Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Grace, wisdom and justice

November 6, 2011

The sacred and the profane.  Torn between the material and the spiritual, back to back blogs, one deals with angels, the other with humans.  Although pilipili and sakasaka are mundane things, even angels need vegetables, so the material stuff feeds the spirit at least on this earth.

After a leave of absence of sorts pilipili will make its diabetic and vegetarian and spiritual point of view known to both humans, commentators and spam readers, as one of the seven billion contributors that should be speaking, speaking up, voting and living great lives.

The gracewisdomjustice blog in remains alive thanks to the few readers taking the time to read lines that may not, one hopes, be a waste of their time.



September 5, 2010

It is an impossible task to compare French cathedrals.  It is even harder to describe a cathedral.   These days it is a rather simple click that will bring Chartres alive on any screen. Since all I have are words I’ll speak my peace so that my readers/commentators can drop their keyboards and run to spend a couple of nights in the town of Chartres.

These are not religious times, so upon entering this gigantic House of Worship, one is struck by the great number of visitors/tourists with cameras trying to capture every square inch of God’s House.  Difficult to comprehend the beauty of the structure and the colorful compositions of the hundred or so stained glass windows.

On that day, after the six o’clock mass, the public was invited to stay for a musical program presented by a visiting German church choir. The voices were not Chartres caliber and it was a surprise to me that two choir members rushed to the entrance hoping to receive donations.  We gave indeed, but that very second I had to deal with the sad contradictions and juxtapositions of faith and unbelief, the past and the present, Chartres of centuries ago, and Chartres as it is perceived and visited today.  The money thing.

The beauty of that Cathedral!  If you go take the cute and tiny tourist train that takes visitors for half an hour around the lower part of the town by the river, you will want to move and live there.  This summer most monuments were bathed in “son et lumière”  (sound and light) shows to bring back history.  All over this gorgeously clean and holy city (I felt I was in a different country) at every street corner, a light show on gigantic monuments acting as screens for the evening.

The majestic cathedral sits there and everything, river, streets, shops and houses seem to be protected by its sheltering beauty. I shouldn’t say this, but it is more impressive than Notre Dame de Paris, which is of course a beauty of a similar nature.

Plant Power (I)

June 12, 2010

Plant Power (PP) is mankind’s future, plants for food and for cure.  That is just a gut feeling, with ample evidence here and there.

TV5 Monde, a cable TV network we receive in Central Africa has excellent documentaries.  The other day, early in the morning, I saw a documentary entitled “La Nuit de Bwiti”, and there were several Africans from these parts speaking on legends and cures.

One of those interviewed from central Africa made a reference to two books that were given to mankind ages ago, one book given to  “le grand noir” (the big black man) and the other to “le petit blanc” (the small white man), both given by their father.  As I recollect his narration the “grand” went into the forest and through neglect left the book somewhere while he went on to hunt.  As he returned he found pages of his book washed out.  So he returned to his little brother to ask for his copy.  The little brother refused, saying that their parents had given them each a copy, and he felt his copy would not be safe in his brother’s hands.

As I was watching the film I didn’t know where all this was going.  In his search for truth and for the wisdom of his copy the “grand” discovered Ibogaine and its power to cure.  The interviewer asked what did the other book contain, and with a smile he said the power of the kabbalah.

As I listened I realized there is so much going on in people’s minds that never crosses mine.  I knew very little of kabbalah and zero knowledge on Ibogaine.  So I had to turn to Wikipedia to lift off words about kabbalah “a discipline and school of thought concerned with the mystical aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an eternal/mysterious Creator and the mortal/finite universe (His creation)” “Kabbalah seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence”. “It also presents methods to aid understanding of these concepts and to thereby attain spiritual realization”.

And when I asked the same encyclopedia for information on Ibogaine I learned that “Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in a number of plants, principally in a member of the Apocynaceae  family known as iboga… Ibogaine-containing preparations are used in medicinal and ritual purposes within African spiritual traditions of the Bwiti, who claim to have learned it from the Pygmy. In recent times, it has been identified as having anti-addictive properties.” “Ibogaine is now used by treatment clinics in 12 countries on six continents to facilitate detoxification and chemical dependence to substances such as methadone, heroin, alcohol, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine, as well as to facilitate psychological introspection and spiritual exploration”

I found myself in awe before mystical powers given to “whites” according to this gentleman from central Africa, and in awe and surprised to learn that Africans had been given Ibogaine as a cure for addictions and troubles of all sorts.

The surprise and the awe were replaced by the humility of the ignorant one in the face of ancient knowledge and living plants.  It is as if everything we need to know is within reach. Everything we need to know to become one of the following: fulfilled, truly human, spiritual beings, healthy people, and or happy souls. The question is where to look.

The blue transformer thief

May 23, 2010

Vague Memories of Small Wars (part II)

This story has the feel of a mild nightmare of the pre-golden age. The thief was a civilian gangster under the guise of a militiaman, dressed cowboy style with sunglasses and an AK-47. Those things are noisy, they work and they hurt, and most of the time they actually kill. But the tough guys were not evil, they were just signs of unjust times and world upheaval.

The aging white four-wheel drive, like an agile old man ready to impress any youngster anytime, received an order for flight. The pilot and co-pilots knew their end was near. The only escape route was somewhere out of the city through crowded neighborhoods of frightened families looking at each other for clues. Small change was needed to pay for “coffee” at villages dotting greenish and reddish landscapes on the way to bluish ones.

The jeep was loaded with goods, scared dogs and scared humans. As the jeep continued on the long dirt road, the sudden sound of machine guns broke the silence as a nervous jeep with four militiamen came up on the left and forced an immediate stop.

The militiamen ordered an inspection. They grabbed a radio cassette, and a black poodle. They did not see the larger scared dogs hiding under boxes, suitcases and rugs. After senseless philosophical discussions they threatened to shoot the tires. When peace was finally brokered the leader insisted on taking the heavy blue transformer.

Two hours later the four-wheel vehicle ran into the same tough guys, as they were busy pumping gas out of an innocent truck to fill up their busy vehicle. With great respect the pilot of dogs and humans, begged to retrieve the dark blue transformer in exchange for a bill or two. The man obliged.

A blue transformer may be a material object, worthless to some. But in these days of 110 volts versus 220 volts, owning it and being allowed to put one’s right foot on top of it in days of peace, reminds one that fighters fighting small wars are oftentimes looting time, while survivors perceive blue transformers in times of small wars as great trophies.

Death of a landlord

May 19, 2010

I won’t be coming to work tomorrow, Franck told me the other day.  I wanted to know why my hard working jack of all trades, one of my favorite “Franck” from the smaller Congo, was going to be away for a day.

It turns out that his landlord had just died and he intended to be present at the funeral.  I was a bit surprised, since I assumed that people attend funerals of family members or close friends and colleagues.

It didn’t take me long to understand the African dynamics between landlords and renters.  In our town landlords with modest homes build in the back small studios for rent; in other cases the whole property is used as a series of row studios, known as “portes” or doors.

As a renter on a small and modest property you are bound to pay rent on time for fear of finding your door bolted for good.  In spite of the pressure to pay and one’s possible dislike or fear of the owner, when tragedy strikes one is  expected to show sympathy by spending long nights outdoors during the days of the wake, and dutifully attend funeral services and find the means to go to the cemetery.

I wondered what would happen if one decided to skip all of this.  Apparently, short of being bed-ridden in a hospital, or away on a trip in Europe, the renter who decides not to show any sympathy, will without fail find himself, at the end of the ceremonies surrounding the landlord’s death, on the street with his family and belongings in search of a new landlord and a new door.

Shades of grey

May 18, 2010

Adam and Eve of the Garden

Breakdown of families

Stories of sadness

Pages of history

Shades of grey

Drops of rain

Tears of joy

Love of He

No end


May 13, 2010

If salvation is about being saved then everybody will be saved.  Saved where and by who is a more complex question.  The life to come, or the life after death, or life after life, or the next world, or heaven and hell are all realities engraved in the minds of all those who believe in a Creator.  

Believers of all faiths seek salvation, and fear annihilation.  They cling to dogmas, teachings and verses that offer solace and promise but dictate conditions that are often misunderstood, neglected or ignored .  The faithful are exhorted to walk a straight Path during their days on earth as a result of which they will be allowed in due time and after a judgment to reach a safe place that knows no time and no physics.

The twist here is that not everybody’s imagination or perception or expectation is necessarily a true comprehension of what lies beyond the veil.  No one knows much, and no one has come back to report on the mystery that lies ahead.  And therefore to dwell on issues of salvation and defend views based on Holy texts will not help anyone be admitted in the Lord’s world or worlds beyond this earth.

It would be wise perhaps in the best interests of all those concerned about salvation to dwell instead on living an introspective and altruistic life with no exaggerated expectations on the  outcome of the judgment ahead.  As the paths and dogmas vary, all claiming exclusive rights to God’s temporal and eternal kingdom, it is imperative for thinking beings to look at the fine print and use universally accepted standards of judging truth from falsehood, and rely both on intuition and reason in their eager search for the truth.

A jovial character

May 12, 2010

I was told of an artist with a two-year old boy who managed to chase a wife-beating husband.  Can’t always make a decent living with brushes and oil paints, so the talented young lady spends her days cleaning rooms and toilets.

Living is a tough affair, but with a meager salary in the southern hemisphere (some used to call these areas the third world) when you get sick you go with your budget.  In short if you get malaria and you can’t afford a full treatment you settle for minor solutions and ineffective medications.  And malaria doesn’t have pity on you and lives inside you day and night.

She could barely stand, dizzy and hungry, with no appetite.  A good thing friends found enough money, roughly half of her monthly salary, to take her to a decent clinic where she is getting IV’s for three days, and some rest with more medications to be administered later called “remontants” (“monter” in French means “to go up”) that provide the energy one gets or should get from regular meals.

For many people, when no insurance is available, half your salary easily goes into health care, whenever common illnesses strike.  Today our young, jovial and very professional cleaner is counting her blessings.  If only people believed in, and bought her art to make ends meet!

A solar tramway called “materialistic materialism”

May 12, 2010

If you are on a seventh cloud go no further: happy beings don’t need any aggravation stemming from opinions.  However since someone has suggested we initiate a conversation on crass materialism across the planet to make things right, we responded positively.

We all love defining and understanding, the rest of course is another ball game. Diagnosis and cure (or in other words misdiagnosis and death) is at the heart of the matter.  But who will play the part of the good doctor and offer a lasting cure?

The issues of diagnosis, cures, the euphoria of acquiring objects of desire and the worship of strange things requires a presence in the arena of sacrifice, not a popular meeting place.

Materialism has to do with attachment (inordinate?) to things, and a desire to possess (exclusively?), and pushes the individual to a frantic or frenzied or frenetic (almost a deranged behavior I suppose) race against time to accumulate or to hoard or simply to possess as much as possible before death, although there is a death-defying attitude attached to it that turns mortals into eternal beings unconsciously convinced that matter will follow them into an unknown kingdom.  And since time is of the essence they plunge ahead recklessly.

The thing with materialism is that the individual is blind (or blinded) to other facets of living such as: a genuine concern for a soul he may have agreed to actually possess (in clear or vague terms), or a certain ethically responsible philosophy that calls for a reasonable amount of sharing and generosity towards fellow creatures.

Now this sharing business has nothing to do with giving coins to beggars, or sending checks to charities.  Those are things individuals may choose to place as line items in their personal budgets.

If materialism sounds like a disease, the mere fact of owning things and using them is not.  “Having” is good.  So one cure for the undue attachment to matter in a world of injustice and misfortune, of suffering and starvation, is simply to make efforts to reinforce and/or enrich an attitude towards material things as they relate to living beings.  All we have to do is look at everything we a detached eye, which means the other eye should be attached to the other’s wounded or broken hearts. 

In keeping an eye on matter and the other on hearts, one does not have to give his fortune away or share his belongings with his neighbor or his friends or with unknown humans.  It would probably mean to walk around with a smile of happiness and sympathy, sharing time when we have been taught that time is money, offering a cup of coffee when coffee might soothe a feeling or two, and trying to understand the meaning of care, sympathy, and generosity, as one goes about doing daily social accounting of one’s contributions to an earth that may have given some people more than it has given others.

Unassuming attitudes with a touch of humility when dealing with the little things that matter as they apply between equals may go a long way in the long fastidious road to assuaging misery. This may lead to “acquiring” a virtue or two, which in itself is a small guarantee of one’s future and lasting happiness.

To say or not to say

May 10, 2010

In the blogosphere words carry truth and opinions and authors and commentators need not identify the flags under which they live nor the social strata they call home.  I, for one, make a great deal of effort to feel loyalty to the world at large, although I was born in one continent, raised here and there, did most of my university studies in another and lived in three continents.  My ancestors are from a fourth continent and part my family still lives in a fifth.

So I feel I belong nowhere in particular.  Loyalty to the world would be a motto to live by.  I have chosen to write about an axis that starts in South Africa, goes through two Congos, and before it reaches the United States goes to France (and Italy) through the British Isles and Ireland.  An axis of a certain beauty.  These places I know and I will dwell on things of value and lesser value and comment with balance when possible.  

Because we live in the heart of our favorite continent I feel committed to writing more about Africa. This writing is intended for readers and commentators that are curious about the world, and care about the continent and may desire to lend a hand and offer advice if they so choose. African readers that live in the continent, or have left it may learn very little from my entries.

When I travel I will comment on my travels as I travel, hot off the streets. When I don’t, I will reminisce about vague memories, and will fictionalize when needed, but will warn when that happens.

This type of writing has not produced negative criticism so far except when I attempted to describe a sensitive subject  It may be wiser and even safer then for me not to comment on negative things even if what appears to be a negative entry is factual writing and reflects the opinions and sentiments of people born and raised in these parts.  

This reminds me of why I stopped taking pictures in Africa.  I was told that taking pictures when those being photographed have not been warned and did not have the time to prepare themselves to look their best (which is what streets photographers do on Saturdays and Sundays photographing couples and others for photo albums) reflects poorly on the people and therefore the act of shooting a picture is perceived as demeaning to those being photographed.  Others invoked a belief that in taking a picture you were robbing people of their souls.  It is a good thing that great photographers have, in spite of these warnings, managed to take great stills and published them with no consequence I could detect.

I was encouraged to write with details, as in good fiction, to help readers smell the roses, and see the hues of the leaves of the safou tree, and the color of the eyes of the Okapi.  I don’t always go for those details because I don’t have the required writing skills, nor the need to color the words, nor the patience to do so as I try to stick to a black and white description with enough hints for readers and commentators to add the details at will.  Plus I am always seeking an angle to trigger a thought or a smile of understanding or of sympathy.

But in conclusion I must say that as I tread a fine line of reporting and balancing the good and the ugly, I adhere to the belief that all humans are sisters and brothers trying their best to live productive lives in a safe and peaceful world with borders to be crossed with pleasure and no pain.