Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Challenge

Another long hiatus, and so much has happened. And I've got a few things, but not a lot, to say about it all.

My last post was three months ago today. My wife had left Kansas City on Saturday before Easter, April 7, with a group of several other people to spend two weeks in Liberia on the west coast of Africa. When she returned she had so much to talk about, so many memories to process, that those tasks are still underway. To say that there was a culture shock would be a gross understatement. One incident can speak for this sense of dislocation.

After she returned, Dyann was outside watering some of our plants around the house. She reached down to the faucet to turn it on, and suddenly realized just how easy it was for her to have water to use, water that was pure enough to drink right from the hose. In contrast, when she was in Liberia, water had to be pumped by hand from wells dug into the reddish soil, and then mixed with chlorine bleach to purify it. Hot water wasn't often available for showers, and the typical method of bathing was a "bucket bath," using water dipped from large barrels with buckets. You stood on a hard floor, dipped your sponge or wash rag into the bucket, and washed and rinsed yourself with that bit of H2O. It's a different world outside the boundaries of the United States, and she had seen this difference first-hand in Liberia.

In the three months since that last post, we've had a couple of holidays. We celebrated Memorial Day at the end of May, and just this past week we celebrated Independence Day. Both holidays have come to be seen as times to commemorate the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. These heroes have been getting a lot of work this century, with first the war in Afghanistan and then the war in Iraq. They have done their work with determination and grit, and have made this country proud in so many ways, even as they've had to pay a horrible price. We will be judged in the future by how well we care for our surviving soldiers as they live their lives with the scars of their past duty.

We're in the throes of the general election campaign now. The extreme heat we've endured so far this summer is exceeded only by the heat generated by the rhetoric spewing from all the candidates and their PACs. I fear that's the nature of political campaigns these days - all heat and little light. Has it ever been any different in anyone's memory?

Finally, as summer lumbers on, we have to face a nagging question - is this "climate change" thing for real? The general consensus seems to say it is, despite the efforts of deniers. It's pretty easy to see that weather is getting more extreme, with more energetic storms in the summer and colder and more varied weather in winter. Climatic shifts take place from time to time, and it seems to me that the real question isn't whether it's of human origin, but what's a good response to it? If sea level is rising, what do we do about it? The nature of life is to adapt to changing conditions. It looks like we living creatures are going to have to do some adapting for the next few decades. We might as well get on with it, since the change appears to be upon us.

All of these ruminations come from a person who's trying to make sense of the world, viewed through the eyes of one who feels very little power to change so much of the world, and yet has the ability to change some parts of his world. There you have the challenge of a human being living in G-d's world - we aren't the main source of power, but we have some, and we're expected to use it. How we use it, and toward what end, well, that's the challenge, isn't it?

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