During the harrowing years of the AIDS pandemic in southern Africa, a saying was frequently heard at memorial gatherings. It went something like this: a In this sea of sorrow, we must not be strangers.
I traveled with a friend one day to visit a woman healer in a village at the edge of the Kalahari. She received us eagerly as we chattered about her late father, a prominent bishop whose mantle she had taken up. She set out some hand-crafted folding chairs slung with strips of cowhide of a … More Minimalist Safety: Story For a Cluttered World
Make your way, as we did once, southeast from Marrakech up the Ourika Valley into the Atlas mountains of Morocco, and you could well find yourself on the second floor of a stone cottage, sipping sheeba, a hot cup of Berber hospitality. With the roar of snow melt in the background, our host explains that … More Souvenir: Wormwood and Mint in the High Atlas
Proverbs, often referred to as ‘deep language’, are a ready mark of traditional societies. And their absence from everyday discourse marks a shift away from ‘wisdom’ toward a knowledge, or information culture. I once heard a hacker say that creeping into a guarded digital domain is like breaking into a gothic cathedral; finding architecture replete … More Trekking To the Polls: Proverbial Wisdom on Leadership
When we set out on travels to remote locations, I’ve made it a habit to carry in my satchel a small shortwave radio even in this age of the internet. Deep in the Himalaya, in equatorial rain forest, or the desert interiors of Africa, a small hand set with fully extended aerial has permitted access … More Truth-Telling in the Darkness: Grief Turned To Delirious Joy
Those who scan the faith scene of the Western world continue to write obituaries for the forlorn churches of Europe, where a handful of stubborn faithful gather on appointed days to full-throated baroque organ and sonorous liturgy. A wistful poet has named this scene ‘the threadbare brocade of a passing age.’ Some years ago I … More Birmingham (UK) War Vet: Prayer in Burnt-Over Country
A mail-in ballot has arrived at our address here in Durham, North Carolina. It came with little fanfare: the clack of our mailbox lid as the postman made a noontime delivery. I am aware that the ether is stormy now with quarreling about the transaction it represents. And heavy clouds forewarn of what is yet … More Electoral College of One: the Case of Malawi
I have a fascination for islands. It surfaced when this eight-year-old roamed Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’, castaway on the ‘Isle of Despair’. These penchants rise somehow from the depths of psyche, roused in me by childhood stops where island names ring like rhapsody: Hawaii, Formosa (now Taiwan), Honshu, Cebu, Penang, Java, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Then, … More Isle of Charms, Isle of Despair
Picture a holiday charity fundraiser under chandeliers, the well-heeled rubbing elbows midst chatter about Christmas markets in Bavaria and the beaches of Bali. My wife and I found ourselves there by some social accident last year, and, drinks in hand, worked our way to a quiet corner table where a 60-ish couple sat alee of … More Beneath Holiday Chandeliers: What Westphalia Offers Magnolia, Mississippi
The river steamers of yesterday, with a blast of their whistles, would cast off hawsers from the Hooghly River docks opposite Kolkata, and drift gently with the current past the grime and smoke of an Asian city into a gloaming of the world’s largest river delta, the Sundarbans. There the waters of the sacred Ganga, … More Tiger-Widows of the Sundarbans: Who Is Eating Whom?