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Mission control

Most of us have been involved at least once in writing a “mission statement”.  This concise summary of what one is trying to do is usually an exercise in restating what ones boss wants to hear and is thus regarded by cynical employees as the time wasting nonsense that it is. Yet, the real question regarding why you are doing what you are doing remains a valid one. What is the point? What do you want to accomplish? Why not just take a nap?

To that end, today the blog “Face Painting for World Peace” is going to articulate its reason for being. I’ll start with the obvious.  I wish to sell my book x0.  I wish to entertain myself by writing, which I love to do, and in the best case I wish to entertain others with that writing.  I love to do that as well. I’d like to solicit more interaction here and am trying to figure out how because I wish to grow by hearing from others with ideas outside of my usual circle.

All good mission statements cover not only what is to be done, but also how.  At least at a very high level. So, I hope to do the above by writing about the aspects of x0 that most fascinate me. These include the relationship between telepathy and empathy and the way both relate to humans treating each other with compassion and respect. I subtitled my book (and named this blog) “Face Painting for World Peace” because my main character Lola realizes that she lost many of her racial and ethnic prejudices while painting children’s faces every year at the school carnival. She wonders if similar close interaction with the children of ones enemies would foster world peace. So, this blog will look at paintings about peace, art about peace, and music about peace.

I also hope to occasionally post about Nigeria, the fascinating country where half of the book occurs. There will sometimes be posts about the oil business, with an insiders perspective on the hunt for the hydrocarbons we rely on so heavily and yet know we need to rely on less And finally, I hope to feature other books of any genre that touch on any of these topics or on the theme of world peace. I will be more aggressively seeking out other authors and welcome all requests to do a guest post.

Mission accomplished? Hardly. But after about eight months of feeling my way along on this blog, and as I am about to cross the 2000 hit mark very soon, it feels good to say “mission begun”.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in art for peace, Nigeria, oil industry

 

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Why in the world would you write a book about Nigeria?

Recently I’ve gotten some feedback on my book from folks who did not particularly enjoy it.  That’s part of the process of writing, of course, and I accept these comments with all the good cheer I can manage.  After all, we all enjoy different things and I appreciate an honest review. But I’ve heard a few times now that writing about Nigeria was part of the problem. It has been suggested to me that it just isn’t a place that particularly interests many readers from the United States. So I’ve had to consider, after the fact, why in the world I picked such a “difficult” location for my first book. I mean, wouldn’t Paris or London have been better?

Much of x0 probably takes place in Nigeria simply because I began to write a tale of two very different women helping each other about the same time that I started a new job exploring for oil in the Niger Delta. Mind you, I do my exploring at a computer in Houston, twisting and turning 3-D images on a screen just like Lola does in the story. The fair-sized oil company that I work for bears little resemblance to Lola’s tiny focused employer, and as I began writing I promised myself that I would steadfastly resist the temptation to let any thing about my actual place of employment creep into the fictional world I was creating. Certainly I owed my employer that discretion.

In the end though, I made one exception. One day I asked my office mate, a Nigerian geologist, to describe to me how his tribe, the Igbo, were unique. He responded by telling me a legend about Igbo slaves coming to America. It startled me at first that he would even speak of such a thing, but in the end I was touched by both the moving story he told, and by the powerful way in that he told it.  I tried to capture each of those when I retold this scene in my book.

Nana Asma’u
Click here to visit the website for Wise Muslim Women.org to learn more

Nigeria, it turns out, has a plethora of rich stories to tell, and as an outsider I am poorly equipped to speak of even the few that I know. Yet as I kept writing I filled myself with all the history, culture and geography I could find on the internet. Somewhere along the way I became a fan of Nana Asma’u, a proponent of education for her fellow Muslim women and a poet and scholar herself.  She lived in northern Nigeria in the early 1800’s.

Why Nigeria?  Why anywhere. Every spot on this earth is teeming with tales of heroes and feats that will never make it to our ears. Why listen to these tales? Why tell them again? When young Pakistani Malala Yousufzai was shot by the Taliban a few weeks ago for advocating education for girls, I thought of Malala’s noble predecessor of 200 years ago, and I had a perspective that I would once have totally lacked.

Why Nigeria?  Because when I started writing this book, there probably wasn’t a place on earth that I knew less about. That’s not true anymore. I get that the fascinating details of a far off land don’t appeal to everyone, but they do to me. I had to look hard to find a location for my second book that was even less known to me. I found it. And I hope that some of you will also enjoy reading about the remote Pacific Island nation of Kiribati.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Nigeria, oil industry

 

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Happy Independence Day Nigeria!

Nigerian Flag

This post is a week late but heartfelt none-the-less as I wish my Nigerian co-workers and friends a happy 52 years of independence.  Those of you familiar with Nigeria know that this nation has not had an easy road to walk and it still faces significant challenges.  Yet, if you know anyone from this country you also realize that the Nigerian people’s hope for the future abounds.

The U.S. has about 200,000 citizens who list their national origin as Nigerian (2000 census) but many more are here as temporary workers and students.  Houston, my home town and the home town of x0 hero Lola, has a large concentration of Nigerians thanks to our common tie with the oil business. New York and Chicago boast large populations of Nigerians as well and this past week-end both of these cities hosted Nigerian Independence Day Parades

Take a look at Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2012 Independence Day Broadcast here. It’s short, and it is a good reminder that every nation shares problems in common as well as such very similar hopes for the future.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Nigeria, peace

 

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Empathy lessons from Nigeria

When I started writing a book about a telepathic link developing between two strangers, I wanted the second woman to lead a life that was very different from my protagonist. There were a lot of good reasons to make her Nigerian. For one, I’ve gotten to work with and know a variety of Nigerians in my day job, and I had both information on and appreciation for Nigeria’s cultures. Secondly, I recognized that few nations have as poor a reputation here in the US, largely due, I think, to the ongoing rash of Nigerian internet scams.

But I also knew that Nigeria has lessons to teach the rest of the world about learning to get along. As a nation born out of a forced union of tribes which sometimes held a deep hatred for each other, modern Nigeria has endured internal fighting and atrocities beyond belief. Years ago when I was involved in recruiting geoscientists, I learned about Nigeria’s National Youth Service Core.  Set up in response to Nigeria’s civil war in the early 1970’s, it requires that all Nigerian college graduates spend a year of public service while placed within other ethnic groups. In other words, they are sent off to live with the very people whom their own families may have hated.  The goal is to foster communication, compassion and empathy by exposing young Nigerians to the day to day lives of these “others’ .

As one might guess, such a scheme is plagued by problems.  It targets only the educated youth, and arguably they are already the more open-minded and least likely to perpetuate old hatreds. University graduates are not evenly distributed throughout the regions, and so some areas contribute considerably more to the workforce while other regions benefit more. Sadly, several brutal attacks on young corp members in recent years have tarnished its reputation and left families fearful. And finally, all the problems found in a large bureaucracy can be found here as well. For all it’s failings, however, Nigerians themselves ask the question “What would our nation be like if we hadn’t set up such a program?”

Which brings me to going to college here in the United States. Thanks to the bargain of in-state tuition and the relative ease of moving a teenager a few hundred miles instead of a few thousand, most parents I know strongly encourage their children to go to college nearby. When my three children left Texas to attend schools in far-flung New England, Chicago and the West Coast, we got asked what it was we had against Texas. The answer was that we had something for seeing our nation from different points of view. The U.S. of 2012 is not plagued by civil war, thankfully, but regional animosity and cultural dislike seem to be only growing, and in the end I think that fact can only serve to hurt us all, no matter where our home is or what our beliefs are.

So I personally think that there is lesson to be learned from Nigeria.  If we want our next generation to act and live as one coherent nation working together in spite of differences of opinion, then we need to encourage our youth to get out and see our country through the eyes of people we too often belittle. Nigeria may not be executing this plan perfectly, but they have an idea worth emulating. How would our nation change if a year of college far out of state was encouraged whenever practical? The result could well be that our children end up befriending the very people that we think that do not like, and we find ourselves in the awkward position of having to like more people.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in peace

 

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Welcome to the World of x0

Somewhere between fanciful places and the world one knows is the universe of x0, where an ancient organization prefers to stay hidden while seven billion people lead normal lives and seven hundred or so do not. This latter group includes Lola, a Texan geophysicist who doesn’t believe in nonsense, and Somadina, a young Nigerian who thinks her abilities are perfectly normal. These women have at least two important things in common, and they are about to learn how well that will forge a powerful link.

When Somadina’s sister becomes a captive, the young Igbo woman draws upon her power to find an ally.  Across an ocean, an unexpected lay-off and a near fatal accident combine to reintroduce into Lola’s mind a rather disturbing phenomenon. Lola disregards it. Medicates it. Analyzes it. Sips more wine on her porch. However, the changes taking place inside her will not be ignored.

While the rest of the world lives out a perfectly normal 2009, Somadina accepts that her sister has become a strategic pawn in a larger and more dangerous game and that she must get the attention of this kindred, uncooperative lady.

x0 reluctantly emerges from the shadows, because somebody really needs to intervene. Both women are far more powerful than they realize, and to make matters worse, a fringe fanatic may be on the verge of altering a nation’s future.

.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in One of One

 

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Welcome to the World of x0

Somewhere between fanciful places and the world one knows is the universe of x0, where an ancient organization prefers to stay hidden while seven billion people lead normal lives and seven hundred or so do not. This latter group includes Lola, a Texan geophysicist who doesn’t believe in nonsense, and Somadina, a young Nigerian who thinks her abilities are perfectly normal. These women have at least two important things in common, and they are about to learn how well that will forge a powerful link.

When Somadina’s sister becomes a captive, the young Igbo woman draws upon her power to find an ally.  Across an ocean, an unexpected lay-off and a near fatal accident combine to reintroduce into Lola’s mind a rather disturbing phenomenon. Lola disregards it. Medicates it. Analyzes it. Sips more wine on her porch. However, the changes taking place inside her will not be ignored.

While the rest of the world lives out a perfectly normal 2009, Somadina accepts that her sister has become a strategic pawn in a larger and more dangerous game and that she must get the attention of this kindred, uncooperative lady.

x0 reluctantly emerges from the shadows, because somebody really needs to intervene. Both women are far more powerful than they realize, and to make matters worse, a fringe fanatic may be on the verge of altering a nation’s future.

.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 2, 2012 in One of One

 

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