Monday, February 11, 2008

Never Let Me Go

The book Never Let Me Go is the type of book that raises a lot of questions right away, then takes its time answering them. It wasn't until the last reading assignment that I really figured out what the donations were. Their guardians are really secretive about a lot of things, Miss Lucy finally breaks out and tells them that they're never going to grow old because they will have to donate their vital organs. It's nice that they call them donations, implying it is something that they chose, when really it's what they were created for. To be honest though, the students really don't seem as troubled by the thought as I would think they should be. Yes, they've grown up with the idea, but you would think the fact that they were going to be slowly killed so that their organs could be harvested would upset them a little bit more than it appears to. Miss Lucy does specifically say that the students were created, whether or not they are clones, I'm not sure but it's definitely a possibility. I also wonder about those who go through donations that aren't Hailsham students. Are they created too, and if so, why aren't they raised the same as those from the school?

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Right to Die?

In class today we discussed do not resuscitate orders and death in general. The subject is hard to talk about because no one really likes to think about it. I think that personally there is such a thing as excessive measures to keep a person alive. Why would a person want to live as a vegetable for years when there is only an incredibly small chance that they will ever pull out of it. Then again, who can say for certain how they would react if they or someone they loved were in this situation?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


"A phenomenon is made into being by performance." Nothing is real until you enact it in your body, until you make it physically real in yourself. It is one thing to hear about something happening, it is quite another to actually do it. The idea of embodiment is probably one of the most important aspects of a pilgrimage class. The reason for the pilgrimage is the what separates it from leisurely travel. Now that we've talked about embodiment and given it a name, I am seeing how it has continually come up and been used during the class as well. When we did our own little Hajj on campus, that was a form of embodiment. Not only was it and effective tool to help us to remember its components, our participating in the actions made it more real and really deepened my understanding of it. By coloring the Hindu gods, our actions gave at least a little more life to something that I had almost no experience with. Visual aides are used in almost all of the classes, even the pictures of the statues and Hagar Qim help to embody, to some extent, the places and things which we are talking about in class. Of course, in a class about pilgrimage, we can't fully embody the pilgrimages of Muslims, Hindus, and all of the other religions that we have covered because that would require actually going on the pilgrimage, which would take more time and money than the course allows but even what embodiment has been done has made the pilgrimages more real than just a verbal explanation of each pilgrimage.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Mother Ganga

The importance of water to religion has been shown all throughout our class but I think that the relationship between the Ganges River and Hinduism is the greatest example of this that we have seen so far. Mother Ganga fell to earth from the sky and is her own goddess. Her waters are considered holy and pure, so pure in fact that anything that her waters touch becomes "as pure and as beautiful as Shiva."

It is strange and difficult for me to understand the devotion that Hindus have for a river. Their general lack of concern for the cleanliness of the Ganges is also baffling to me. The concept of water being spiritually cleansing even if it isn't physically isn't really a stretch for me, we already talked about it in relation to the Jordan River, but in the "Banaras" article I got the impression that many Hindus don't recognize the problems with the Ganges being as dirty as it is. I would think that if you believed that a specific river was a goddess, especially one as important as Mother Ganga, you would be careful not to pollute it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Battle for the Holy Land

"It's ironic, at times like this you pray, but a bomb blew the mosque up yesterday." This verse, from the song Hands Held High by Linkin Park, ran through my head repeatedly as we watched "Battle for the Holy Land." It made me so sad to see the two groups fighting over a place that many hold to be sacred. For me, the fighting seemed so useless.

I don't see how either side can win this battle at this point with the tactics they are using. This continuous cycle can never stop the violence, it will have to be broken before any form of real progress can actually be made. I know from personal experience, at least to a small extent, that the philosophy "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" just doesn't work out very well, so this whole 'you terrorize me so I'm going to terrorize you' isn't going to get anyone anywhere, except for maybe buried in the ground.

It is paradoxical, at least in my mind, that both sides believe they are doing the will of the same God. A God that, by the way, is loving and forgiving. I just don't understand the mentality behind the fighting. One side is going to target a known organizer of terrorist attacks, and in the process make some people angry enough to join the other side and plot another attack. The other side feels that they are martyrs who will be blessed by Allah when they kill themselves in the process of killing dozens of other people whose only wrong has been trying to find a place to live and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I am not the type of person who can't watch a bloody movie. The problem with this movie was that, for starters, it seems unnecessary and pointless, not to mention that the battle fields are city streets that hold deep religious meaning to millions of people around the world. On top of that, this is actually happening right now, as we sit in a quiet classroom contemplating where religion came from and why pilgrimage is so important to people.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Understanding Islam

I have known for some time that Islam was connected to Judaism and Christianity, and found that very interesting. It wasn't until class however that I got a clear picture of what it was that united these religions, and caused a lot of the conflicts between them that we see today.

All three of these religions are united through Abraham. They all claim the inheritance that God promised Abraham and his children, including the Holy Land and Jerusalem. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all worship one God. Actually, they all worship the same God. Islam is however the youngest of these three religions, beginning approximately 610 CE.

The Islamic tradition teaches that the Koran is the purest form of God's word since it never went through a period of oral tradition, unlike the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity. Although all three are connected to Abraham, Islam follows the path of Ishmael and Hagar instead of that of Issac and Sarah. There are five acts that are supposed to be carried out by devout Muslims which constitute the Five Pillars of Islam. These acts are (in general terms) to pray their profession of faith when they wake in the morning and before going to sleep at night, a ritual prayer five (specific) times a day facing Mecca, fasting during the month of Ramadan, acts of charity, and (if able) a pilgrimage to Mecca to perform the Hajj.

I feel that it is important in today's society to understand the driving principles behind Islam. It is easy for those ignorant of the religion to be misled by the actions of the few extremists. This is especially true in areas, such as rural Iowa/Nebraska/South Dakota, where the Muslim population is very small and there are no other examples of the religion to look to. Understanding is a crucial part of tolerance, which is something that our world today greatly needs.