Saturday, July 11, 2009

The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity...

Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, quote William Butler Yeats' "The Second Coming" in Chapter 20 (p. 276), "Tea with the Taliban," in Three Cups of Tea:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

As I came near the end of Three Cups of Tea I was troubled by this dismal quote and how there are many today who believe that this is the state of our world. Nevertheless, Mortenson's story of building schools to educate girls in the rugged mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan where the Taliban are entrenched challenges any pessimist who might try to deny that one individual, working respectfully with and through others, can make a difference.

I found much to ponder as I read Three Cups of Tea and it renewed me as I returned to the work at Qatar Foundation. The work in Qatar isn't nearly so difficult as Mortenson's yet there are critical lessons to be taken from Mortenson's work. The first lesson (p. 150) that I found most helpful is in the title itself - a lesson about culture (accepting tea as a gesture of hospitality) and the importance of being patient and building relationships when we try to bring about change. The second lesson (pp. 299-300) is in the proof of Mortenson's work - exemplified when late in the book, the first of the girls to graduate from the mountain schools comes into a circle of men in a conservative Islamic village to ask for support in pursuing further education. This young woman, Jahan, demonstrated the power of education and its transforming impact when she saw more possibilities for herself and her village by continuing her education. This particular example was observed by a journalist who was so overwhelmed that he helped to place the story in the April 6, 2003, Parade magazine, which itself transformed Mortenson's fledgling enterprise into a major force for peace-making in this troubled area about which we all have concerns.

Patience, relationships, perseverance, and faith - lessons to sustain hope and to counter a pessimist's view that "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate (and sometimes destructive - added comment) intensity."

1 comment:

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