Wednesday, October 29, 2008
This past Monday our school hosted an information session on alcohol abuse, the effects it has on the individual, and also those around them. The school brought four Loyola Alums to come to speak about how alcohol has taken them to rock bottom, and how, through programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, they ascended back to normalcy. The heartfelt stories revealed the dangers and consequences of drunken late night escapades and the realization of a problem. The informational session was successful in that it allowed the audience to connect (All once Loyola students) and understand what the costs of alcohol abuse are.
After a short introduction by Jan Williams, head of Loyola’s Alcohol and Drug Education
and Support Services, the first speaker was given the microphone. He briefly discussed his background and how as an eleven year old boy he began to develop a problem. The man’s parents were philosophy professors who each had their PHDs and he lived in a sound family environment. Although his parents provided a safe and caring environment, they still occasionally threw parties were heavy drinking was involved. As an eleven year old kid, he explained, his curiosity began to grow to what was his missing out. Soon enough he found himself fumbling through his parent’s liquor cabinet to give it a try. Immediately he thought he found a cure for all of his life’s problems. This was where, as he discussed, his life spun out of control. After years of alcohol and drug abuse, at eighteen he realized he had a problem. Through the program AA he found God and a world that did not involve alcohol abuse. The meetings, similar to this one, keep him from drinking and allow him to deliver his message through his story. Now a happily married Loyola alum his story, while being unique, had many common themes that connect with youths and provided an example that should help students avoid following his same path . He concluded with a few closing thoughts on how to not end up in the same situation and then the second speaker took center stage.
The second speaker, also a man, told a similar story of how alcohol once controlled his life. He discussed how he moved to a new area and how alcohol was his way to “fit in”. His alcohol and drug use allowed him to “become the guy he wanted himself to see”. Now popular with all his friends he began to use drugs and drink even more heavily. This downward spiral led to imprisonment where he found his “vision of clarity”. This was the moment in his life where he realized he needed change. This realization led him to fourteen years of sobriety, and a new lease on life. His story shares many similarities to the final speaker, who also found herself at rock bottom and used AA to reach sobriety. After being imprisoned and struggling with relationships in her life she decided to seek help. These stories all showed how they overcame this life-changing disease and how they now lead lives of normalcy. However, the third speaker shared a much different story.
The third speaker was a current Loyola student who was still struggling with a drinking problem and had only been sober for about a week after multiple relapses. His story seemed so genuine because he was currently living through the struggle as he addressed the audience. He spoke just as one of any of the room would have so his story really hit home for me. It seemed so easy to connect with his story that his message was that much stronger. Overall the lecture for me was a great learning experience and allowed me to realize the true struggle of alcoholism.
This lecture can easily be branched into our class discussion about Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants. Hemingway’s story depicts a man pressuring a woman into getting a procedure that she does not want. The struggle of peer pressure links directly to the pressure that is involved with consumption of alcohol by those on a college campus. This is presented in all the speakers’ stories on how they were pressured to drink because they could not handle stress or needed to fit in. In addition, the man depicted in the short story constantly tries to convince the woman to go through with the undesired procedure. The theme of both Hemingway’s story and the stories told at the lecture Life after the Party sends the message to not forego your moral decisions as a result of outside pressure, because the decisions you make can alter your life.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The first speaker is out of college and happily married with children, but began drinking when he was only 11, and also began doing drugs at a very young age. He explained that he lost most of his friends and was no longer accepted by many people. When he finally realized that he needed help, he went to rehab for two years, then went on to community college, and from there he continued his education at Loyola. He explained that he decided to live off campus because he was scared about drinking again on campus with the other students. He continues to go to AA meetings to stop him from ever drinking again. The second student was his roommate in the off campus house. He began drinking at a young age as well, but realized that he didn’t do it just to party but because he was upset. He went to jail when he was in high school, but after getting out he attended AA meetings. Today, he has been sober for about 14 years. The third student explained how she didn’t want to be involved with parties and drinking at Loyola, and so she stopped drinking the summer before college, in hopes of avoiding the need to once she moved in. However, she couldn’t stay sober for even a month, and so she worked with Loyola’s Alcohol and Drug Education and Support Services program, and was able to become sober once again. The final speaker is still attending Loyola today. He has been in trouble with the school several times, and soon realized that he did not want to be a bad kid. He too began attending AA meetings, but stopped when he realized that he would be fine without them. Then just a couple days ago he began drinking again, now, he has been sober for about a week.
This event related mainly to the story- “Hills Like White Elephants,” by Ernest Hemingway. In the story, a man is trying to pressure his girlfriend into having an operation. From his words, we can assume that he wants her to have an abortion. This story relates directly to the event because they are drinking and he is peer pressuring her. The man is called “the American” and the girlfriend’s name is Jig; Jig does not want to have the abortion, but the American keeps telling her to do it. This shows that he truly does not care about her in any way, and only worried about how the baby would affect his own life. He seems to discuss something extremely significant over drinks, which may suggest that he is trying to get her drunk in order for her to agree with him. Peer pressure is often the reason why people make stupid decisions without thinking first. College life is full of peer pressure, and it’s hard to avoid socializing through drinking and parties. People must learn to avoid these situations and only listen to what their conscience tells them to do.
Despite the closing of hundreds of parishes and catholic grammar schools in the United States, Catholicism stands on the verge of a promising new age globally. In his lecture last Monday entitled “Megatrends in Catholicism: Ten Things Turning the Catholic Church Upside Down,” Dr. John Allen, Jr., characterized several trends that have and will continue to mold the Catholic Church throughout the 21st century. Though trying to remain relatively positive, Dr. Allen, the senior Vatican analyst for CNN, NPR and the National Catholic Reporter, made it clear that the changes the Catholic Church will undergo in the upcoming years will either make or break the great success and growth that the Church has experienced in the past one hundred year.
Though the title of the lecture led many to believe that Dr. Allen would cover all ten of the topics covered in his book (which he was not afraid to shamelessly plug just in time for the holiday season…), he chose to cover what he felt were the four biggest trends the Church is facing. His first trend, the emergence of a world Church, described a necessity for Catholicism to evolve into a “self-consciously global religion.” Though the Church may appear to be on the decline in the States, in the past century the number of Catholics worldwide has gone from 266 million (in 1900) to 1.1 billion (2000) with a large amount of this growth occurring in the global south. It is this increase that has lead Dr. Allen to believe that the future tone of Catholicism is to be set by the global south. This tonal shift will be from a speculative systematic theology to a more literal understanding of the narrative of the Bible with emphasis on the miracles of the New Testament. It is also in the south where the Church has directly involved itself in politics (the polar opposite idea of the US’ concept of separation of church and state). Dr. Allen believes that the church will play a much larger role in politics in the future due to this globalization of the church.
The second trend was the emergence of evangelical Catholicism in Europe, which basically pertains to the understanding of faith as a personal choice rather than something simply passed down from generations to generations among families. What Allen finds somewhat alarming is that although the Vatican, located in Europe, in the cultural center of the Catholic world much of Europe around it decline that faith is important in their lives. Though there is an emphasis on the traditional Catholic identity, the importance of this emphasis seems to be thrown into the wind in such countries as Poland where the percentage of people who regard their Catholic roots as important is in the teens.
The third, and what I found to be most interesting trend dealt with the biotech revolution and what the power of genetics holds for the future. We must ask ourselves whether or not it is right to wield the power and play the role of God. We are entering an age of Transhumanism. We now have the power to direct the next step in human development; we must ask ourselves if we should use it.
The fourth and final trend dealt with economic globalization. Though great efforts have been made to help impoverished countries it simply has not been enough. We live in a world where a combined three people make more money than the combined revenue of 42 impoverished countries and the rich have a tendency to only become richer.
In his final statement, Dr. Allen left the crowd with only a few words regarding one’s personal shift into this new age school of thought: think as a global Catholic. Each of the issues he talked about are rich with the potential to create new catholic energy but can also deepen the holes that already exist in Catholicism and therefore the future of Catholicism relies not only on the institution but on the individual as well.
Though this lecture may not have pertained to any of Dickinson’s poems, the theme of change in Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” was the major concern of Allen. Like the American and the girl in Hemingway’s story, the Church is facing a huge change in the near future. This change has the potential to alter everything we as Catholics understand about religion’s role in our everyday lives. Ultimately what it comes down to is that change is a part of life and there is no way to avoid it. It is something we all must face.
Turning off my cell phone for six hours was bit of an inconvenience for me, but overall it wasn’t so bad. I hadn’t realized how much I rely on my phone for simple things such as time. I had to find clocks everywhere to find out the time or ask someone. I also couldn’t text my roommates to meet me in Boulder for lunch or call my mom to tell her how my Math exam went. As frustrating as it was I realized I became more appreciative of what I have. Every time I went to look at my phone I would remember why it was shut off and it really made me wonder what my life would be like if we didn’t have cell phones. Would life be better for people in the Congo if cell phones weren’t in high demand in the U.S.? The responses to my voicemail message about the Congo were interesting and entertaining. My first message was from my mom, “Catie, I think your voicemail said something about turning your phone off to raise awareness about something going on in the Congo. I think it’s really great you are getting involved with something like this, call me after to tell me more about it.” So I did call her and I told her all about what I was doing and informed her on the issues in the Congo. It felt great to able to know I was informing people about concerns in the Congo. My friend’s responses were the most entertaining ones. I received messages such as “Wait, what are you doing? Or Whats going on in the Congo? or even you go girl!” As uplifting and hilarious as these messages were it made me a little worried that people didn’t seem to know what is going on in the Congo.
Dickinson’s poems for this week all share a common theme of death, which connects to my Congo event. Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for death” illustrates a ride to death. The people aboard the carriage watch the world of mortality around them as they pass into the afterlife. I can only imagine that this situation must be what people in the Congo go through everyday. They are afraid and never know if each day they will wake up to death or keep suffering through this terrible war. Also in Dickinson’s poem “ Success is counted sweetest” she writes “As he defeated-dying- On whose forbidden ear The distant strains of triumph Burst agonized and clear.” This means that while the soldier is defeated and dying he is still triumphant, meaning you must fight for what you believe in and for what is best for you and your country. In the Congo people are fighting to stay alive and fighting to help end this horrible war. As Dickinson says “To comprehend nectar Requires sorest need.” To achieve what you want you must fight and sometimes suffer for what you believe in to make it come true and change the world around you.
The play relates to Emily Dickenson’s poem, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” in several ways. One place where there is a prominent relation is when Odysseus, returns home disguised as a beggar. This part of the story in comparison to Dickenson’s poem brings up various questions of truth and honesty. In one case, when Odysseus returns home he is disguised as a beggar and works his way through all the suitors to his wife and son. He eventually proves himself without removing the disguise and his wife knows that it is him home at last. In this situation Odysseus is being his true self, but he is ‘slanting’ the image. He appears to be someone else, but acts as himself. This leads others to be deceived but he finds out that those who he is important to, truly know him and love him for who he is on the inside. Also at one point Odysseus withholds his name so that he will not be treated in any unfavorable way. In this situation he did not lie, but he did not tell the whole truth. This is partially what is meant in Dickenson’s poem, that when it is wise, don’t tell the entire truth, and that you can learn a lot about how others view you based on the truths you tell.
The entire story is a perfect example of Dickenson’s next poem, “Success is Counted Sweetest.” The constant pain and struggling that Odysseus went through only increased his determination and desire. With each moment of failure, loss or defeat Odysseus is only growing stronger. Although he is constantly being shot down and mislead it is all building towards a sweeter ending. After suffering so much hardship, it is finally relieving and rewarding for him to be with him family. At this point where he is recognized and welcomed home, all of his hardship becomes worth it and he appreciates every moment with his family from then on. This is directly related to Emily’s poem where the idea is spelled out a little more directly. She very simply gets the point across that those who experience loss and defeat experience a greater power of success. If Odysseus had not experienced all those hard times, he would not have appreciated his success at such a high level.
The poem, “I heard a fly buzz—when I died,” and, “Because I could not stop for death,” both very obviously deal with the idea of death. Each poem depicts death in a fairly similar way. The reader comes away with the idea that death is deceiving, lonely and sad. Of course there are other ways that death can be depicted, but in these cases it is certainly more of a negative event. These poems relate to the play in that death is a prominent character in the play. It takes so many lives and threatens so many others that it seems to be a person, similar to the way that it is personified in Dickenson’s poems. More specifically death relates to the latter of the two poems listed in that no one can hide from death, and life cannot be taken for granted because one never knows when there times is up. As death may be a ‘gentleman’ sometimes, there are times where he can show up unannounced. Death’s character in the play the Odyssey is ever present, but does allow Odysseus to continue fighting in order to feel a sweet power of success.
Lastly the play relates to the short story “Hills like White Elephants,” in a much lighter way. I feel that the short story is almost sad but leaves the reader with the moral that you have to do what is right for you, and sometimes ignore the influences of others. If you don’t do something for yourself how can you have the motivation to do it right or finish it? The play clearly depicts someone who is doing everything for himself. If Odysseus wasn’t acting on his own wishes he would have failed early on in the story. Similar to the short story the decisions he makes are based on love, but he makes the decisions without pressure and they are true desires of his own as opposed to making decisions for someone out of pressure and bullying.
Loyola’s version of the Odyssey was based off the original by Homer, which was an incredible piece of literature. This work is so moving and important that it is easily be related to all sorts of works and bring the reader to all sorts of conclusions and morals. Emily Dickenson’s poems and Hemingway’s short story are only a few examples of this; they are very different works but all somehow tie back to this epic play.
In Ernest Hemingway’s short story Hills Like White Elephants, the two characters are having a tough time communicating. The topic is very serious, because it seems that the man is asking his younger girlfriend to have an abortion. I was reminded of Dee Dee, because the two characters are not letting each other have room to think. By the end of the story the girl asks her boyfriend to please stop talking. Sometimes I felt like I was trying too hard to figure out what Dee Dee or Sergio was trying to say, but if I just relaxed, conversation might run smoother. Although this short story deals with a harder subject matter, they might need to do the same thing.
This acceptance of beliefs, that the two characters must reflect on, in order to make their hard decision reminded me of the Emily Dickinson poem Because I could not stop for Death. In this poem, death is personified and the narrator fully understands and agrees to the call of her demise. She is not afraid, but actually refers to Death as kindly. The characters in the Hemingway story need to accept their fait, just like the narrator in the Dickinson poem does. I also need to accept whatever is thrown at me when I visit my friend Dee Dee and Sergio. Even if I get confused or frustrated I need to relax and just use the gift of presence. Another Dickinson poem reminded me of Hemingway’s story. Tell all the Truth but tell it slant--. The girl in the story does not seem to be telling her boyfriend the truth of what she wants to do. The poem enforces this idea of not speaking the truth, and therefore I disagree. After further reflection I realized that I do speak in slant. In my story mentioned above about BINGO I slanted the truth in order to allow DEE DEE to win the round. It seems that we all must slant the truth sometimes.
In the Dickinson poem called Success is counted sweetest, this story reflects on the idea that success must look different to those who are not part of the winning crowd. My immediate response reflected back to Don Miller House, and how they always have no response to my question of “what did you do today?”. I wondered if when Dee Dee listens to my stories of school and presentations she looks upon it as success. She makes her day out to be so boring, and mine is always filled to the brim, as I explain to her all of the other activities I have planned for the night. Perhaps I am taking all of this “success” for granted and I decided that it is important to accept what is going on, but to also look at everything from many angles, to fully appreciate life.
Dickinson’s next poem also caused me to look at life from a different angle. In I heard a Fly buzz--- when I died-- the narrator is dying, but all she can talk about is a fly. I’m not sure whether this is good thing or a bad thing. One way I saw the situation was that she was not obsessing over death, which is inevitable. I also could take the poem in a negative light, because the narrator could be unhappy with her life and not be able to reflect on anything at all. This reminded me right back to Dee Dee and Sergio, who make their lives sound unimportant to them. Everyone’s life is extremely significant, so I hope over the semester I can create excitement in their lives.
As I turned off my phone I wondered to myself, “what do cell phones and murders in Congo have to do with each other?” Then I read a little further into what this cell-out was actually about. Just like the controversy of diamonds that Africa has a monopoly on, there is a similar situation with a mineral by the name of Coltan. People are using cell phones every day not thinking about where they come from; a place where brutal rapes and murders of women and children occur everyday. I figured maybe if I could draw some attention to the situation people would think twice next time they buy electronics or cell phones.
Momentarily as I was recording a new message, part of the assignment, and I could not think of something that would get the point across, and at the same time also make people actually care about Congo. My message ended up being for six hours as follows. “Hey it’s Kevin, I’m here, but I’m not picking up because of the BRUTAL RAPES AND MURDERS GOING ON IN CONGO. Everyday people use cell phones which contain a mineral only found in Congo, a place in total chaos. If I care this much, so should you, next time your free check out congoweek.org or google it. Later” I found it very weird how people did not seem to be bothered by what was happening, and I am sure that before I spent all this time learning about the Congo, neither would I.
“Who cares, its like a million miles away?” “Everyone has cell phones, I’m not going to stop using mine!” These were a few of the answers I got when I told people about what I was doing. As far as the message goes, I am not that popular, therefore the only message I had at 6 pm was from my parents, but at least they became aware of how this serious situation has affected me.
All three works assigned for homework helped drive home this reality of what is going on in our world. Dickinson really helps to portray how good some people have it and no one can imagine what it’s like to have to face death so early in life. I cannot imagine what the people in Congo have to go through, death is a scary thing, and thousands of people have to deal with it on a daily basis. Maybe turning off my cell phone for six hours will not stop what is going on in Congo, but my awareness was definitely raised, as well as my parents. Hopefully what Loyola has done to bring awareness to this horrible situation in Congo will succeed and soon this massacre will end. I am glad to have participated in this cell-out. It helped me to realize how important issues across the globe are, it raised awareness in other people’s lives, and on a smaller scale taught me that my cell phone is not as important as it seems, and I’m lucky just to be alive.
The play of The Odyssey by Homer was performed at Loyola College this weekend. This amazing journey follows Odysseus as he tries to return home after the Trojan War. Along with this great story, the poems “Tell all the truth but tell it slant-,” “Success is Counted Sweetest-,” “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died,” “Because I could not stop for Death,” by Emily Dickinson and the short story “Hills like White Elephants” reflect similar experiences and expressions expressed throughout The Odyssey. Certain scenarios in the play are great examples as to what Dickinson is trying to convey through her poems.
The play is about the struggle for Odysseus to return home after ten years, while before fighting in the Trojan War. Back in Ithaca, his home, his son Telemachus and wife Penelope wait on their last bit of hope for him to finally rejoin them back home. With Odysseus being captured by Calpso, he his finally set free by the order of the gods for him to make his way home. However, multiple obstacles block his path as he ends up washed up on a shore on the land of the Phaeacians, where they humbly accept him into his home and says his travels and how he has multiple times nearly escaped death. Before hand however, he does not reveal his name to them for fear of not being returned with the same hospitality he had been receive as a disguised beggar. This is what the poem “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant--,” is describing with being cautious about revealing the truth and as said in the poem “The Truth must dazzle gradually.” Along with this, the theme of death is very present in many of the poems by Dickinson as Odysseus faces it many times in his travels. Each of the times Odysseus is successful in his attempts to escape this death. With his desire to return home to his son and wife and his overcoming of death, his “success is counted sweetest”. The poem “Success is counted sweetest” reveals how much great success feels for those that have not succeeded. Odysseus’ ten-year captivity has been his dry time for success and when he moves in any direction, it is counted as his success. Both of the other poems “Because I could not stop for Death--,” and “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died--,” talk about death as well along with the others. The first of these discusses death in an immortal (the Odyssey’s gods and Odysseus being commonly mistaken for being immortal) way with traveling along with Death and moving towards Eternity. The next examines how at the moments right before death, someone can notice the smallest of the things that are happening. Before being on their deathbed, one may not notice a fly that lands on them, but does with a moment of their own death. Just along with all this talk of death, the short story “Hills like White Elephants” brings up the question of abortion. The woman seems to be reluctant about the abortion while the man seems to be very in favor of it.
The death theme seemed very prominent in most of the works discussed for this analysis. Each of the poems, play, and short story, were connected in some way to the experiences that death can create. a
"Did you know about the brutal civil war going on in the Congo because of Coltan? You probably have never heard of Coltan, but it is in this and all cell phones across the country. Approximately 80% of the world's Coltan supply is located in the Congo, so please turn off your phones on Wednesday from 12-6 to spread awareness with me. So please leave me a message and I'll call you back after 6 PM. Thanks."
Being without my cell phone really was tough. I could not answer any calls, receive text messages, or even check the time while I was in class. It really was hard for me to be apart from it for 6 hours, especially at the height of the day. Being apart from it, however, got me thinking about the horrible things going on in the Congo. Every time I wanted to check my messages or check the time, I thought about what was going on in the Congo. I was constantly reminded of the terrible situation and it really made me reflect. This reflection is a cornerstone of Jesuit teachings, and what I feel is truly the most important thing that I got out of the Cell-OUT. Also, I helped to educate anyone who needed to get a hold of me (the only people that left messages were my mom and a couple friends) but I know that as a global action, the Cell-OUT definitely made its message heard.
The situation in the Congo ties in to our readings today. These readings have a theme of death and dying associated with it. In Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for Death--" she talks about the travel from her mortal world into the world of death. I can only imagine that this must be what the people of the Congo feel like every day. They must think about how terrible their civil war is getting, and about the harsh reality that they are faced with. Also, I feel that the theme of "you don't know how good you have it until you've walked in somebody else's shoes" came up when I thought about the poem "Success is counted sweetest" by Dickinson. In this poem, she says that "To comprehend nectar/Requires sorest need," meaning that in order to appreciate all that you have you must experience what true suffering is. With the events of Congo week, I really have seen all that I am fortunate to have. Also, it has made me realize that I want to give back to these people who are suffering and truly need our support.
This play has been adapted so many times, and is so widely popular because the themes are relatable to many audiences. Similarly to the four poems we just read, “Tell the truth but Tell it Slant”, “Success is counted sweetest”, “I heard a fly buzz-When I died”, and “Because I could not stop for death”, all are written by Emily Dickinson. Just like Odysseus the first poem, “Tell the Truth but Tell it Slant” is emphasizing the importance of telling the truth but cautiously. Odysseus lies about his identity in the beginning of many obstacles because he wants to surprise his offenders, he is just being careful. This is exactly what this poem is saying, and that the teller of truth should be gentle and treat everyone like a child to make sure no one is hurt in the process of truth. In the poem this is used by an example of lightning.
Decisions and sacrifice need to be made in the reading, “Hills like White Elephants” as well. In this reading the American is speaking to his younger girlfriend who is calls Jig, throughout the discussion he tried to convince her to get an abortion. Jig however is distracted at first by the hills in the background; she believes that they look just like white elephants. This distraction however, comes at a very bad time because the two are discussing an important issue. The distraction of the hills is parallel to the distraction the speaker has through the fly in “I heard a fly buzz-When I died’. Even in the most important situations and crucial moments irrelevant details pose as distractions.
Then finally, back to the story of Odysseus’s, who found success throughout his journey never once stopped to recognize it or dwell on his life. The reason for this can be found in the poem “Success is counted sweetest”. This poem exemplifies that those who do not have success place the highest value on it. So since Odysseus was so successful he did not think anything of it, or put himself on a pedestal. Because of all his hardships he was just happy to be alive, and in the final poem “Because I could not stop for death” the speaker embraces death and is content with the idea of dying because they believe that they lived a full life. Odysseus put many of his situations and solutions in the hands of the gods, just as this speaker trusts gods decision with death and is content with it.
It was interesting to Will talk, because not only is he still a Loyola student, but also because he has only been sober one week. It must have been really hard for him talk to us after relapsing only a short while ago. But I am glad he did because he showed that alcoholism is an ongoing battle that you fight for life. When he doesn't attend AA, this is when he relapses. This displays the power of the support groups that addicts join, and how they put a person on the right road to recovery.
Two of the speakers on the panel spoke of a "moment of clarity" when they realized they needed help. For one, it was when he was a teenager at a behavioral school that was in "the middle of nowhere." He said the staff there would deprive the kids of sleep and food and basically try to break them down. He remembered getting up one morning at 5 a.m and looked outside and saw the sun rising. He realized that he was so miserable, that he was just going to do what the staff told him so he could get out of there as quick as possible. He told himself he could always go back to drinking and drugs if he wanted to when he left. But he didn't want to. Carl, another alumni from Loyola, recalled a night he spent sleeping on the floor or a jail cell next to an inmate who was urinating himself. This was his moment of clarity, and he immediately called his mother and told her he had a problem. For each of these men, they realized that they were not only hurting themselves, but they were hurting their loved ones as well. The decision to get help is not an easy one they explained. Ultimately, it has to be you who makes it.
This brings up the connection between the panel discussion and the short story "Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway. In the story, a woman, Jig, is headed to an unidentified place. It seems she is going there to get better because she is not in perfect health. She seems hesitant and a little frightened about going there, and her loved one is trying to reassure her that everything will be better afterwards. She wants to be happy and she wants her loved one to be happy. She doesn't think he loves her now, and he won't love her until she gets better. This is similar to when the alumni were speaking about how they got help. They could see how they were hurting the families, and how disappointed they were. Carl said that he didn't have a relationship with his mother while he was using. They wanted to deserve the love of the families, just as Jig wants the love of her man.
Alcoholism can be a fatal disease, and unfortunately, some students become addicted in college. I attended the lecture, Life After the Party. There were four guest speakers who are battling alcoholism. Each person’s story revolves around a struggle they will face for their entire life. They are all truly inspiring.
Four Loyola Alumni, three men and one woman, openly spoke about their addiction to alcohol. The first speaker is thirty-four years old and has been sober for seventeen years. He began drinking when he was eleven years old with a couple of friends. As time passed, he drank more frequently throughout the week and began doing drugs. He was no longer cool, not even to his friends; he became known as the kid who was out of control. At the end of his senior year, after failing his courses, he had a moment of clarity and admitted he needed help. He attended a rehab facility for two years, and then attended community college for one year. For the next three years, he went to Loyola, and of course, was nervous about the peer pressure of drinking. To avoid a relapse, he lived off-campus with other students trying to maintain sobriety. Today, he is happily married with children. He still attends AA meetings two times a week, to help remember the hardships of his past, to stop him from having another drink.
One of the other speakers has a very similar story, and they even helped each other stay sober, by living together in the off-campus house. He began drinking once he moved to a new town to fit in, but eventually his drinking habits were no longer for fun but to fill a void in his soul. When he was a senior in high school, he was arrested for intoxication, and while in jail he had his moment of clarity. He was extremely unhappy and drinking did not solve his problems. Through AA meetings and the help of Loyola, he has been sober for fourteen years.
The third speaker decided to be sober the summer before her freshman year at Loyola. She decided she wanted to change, live in new environment, and set new morals. In her first couple of days all she heard about was how to get fake-ids and which bars to go to. She did not want to partake in drinking activities, which caused socializing to be very difficult. She had only been sober for a couple weeks, but with the help of the Loyola Alcohol and Drug Education and Support Services, she has maintained her sobriety for twelve years.
The last speaker is a current student at Loyola, and he has been sober for one week. He had already been through every form of punishment Loyola had to offer, for drinking. It wasn’t until he had no one to talk to when his mind became clear, drinking has made him into a person he doesn’t want to be. He attended AA meetings but after two years he thought he did not need to go anymore, then last week, someone handed him a drink and he relapsed. He was peer pressured into something he knew was wrong, but he couldn’t resist.
Peer pressure affects everyone, everyday. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” the American is asking his girlfriend, Jig, to have an abortion. They talk about the situation over drinks. The use of alcohol is to help relieve some of the awkwardness of the situation. He views this unborn child as an inconvenience and cost, while the baby could be an extraordinary addition to her life. Jig does not want to have an abortion because she is scared how it will affect her after. The American tells her not to do something she doesn’t want to do; however, his tone shows he does not want a baby. He uses peer pressure to get what he wants, instead to truly caring about Jig’s feelings. Jig says “Then I’ll do it. Because I don’t care about me.”(358) She has been extremely pressured which causes her to forget what she wants and only think about pleasing the American.
Peer pressure in evident in many life situations, especially alcohol. The use to alcohol should not be to make a person feel better, look cool, or make time pass. The four speakers used alcohol to make friends or fill a void, while Jig and the American use it to avoid their situation. To stop being dependent on alcohol, a moment of clarity is necessary, willing to accept help and realizing alcohol is not the answer. Today, the four speakers are still battling their addiction, but their experiences have made them into the person they are today. To me, they are all inspiring.
Hemingway’s story is about a couple, they are going to Madrid so that the girl can get an operation, her husband is trying to get her to do it, but she does not really want to. When I first read this, I remembered, “The Birthmark”, we can see the pressure on women, even if it is not their fault. During the video I saw, I heard many sad stories of women who suffer daily, because they get raped by soldiers. This has not only become a health issue because of AIDS, but also a psychological issue in this country, many times society in this country discriminates against these innocent women. Many blame themselves for getting raped and, they suffer constantly because they have become a target of war. If we relate this to Hemingway’s story, we can see that there is oppression from men towards women to serve them in some way, during Hemingway’s story I thought that the operation the girl was going to have was some kind of plastic surgery that her husband wanted for pleasure. We can see that he is making her do something she does not want, which is what is happening in these times of war.
Now, in Emily Dickson’s poem “Tell all the truth but tell it slant”, the lines that call my attention are the last two
“The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—“.
What was she trying to say through this? I think that she was saying we should tell the truth even if it is hard, maybe we can find different ways to do it, but if someone does not do it, then that person must be blind. I personally agree with her, we should always be in a healthy environment, not like all these people who have been suffering the consequences of war for economic reasons. I remember they interviewed a group of rapists and they said that they did it because they wanted women to suffer the same way they did because of war; I thought they were not telling the truth, their situation is blinding all of them.
In “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died” also by Emily Dickinson, there is a vision of death, someone is dying and even if the death is painless, there is a certain image of how awful it is to die. In Congo many women die, but it is nothing like it is described in this poem; there is a lot of pain that these women have to go through. I remember the part when they told us that they get raped with foreign objects and their internal organs get damaged, so they die in really painful ways. In the poem, Dickinson focuses on the fly at the end, it is what the speaker feels before s/he dies, I can relate to this in Congo because it is a country found in the tropics, it is a place in which there are lots of animals and insects, and for many women in this country, this might be their last sight before they die.
When I saw this video, I realized how many bad things happen because of money, many people suffer and we hear sad stories. People have written poems, stories and novels and movies have been filmed in which we can see all this suffering. We are in a community of Jesuits and we learn different values that lead us to act the right way, that’s why we don’t see the same kind of suffering, we should provide people with our knowledge and let all of them know that we are here and that we can help. We are very lucky to be here and we should take advantage of everything we have. And we always have to remember to tell the truth, like Dickinson says in her poem, or we will end up blind too.
There were several aspects of the play that relates to or contradicts what the Christian faith stands for. For example, throughout the play Athena continued to protect Odysseus and show him mercy. She was the one who convinced Zeus to send Hermes to liberate him from Calypso and guided him until he reached Ithaca. There were a few times when Odysseus even lost faith and trust in her, but she still continued to remain by his side and show compassion towards him anyway. This is similar to how God feels about his creations. Although his creations may not have faith in Him, He continues to always have faith in his creations and show them mercy. Some events that happen in the play that are contradictory to what the Christian faith is about are when Odysseus lies, commits adultery, and murders. Throughout the play, Odysseus lies about his identity to various people such as to Athena and Penelope. When Odysseus arrives at Ithaca, Athena asks him who he is and where he came from, but he decides to lie to her. She knew that he was lying and once she revealed herself to him, she reprimanded him for doing so. He also lies to his own wife by disguising himself as a beggar. When he finally reveals to her who he actually is, she cries hard and tells him that she can’t believe it. Another time in the play where Odysseus is caught sinning is when he sleeps with females other than his very own wife. On his journey home, he encounters several nymphs and goddesses who he ends up sleeping with regardless of Penelope back at home. Penelope continued to remain faithful to him for years while he was away, but he clearly did not remain very faithful to her. Another sin that Odysseus can be held responsible for is for murdering the guests at the end of the play. When Odysseus finally arrives at home, he encounters the men who have hopes of him being dead so that they can marry Penelope. In order to gain his power and authority back as king, he murders the men and even the other guests at his home. There are several parts of The Odyssey that can nicely tie into the values of Jesuit education. For instance, continuing to have faith is something that both Christians and Athena have in common. Just like the Jesuits continue to have faith on a daily basis, Athena continued to have faith in Odysseus throughout his journey back home. Some of Odysseus’s actions throughout the play also contradict what the Christian religion believes in. He commits several sins such as lying, adultery, and murder; he lies to Athena and Penelope, cheats on Penelope, and murders the guests at the end of the play
Monday, October 27, 2008
From the beginning of Western involvement in the Congo with King Leopold of Belgium in the 19th century, the region has been plaqued by social unrest. The Belgians, followed by a number of dictators, exploited the land and the people for personal benefit. This way of life paved the way for a legacy of social instability that continues to cause the deaths of thousands each year-whether from war, hunger, malnutrition, economic problems,or damaged food production. An environment like this is extremely susceptible to war and all the corruption that goes along with it. Unforunately, women have been targeted as rape has become yet another weapon of war. It is effective because it generally happens with impunity and extremely difficult to combat because all parties on either side of the controversy take part-Congolese rebel groups and the Congolese army itself, Hutu perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide, and even member of the United Nations. These groups are free to roam the region due to insufficiencies in public programs and law enforcement.
Basically, whether it be a rebel group or the Congolese army, a group of men will march into one of the hundreds of villages in the Congo and force themselves upon women, often harming or even killing them. As a result, the women are physically and psycologically damaged. If this isn`t bad enough, they are often otracized by their husbands if they were married and the community at large. This creates an extremely large group of broken women with no family to turn to and minimal societal structures to go to for aid.
However, the cry of women victimized by rape in the Congo seems to finally be reaching the rest of the world. A number of aid organizations popping up across the globe as well as the establishment of hospitals specifically created to help rape victims in the Congo show a glimmer of hope for the region. This glimmer of hope appears to be the most substantial keeping those involved in the Congo going. One of the Congolese men on hand for the film, a priest, said the people of the Congo have great "faith in themselves" to alleviate the problems that plague their home. He said that when in the Congo, he focuses much of his preaching on faith in the future. The other Congolese man, a professor at UMBC, advocated getting knowledge of the war outside the Congo to the rest of the world through news, press, and other communications. He brought up the fact the 80% of Congolese children grow up uneducated, something that would surely evoke some sympathy from the outside world. The creation of such institutions as Women for Women and Doctors Without Borders, as well as occasional attention from major United States newspapers are helping to break the silence.
The Jesuit ideals of solidarity and universal justice call Catholics to pay attention to the atrocity in the Congo and do whatever they can to contribute to helping the situation. Although the problem seems almost unreal because it is geographically and socially distant from American society, we are obligated as humans to react. Moreover, the problem may not be as distant as it seems. For example, over 80% of the world`s coltan, a substance found in all cell phones, is extracted from the Congo (most of it illegally). Solidarity within humanity is severely compromised as long as rape in the Congo is allowed to continue.
Similar to the Jesuit theme of universal justice are the ideas of communion in the Walt Whitman poems and McCloskey short story that we read in class for this Monday. The short story, "A Lush Life," sported a significantly lighter tone but at the same time stressed the broader idea that the constituent elements of a whole are dependent upon one another and a correlation does exist. It also introduced the idea that each part brings something unique and contributes to the whole. For the same reason, we must not ignore what is happening in the Congo. The years of exploitation and war have blinded the rest of the world from Congo`s full potential to contribute to the international community. On the same note, Walt Whitman described conjunction between the body, soul, and his poems. These poems again stress unity amongst parts and commitment to equality. In "I Sing the Body Electric," Whitman tells that proper maintenance of the body is necessary for a healthy soul and vice versa. Again, as members of the international "body," Americans need to focus on the maintenance of all other members. The current situation in Congo concerning the rape of its women is one example needing complete attention from the international community. As Americans and students at a Jesuit institution, we are obligated as parts of humanity to care for others who need it in order to maintain humanity as a whole.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
October 29, 2008
This week for my event analysis I decided to turn off my phone to shed light on the war going on in the Congo. My cell-phone-silence coincided perfectly with the motions of the readings for this Wednesday. All of the readings this week have related to a form of silence or non-action exactly the kind of thing that is going on in the Congo. In Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills like White Elephants” the man and the woman are discussing the right action to take in their situation. The woman instead of speaking up for what she wants withdraws herself from the situation and focuses on something else. This is also the case in Emily Dickinson Poem “I heard a Fly Buzz—when I died”, the speaker is focusing on the fly not on dying. In another poem by Emily Dickinson; “I could not stop for Death-“the speaker also deals with the denial of death. “Tell all the truth but tell it slant- -“another poem by Dickinson the truth is distorted like the death poems. In Dickinson last poem “Success is Counted Sweetest” the speaker reflects on how the world views things as better from the outside. All the readings from today can relate to my Congo cell-out because they all show what is going on today in America; of ignoring the Congo, belittle the Congo war, and forgetting to focus on the actual people in the Congo.
For the Congo cell- out my message was; “hey this is Kelly. My phone will be turned off from 12:00pm- 6:00pm to shed light on the brutal war happening in the Congo. I can turn my phone back on at 6:00. The people in the Congo can not. I have a voice.” The people who left me a message that day, did not respond to my message. They responded as though my answer machine was normal. This at fist surprised me, and then I read the readings for class on Wednesday. I found the readings especially Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills like Elephants” and Emily Dickinson’s poem “I heard a fly buzz—when I died” shared that same kind of reaction. In both of this writings the characters are dealing with a life changing event (one being death), yet both characters are ignoring the event because it is too hard for them to grasp. People tend to ignore things that are unpleasant and focus on other things; for the characters it was hills that looked like elephants and a fly. Why would we as Americans focus on a war going on in The Congo?
This thought led me to that next set of poems I read by Emily Dickinson. The first was “Because I would not stop for Death—.” In this poem the speaker again will not even think about death, death must come to her. I think there a point in life when we all realize death is coming to us. Maybe that is why we care about the Congo because we share some something with them, pain, suffering, and our own immortally. The second poem was “Tell all the truth but tell it slant- -“ because even though we share all those things with the people in the Congo, we do not want to know those things. We want to be lied to yet still know the truth. This is exactly what the speaker is saying in the poem tell me the truth but in a twisted way. The find poem I looked at was “Success is Counted Sweetest—“ because in the poem the speaker is saying success always feels better for those who don’t have it. Even though we feel for the people in the Congo, we will never experience what they feel. I can always turn my cell on at the end of the day. Success is already sweet for me.
Not all Americans know about the Congo because not all Americans want to face death. The poems today shade light on the fact the people tend to run from uncomfortable situations. As a Jesuit institute, we are taught not to run from death but to help those in need. We are taught action and service to form a community above all.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
This past Monday I attended Father Linnane’s State of the College address discussing the future plans of Loyola College. Through discussion of our current economic position and the future fundamental plans of our school Father Linnane provides assurance that our college, and soon to be university, is in strong standing. He touched heavily upon our financial situation due to the state of our economy to make sure his audience was comfortable with our economic direction in the future by presenting Loyola’s new strategy of creating revenue. He also introduced a strategic plan that will be put in place once we shed our old title of “College” and become a “University”. Explained through his well detailed and confident speech Loyola will not only continue to be one of the finest comprehensive catholic universities, but hopefully reach the goal of being at the top of that list.
The opening fifteen minutes focused heavily on the school’s plans on maintaining financial stability in an economy that may be at its worst since the Great Depression. Having around fifty-five million dollars in our endowment already, Father Linnane assured his audience that we are in a good position entering the perceived recession. Because monetary aid from alumni, donors, and the state (15% cut due to the current and foreseen economic troubles) is expected to be lowered substantially, Father Linnane presented a new economic plan that the school will now be abiding to. He stated that there will be a tightening of the budget and significant focus on further improving our efficiencies. In addition, the school is looking into new means of assisting students and their families so that Loyola University is as accessible as possible. The assets that are used will focus on executing the new positioning strategy, with two examples being the marketing research by the Scarborough Group and a new developed website to be revealed with the new designation. This sound financial footing will continue the Jesuit teaching as a “transformative educational experience”.
The next twenty minutes of his presentation focused on the University’s new strategic plan, which he described as, “dramatic and historic”. This plan is to ultimately transform educational experience while keeping the Jesuit ideals that the school is built from. This new plan calls for a more attractive Loyola that will not shrink with the economy. This “perfect plan” is linked into budget set forth by him and his colleagues. It will embody an excellent undergraduate and graduate experience, and hopefully make us the top comprehensive catholic university. Another part of this plan is the Living Learning Program, which focuses on bridging social and educational experiences for the first year students. With help from his faculty and staff this will allow the first year students to become even more well-rounded individuals, in hope they will graduate with the appropriate skills to excel in our world. The third point in the new strategic plan focuses on strengthening and already strong faculty. Through ambitious hiring programs and careful planning coordination the hope is that more of the top scholars in their field will decide to be a part of the wonderful learning environment that is Loyola University. Also vital to Loyola’s new mission is the ever-expanding community engagement. Talk of improving neighborhoods surrounding the school will make for friendly living space for all. Enhancement of global studies will also better the students for the ever-changing world. The final point in Fr. Linnane’s address to the College is the improvement of our intercollegiate sports programs, which will provide a competitive and healthy environment for school pride and spirit. This improvement will also aid in bringing in new and better recruits and engage alumni in donations and support. These plans for Loyola’s future should continue to benefit our school in hopes to becoming one of the top universities in the U.S.
This plan that Fr. Linnane announced is one of huge change that will literally rename who we are as a University. However, our Jesuit ideals will always remain as the groundwork for any of the schools endeavors. This theme is directly paralleled to Jeffrey Harrison’s Fork where throughout all of the change in the speaker’s life the one constant is the fork that has always stuck with him. Obviously, very similar to how our school will always have the Jesuit ideals no matter what drastic changes the school makes.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The relation to Jesuit education is pretty obvious when one thinks about the meaning of Jesuit education and the expectations that are held of us, these including the idea of helping others, educating the whole person, and educating the whole person for others. All of these ideas seem to be ideas that Dr. Walterstorf lives by. As a graduate from Yale he obviously holds education very high in his priorities and it seems that he worked very hard even as a child. Instead of taking this education and getting a high paying job, living in a lavish house, in an expensive neighborhood, he devoted many years of his life to helping others and fighting for their justice. He said that he felt a calling to speak up for the wronged people. In 1976, Dr. Walterstorf wanted to help people who had their homes seized in South Africa. After traveling to South Africa and doing manual labor, he came home and used his education and motivation to help those people by promoting the cause and giving various talks on the issues. He did the same for the Palestinians in 1987. Dr. Walterstorf’s talk was incredibly motivational and showed the ideal life plan of an individual with a Jesuit education. Not only did this lecture relate to Jesuit education, and provide an excellent example of how we can use our education to help others, but it was also very closely related to different works of literature.
The Justice: Rights and Wrongs lecture has a very close relationship to the poem “Theme for English B.” One way that this is true, is in the way that the speaker of the poem describes his individual state of being. By this I mean that the speaker says,
“You are white—
Yet a part of me, as I am part of you.”
Without meaning to the speaker makes a very strong, important point. These two lines bring up the idea that we are all part of each other and everyone is either related in some way or another or the idea that despite how different we are, we are still the same. This idea is incredibly important and relates to the Justice: Rights and Wrongs lecture in that, because we are all the same we need to help and save each other. We need to use our Jesuit education for the good of others. Also the idea makes all unjust acts sound completely ridiculous. The poem illustrates how closely we all are related and how similar we are which leads us to see that all unjust acts and rash feelings and completely unfair. The lecture pointed out that the acts of injustice often occur between different groups of people, for example the Palestinians and Israelis, or the South Africans. This lecture and poem then made me think about how different groups of people are in culture, color, race, but at the same time we are all related and we are all “the same.”
In reflecting on this event and this poem, I thought about how serious disagreements may seem to be, but in all actuality they are meaningless. For example the hatred and fighting going on in the Middle East seems to be such a huge problem and injustices are trying to be resolved, but the feuds are unnecessary considering that we all may be individuals and have different cultures, we are all each other.
One major moment of our trip seems to stand out in my memory as I look back on the weekend. As we walked through the city of Baltimore, we were given the insider’s tour. We learned about all of the preventions that the city takes to annihilate homelessness. The problem is that the city is not really dealing with the issue; it is just moving homelessness to other areas. One major disturbance is the addition of bars to the middle of benches, to avert homeless people from lying down. This gives them no place to spend the night. The library has also spent $20,000 to install spikes on the front of the library, where there were original little niches where someone could potentially sit down. The spikes at first glance appear to be fancy decoration, but once learning about their true identity, it made me frustrated and mad. The city also spent $7,000 on a grate covering an area where people could keep warm during the winter, and when angry protestors destroyed the grate, the city blew another $7,000 on its repair. A dead body was found, in the later winter months, revealing how important the original heated ground played for those experiencing homelessness in the winter.
All of these precautions that the city has taken has aroused a strong passion in me. I hate the ignorance that some have on issues like poverty, but I know that it is my duty to educate those who are not educated on these topics. I am able to see things clearly, and it is not one’s fault if they were raised a certain way. Family values and morals stay strong, but educating someone on the opportunities of service is something I value. I cannot change someone’s predetermined notions, but maybe if I nudge someone in the direction of service they can break down their own stereotypes. I hated hearing all of they ways that the city is dealing with poverty. They are not being welcoming or helping the situation. This reminded me of Julia Alvarez’s Queens, 1963. “Mrs. Scott swept her walk as if it had been dirtied.”, this treatment of those who appear to be different is a reoccurring theme. The German girl in the community is looked down upon, but what makes her any different? Mrs. Scott acts as if she is better and feels the need to clean any area they she has trotted on. When I was in the city I noticed how people look at the homeless, and how cops monitor the parks to make sure they leave before nightfall. In Langston Hughes’ Theme for English B, there is also a similar theme. The writer of the paper believes he is different just because of the color of his skin. He is the only student of color in his class; therefore he believes that his paper needs to be dramatically different from the others. Obviously society has given him the right to think this way, but after submerging myself into culture that is supposed to be drastically different from mine, I see how similar we all are. The city of Baltimore is giving the homeless a reason to feel different and ashamed, but I think that when you stop and have a conversation with someone at Beans and Bread or Our Daily Bread, you can see that we all have similar values and ideas. Jeffrey Harrison’s Fork, also specifically reminded me of they way the city is dealing with issues of poverty and homelessness. The teacher is the city, because he is giving up on the narrator. He is not putting in the necessary effort, just like how the city is wasting money to solve stupid problems, and not dealing with the actual problem. Finally Lucille Clifton’s this morning (for the girls of eastern high school), reminded me of the hope that I learned to inspire in others during UNITE. Especially the last lines when Clifton uses the word survive three times. Although the issue of homelessness has not been properly dealt with, people are surviving everyday. Some even have smiles, on their face and feel blessed. I know this because I met them. They are real people, and they give me hope for my own life, but also in the city to correctly solve the issues that it is facing.
Eboo Patel’s life, as read about in “Acts of Faith,” can really relate to the various works that we read- “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes, “Queens, 1963” by Julia Alvarez, “this morning (for the girls of eastern high school)” by Lucille Clifton, and “Fork” by Jeffrey Harrison. In “Theme for English B,” an African American student feels as though she doesn’t belong because of her race, but realizes that she can learn from her white teacher, and that her teacher learns from her. Patel dealt with situations where he did not fit in as well, but when he began to make friends with those who were different, he realized that he was able to connect and learn so much more. This also relates to the character in “Queens, 1963.” A family moves to Queens and sees how different it is there and how many different people live in one community. However, at first, the family seems to struggle a lot with learning to live with those who are not like them.
In “this morning (for the girls of eastern high school) and “Fork,” we read about two different situations involving teachers and students. In the first, a student seems to have learned a lot about herself, she repeats a couple times- “I met myself.” In “Fork,” a student is angry with his teacher for ruining his education. The teacher doesn’t believe in her student, and for that, the student steals her fork. He travels with the fork and takes pictures of it with famous landmarks, then emails them to his teacher. Patel influenced us to learn more and to be open to new ideas. We should learn a lot from our teachers, and hopefully, they should learn from us as well. At college, we should take advantage of our classes, students, and teachers. We should use our college experience at Loyola to get involved and do service, in order to build relationships and love one another.
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization dedicated to rebuilding houses for those in need. This past weekend I volunteered for the Loyola College chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The other students and I worked together to help make a live able house for the owner. Even though it is hard work, I have never regretted volunteering.
Before volunteering to build, everyone must attend an orientation. Stories are read about homelessness, helping, and serving. Together as a group, we read a true story of a man in graduate school who lost his job and was evicted from his apartment. He searched for jobs, but no employers wanted a student employee and he did not have the money to place a payment on an apartment. Sometimes people have bad luck, but that does not mean they are uneducated. The people who live in Habitat houses have encountered bad luck and volunteers want to turn their luck around.
In order to volunteer to serve, a person must understand what it means to serve. To serve means to provide assistance to someone who is in need but it does not intentionally change that person. Through experiences of serving people may change, however, the person who is serving is not trying to alter the man in need. To help someone is to change who that person is; to serve is not synonymous to help. While serving, everyone is treated equally; I am no better then the person I am serving.
Langston Hughes’s poem, “Theme for English B” expresses a similar meaning to serving. In the poem the speaker is asking for understanding. He is an African American who is struggling for equality and wants to show he does and likes the same things as white men. The only difference between the two is how the world views them. The speaker does not want sympathy, only understanding. The owners of the Habitat houses do not want sympathy from the volunteers; they would rather bond with the volunteers. In Habitat for Humanity, all people are equal.
This year, the house Loyola has sponsored is in Sandtown, Baltimore. It is an impoverished town, populated with mostly African Americans. Loyola College has a majority of white people; therefore the volunteers are mostly white. The volunteers are not there to be racist to Sandtown residents, but respect them. In “Queens, 1963,” a young girl is speaking about how Queens is becoming more diverse, with Jews, African Americans, Greeks, and she is Dominican. When she moved to Queens, the city was mostly white, and she felt on the outside. Now new neighbors have moved into the house across the street and some are residents are upset because they are African American. Unfortunately, everyone is still not treated equally. While volunteering, no person is better than another, everyone is considered the same.
This was the second time I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. Last year, I volunteered at the end of the school year and I built a fence for the backyard with another Loyola student and the owner, Omar. While working, I was able to learn more about Omar which helped shape my experience. Unfortunately, an owner for the house this year has not yet been chosen, but everyone still worked together. Instead of a fence, I helped build a wall frame and several window frames. Both experiences were extremely different, but equally rewarding.
In regards to Eboo’s founding of the Interfaith Youth Core, he told us we were the ones who would have to get involved in the interfaith cooperation movement. It is a very important idea that needs to take place, especially with the war terror, who some may confuse this with a war against all Muslims. . In the poem “Queens, 1963” where the family moves into the neighborhood in Queens with all the diversity living so close to each other but with no connection. This is what Eboo preaches for; reaching out to those that may feel disconnected and connect them through the interfaith movement. With the United States being the most religiously diverse nation, Patel discussed this generation’s need for interfaith bridge builders. These are those that are to help connect people of all religions for the common goal of serving others. This goal is taught to us everyday as being a part of a Jesuit institution that it does not matter what type of religion that one follows just how we serve others that may be different from ourselves. An interfaith bridge builder is the person that helps bring about a “world house” as Patel puts it instead of a clash of civilizations or “collective murder.”
Patel explained that in order for us to become these interfaith bridge builders we must acquire a few things. First, he said, we need to have a certain perspective. We should not judge those of other religions and races or make any assumptions when we think of any certain one. He said we cannot look at all Muslims and assume that they are terrorists or look at all Christians like those from Jesus Camp. This is only a small minority of people and is giving the real people of that religion a much different reputation then they would want. The second is a strong knowledge base regarding pluralism. In order to understand people of other religions, we must be in line with our own traditions and also our fellow religions as well. He made an excellent point of how for example in the Bible story of “The Good Samaritan” we see how people of different backgrounds can be of serve to one another. Through this can we only be able to understand and accept people of other faiths and work with them and not against them. Finally, the last thing is a skill set as he put it. He explained that nothing really matters what you say or feel unless you can do something about it and bring about a change. This is similar to the poem “Fork” by Jeffery Harrison where even though the main character was told they could not be a writer and overcame that with the writing of the letter to the professor to prove their point. As Eboo said, we personally have to go out and bring about the change ourselves and not wait for someone else to do it for us. With these three necessary things, we are able to venture out and become the interfaith bridge builders needed in our society.
As Patel closed his lecture, he gave a story involving Marco Polo and Kublai Khan with the main point being “without bricks there is no arch” and we, the interfaith bridge builders, are the bricks that are build these arches, or bridges. We have to be strong to be able to overcome the things in society that may prevent us from accomplishing what we want. This is shown in both “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes and in “a morning (for the girls of eastern high school)” by Lucille Clifton. Hughes’ brings in the student who overcomes her race to a paper for a white teacher, like Patel explains how we need to overcome all the obstacles in the path in the cooperation of the interfaith movement. As said at the end of Clifton’s poem,” i survive, survive, survive” just like how the bridge builders and all people need to look at life and examine how they are going to spend their lives.
Today, the Congo has come under the eye of the United Nations, which have stationed almost 17,000 troops in the Congo because of this conflict. These troops have been working with the Congolese army to keep the many militia groups in check. While the U.N. has done a great job with the men, they are sadly sometimes part of the problem. Some of the Congolese soldiers are corrupt, and extort money and sometimes sex from the very people that they have been designated to protect. Also, the U.N. soldiers have also been under investigation for exchanging sex with locals for food and other necessities.
One of the worst parts of the rape of the Congolese women (besides the act itself) is that the government does not even acknowledge the severity of the problem. There is no sex crimes department like we have here in the states. The entire “task force” consists of a female commander and a few glorified secretaries to write down the statements of the victims. There is nobody to speak for these women who have been brutally tortured—as the title of the film states, they truly are invisible. This is where I feel that the Jesuit motto of being men and women with and for others really comes into play. The people of the Congo are really hurting, and we are in the position to do something about it. We can voice our opinion in many different ways, ways in which these suppressed people cannot. We can write to members of congress asking them to pursue a resolution for the situation in the Congo. We can raise our voice to act in solidarity with the people suffering. According to Fr. Kolvenbach, “The overriding purpose of the Society of Jesus, namely ‘the service of faith,’ must also include ‘the promotion of justice.’” The situation in the Congo is a great way for us to voice out our concerns for this war torn country. As Milton would say, now is our time—we must seize our opportunity before it is too late.