If women

During the past few days I have again and again been drawn to reflect on what really and fundamentally makes us human, different from other creatures. Well, let me acknowledge that this is only from the perspective of moral and ethical thought because as far as the universe is concerned we are simply just a part of it, no more important to its existence than insects or oxygen. Indeed we often forget that and promote ourselves as masters – even owners – of the universe.

It is the recently concluded Iran Nuclear Agreement and the arguments around it – most of them politically inspired – and the presidential campaigns currently underway that stirred my thinking to wonder, “where are we, in this vast universe and in the family of humans, and where are we going, or where will we find ourselves as we go on this course?”

Anyway, in my reflection I was reminded of some African proverbs of wisdom. Think of these 5.

  1. “In the moment of crisis the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams” – Nigerian.
  2. “A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning” – Kenyan (I like that it says man and I wouldn’t change it, especially in view of 5 below).
  3. “War has no eyes” – Swahili.
  4. “If you can’t resolve your problems in peace, you can’t solve war” – Somali.
  5. “Where a woman rules, streams run uphill” – Ethiopian.

You can find these and many more at http:afritorial.com/the-best-72-african-wise-proverbs/

I noticed that even people who are accustomed to turmoil, for example the Somali of East Africa, have this wisdom about war and peace. Similarly I observed that wisdom teaches us that choosing war to resolve conflict is a lot easier than peaceful means but then war itself is a problem that needs solutions, which we do not have.

Obviously I read the Ethiopian proverb very literally and when I think of Margaret Thatcher, then I have to accept that some women may be worse that men when it comes to waging wars. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the more women leaders of nations we have the better chances for peace.

You will discover, if you investigate, that wisdom is universal. You will find similar proverbs in every human culture. That is because we are all connected as one; we belong together. Whenever we vent our politics to harm others, we harm ourselves; when we seek healing for others, we heal ourselves too.


Why do I fear?


Earlier this week I was, in a very personal context, challenged by what we read in Matthew 14: 25-31. In this story, Jesus walks on water towards the boat in which his disciples were traveling. It was just before dawn – the beginning of a new day, still dark everywhere around, but with the familiar feeling of the “dawn of a new day”. And, yes, the boat had been “buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it” (Mtt. 14: 24).

That is when Jesus appears, walking on the water, in the dawn of a new day. Did the disciples think of the dawn of a new day? Not, from the Gospel account.

First, they thought they were seeing a ghost – an apparition; not a real person.

I have been too preoccupied with storms and darkness that I have failed to recognize Jesus’ appearance in the middle of it all. One of the darkest experiences I have endured for the past five years is the politicization of immigration in the U.S. Millions and millions of people (we are told, a whopping 11 million) are caught up, in one way or another, in a quagmire of immigration dysfunction. Individuals, families, children, refugees, scholars and professionals, people of all walks of life, are paralyzed while politicians exploit their plight for political maneuvering.

Yet, Jesus is out there even as I, and millions, pray for action. All these five years I have probably thought there is only a ghost of Jesus, not his real self.

In this Gospel story, Peter attempts to do what Jesus bids him. “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water”, he asks. Who has not prayed that prayer, “Lord, show me the way and I will follow it”? I have prayed it so many times in these five years.

Jesus answers, as he answered Peter: “Come! Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”.

There lies my other problem. Fear! Sometimes it is fear of the unknown – what lies ahead in the dawn of the day – and other times it is just the enormity of the darkness and strong winds – trying to figure out the darkness, how powerful it is and how impossible to overcome.

Like Peter, I need to take that first step onto the water. Unlike Peter, I need not calculate the strength of the waves and the wind. I just need to know Jesus has responded: “Come! Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”.

Because at the end of the day, we need to face Jesus’ challenge: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Why do I let fear factor in my destiny? Why do you?