Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Disappointed but not surprised

The Chinese government has said that, while journalists will have the access they need in order to do their jobs, some Internet web sites will be unaccessible during the Olympics.

Read full story from the BBC.

Though I'm not surprised by China's move to block certain web sites, I am disappointed. I can't help but wonder what the IOC was thinking when, during their discussions with China, its government started making promises the likes of which they've not kept in decades. Were IOC officials genuinely optimistic that China would adhere to the conditions set forth? Or did they expect to face this kind of bait and switch?

Either way, my mind circles back again and again to the same question: what ever possessed the IOC to bestow such an auspicious honor on a country like China? Some may argue that, while the government is guilty of countless human rights violations, the countrymen are worthy of such an honor.True. And yet the choice to hold the Olympics in China appears to being doing more harm than good to its citizens, as numerous stories eek through tight journalistic restrictions to tell how the poor and homeless are being purged from Beijing and other cities. Restrictions have become tighter, not more lenient, with regards to religious and human rights organizations. With their left hand their showing the IOC how open, lenient and accepting they've become for the sake of the Olympics. With their right they crack whips and close doors.

Did the IOC expect this? Are they feeling at all embarrassed by the Chinese government's defiant behavior? How could they have expected anything different? Will this cause them to evaluate more carefully their future choices?

Friday, July 18, 2008

I've been thinking...

My mind is filled with so many thoughts lately... they've been keeping me up at night. Maybe if I release them through my fingertips and onto a computer screen they'll plague me less.

What has set the wheels spinning? An enlightening but overwhelming conversation from a few days ago. I sat for about two hours this past Sunday and talked with a friend who grew up in Detroit. I was able to ask questions and talk about things that are often (for reasons I don't get) considered "taboo". Political correctness has made it all but impossible to engage in the kind of dialog that results in true understanding - but I digress.

So this past Sunday, in a single conversation, I felt like I started to gain some understanding about black history and culture, the inner city and poverty - and how and why those three subjects are often intertwined. This is where our society's "politically correct" social standards kick in and cause me to hesitate, wondering if it's ok for me to write these things, or if I should include some sort of disclaimer... I'm going to attempt to set that social training aside and just be real.

Of course, this blog is less about that conversation and more about the effect it's had on me in subsequent days.

First and foremost, I'm overwhelmed. It seemed that every question my friend answered just led to more questions. Cliche, I know... but true. There are so many layers... and not just layers. Actually, "layers" isn't the right word. If the issues surrounding inner cities and poverty were layers, you could take a systematic approach and simply solve one issue, then the next, and so on. But on Sunday I realized that it doesn't work that way. The issues aren't layers... it's more like a Rubik's Cube of societal, historical, cultural, governmental, and other problems that are all inter-connected. They feed off of and support each other in this complicated, intricate web that seems impossible to change. Even now, days later... I think about the conversation I had on Sunday and the things I learned as a result and my head spins... where does a person even start?

Secondly, even if I knew what to do or where to start, what could I - a white girl who grew up in small town Nebraska - possibly to do help effect change? It may sound like a cop out, but I've received that kind of response more than once. I've heard the comments: "Thanks for coming out from the suburbs to visit us here in the 'hood." And why should the response be any different? For the first time, I'm realizing that there truly are two worlds living side-by-side in America. I know almost nothing about the world I most long to impact, and have almost nothing in common with the people who inhabit it. Why shouldn't I be viewed with a healthy amount of skepticism?

I know.... these are things we're not supposed to talk about. We've convinced ourselves that colorblindness and cultural blindness are synonymous with equality and harmony. But I remember Jesus telling his disciples that there's nothing special about loving people who are like you, but that the true test of love is in caring for those who are least like you. Differences in race, color, culture... those are God-given differences. Ignoring them means we're ignoring part of His creation. Is "peace" genuine if people only get along when they ignore the things that make them different? But again - I digress... that's another blog for another time.

So for the past 5 days, my mind has been all but consumed with these thoughts. I replay Sunday's conversation and wonder what can be done. I think about government policies that could be changed or enacted, organizations that could be started or better supported, neighborhoods that could be "adopted"... and each idea would address one issue - maybe two if I get really creative... but because it's all so interwoven, most of the ideas wouldn't work anyway.

Then, when my wheels have spun until there's no spin left, and my thoughts have settled - or simply run out, I'm struck by one overwhelming thought... the Gospel is the only real answer. Jesus said He came to give us abundant life, and He wasn't just talking about the after-life. He was talking about here-and-now. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that has the power to truly transform; heart, mind, and soul. And I don't just mean that it's the answer for a city's residents, it's the answer for a city's government, too. Nothing else can set everything right, begin moving everything in the right direction at the same time.

Of course, then I started trying to figure out how "white girl from the suburbs" can share the Gospel or show the love of Christ in ways that would actually matter. Maybe the enemy is simply trying to convince me that my hands are tied. That, while there are people who can effectively impact urban areas, I'm not one of those people. Maybe he's simply hoping that I'll decide it's too hard to try and figure out and I'll instead choose to focus on something more "do-able". So many questions...

and... every answer just leads to more questions...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Overused by the media

"disturbing trend"
"markets plunged"
"soaring prices"
"collapsing market"

feel free to add to the list. I'm sure there are more.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

my odd affection for dots, lines, and squiggles

A couple of weeks ago I played at my second-ever piano recital. I almost didn't do it. The piece of music I was preparing was much harder than anything I'd done before and it wasn't coming together well.

But, my kind yet persistent piano teacher :) convinced me to keep working on the piece and "we'll just see where you're at by the end of the week".

I was nervous on the day of the recital, and still not convinced that I wanted to play. But play I did. I took my seat in front of the vast expanse of black and white keys and plucked out a halting rendition of Bach's Prelude No.1 in C+. It was far from flawless, but I played it none-the-less.

When the final note (and the smattering of applause) had faded and I took my seat among the other students, I didn't feel the relief I expected. Instead, I felt a little sad; like I was saying good-bye to someone I was just getting to know well enough to know we really liked each other. I know... kinda funny, isn't it. What's funnier is that my melancholy mood lasted most of the day.

Enough time has passed since I last played music that I'd forgotten how much it can get inside you. Maybe one of the (many) blessings of being created in God's image is that, just as He breaths life into us, we can breathe life into otherwise inanimate things. What is music really but a collection of dots, lines and squiggles. Yet, in the hands of even the least skilled players (like myself) it can become a living, breathing... something. And it, in turn, can give life to those who hear it.

Maybe, on some level, that's what music is... a conduit for the breath of God, the breath of life. From God to player to music to hearer. I could be stretching my theory a bit too far. Even so... "to him who has ears, let him hear."