatives from almost every nation on earth were going to have to look him in the eye and explain why they would or would not stand with him in this endeavor.

I hate bullies, and I can understand drawing a line and acknowledging that a group is so horrible that they sit on the wrong side of this divide and must be stopped. Analogies abound. Fear of ISIS by those living in the region speaks volumes. There is a spectrum of bad behavior that eventually crosses into atrocities that no human should stand by and watch. Perhaps we have reached that point. It appears that ISIS is making every effort to convince us that we have.

growing bolder 7I also hate war. You don’t have to study a lot of history to discover that the death and suffering we so often call “a brave sacrifice” is in fact the horrible toll taken by those trying to advance political, religious and/or economic agendas that have little to do with the noble words spoken as men and women go into battle. Our involvement in Persia and Arabia seems to be creating a worse monster with every new involvement, not to mention the immense tolls it takes on the lives of our soldiers and on our own resources. It is reasonable to ask whether we shouldn’t walk away from this mess and let those who live there sort it out.

I never finished my half-written stirring blog post about the virtues of peace. After listening to the president justifying his actions and all the talking heads demanding to know why he hadn’t done this sooner, I just didn’t know what to say. I still don’t. My iPod does not suffer from the same uncertainty, however. Monday September 22 it woke me up to Dionne Warwick singing “What the World Needs Now is Love.” I think it has a good point..

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2014 in music for peace, peace

 

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