Ridiculous Ways to Help Missionaries in Africa

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We recycle and reuse items whenever possible, and it’s considered the socially and environmentally-conscious thing to do. Well, here’s the ultimate in re-using: apparently, in the 1960’s, people would send used tea bags to missionaries in Africa! Doesn’t this sound crazy?!? It says a lot about how people thought back then.

used tea bags-1There isn’t much value in a used tea bag, beyond adding it to a compost pile. But perhaps to the people collecting them, saving tea bags and donating them was worthwhile. Perhaps giving a tea bag to someone else when you would have used it one or two more times was even a hardship. Certainly going to Africa to be a missionary was a hardship — perhaps tea bag donations were meant to ease the pain, to provide something from home that one couldn’t get in Africa. But were the missionaries actually happy to receive their shipment of used tea bags? It’s hard to imagine! I think I would be borderline offended! I mean, all the caffeine from the tea has been washed out, and there wouldn’t be much flavour left either… but maybe if you combine several bags together, you can enjoy a decent cup of tea. Not by our standards, but in Africa in the 60’s or 70’s…? But why not just send NEW tea bags?

tea drinkingI wonder if the people saving their bags felt they were doing something good, something helpful. If so, maybe the missionaries appreciated the gesture, if not the flavour. I suppose the tea-drinkers thought themselves to be helping the cause, to be contributing to “the Lord’s work,” somehow. It seems quite ridiculous to us, though, doesn’t it?

I wonder if 30 or 40 years from now, we will look back at our society and giggle or cringe at things we do now, feeling like we’re helping the cause or doing what’s socially or environmentally conscious. I suspect we might cringe over burning fossil fuels, when there is so much clean, free energy in the sun, wind, and waves. All coastal cities will have low-profile wave-generators for their electricity. Maybe we’ll even be using DC voltage exclusively, and have mini-power stations for individual houses or neighbourhoods everywhere.

I wonder if we’ll twitch over time spent on Facebook or playing games. Will we pine over the lost time, when we were able-bodied, that we spent sitting still? Will we think that cheering for sport teams is silly, and rioting, ridiculous? I cringe when I see people burning wood piles (waste wood). Why not chip it and spread it? Compost it? I recently learned of hugelkultur — gardening on top of a pile of wood! How cool is that?

Anyways, if you are hardcore into environmental causes, I encourage you to save your tea bags and, uh, well, don’t send them to anyone! Sheesh. Compost ’em, and if you want to help a missionary in Africa, send money!

(Actually, my mom is part of a group that sews simple sun-dresses for girls in hot, poor countries, so they can have something nice and airy to wear. I like that!)

Never Cry Wolf

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I recently finished reading Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat. I bought it at a used book store, and the copyright in my book says 1963, 1973 and 1993, but it must be out of print now. I’m pretty sure my parents hid this book from me when I was growing up. They must have known the effect it would have on me, and they probably didn’t wish to lose their daughter to the wilds of northern Canada for years at a time. Well, they weren’t able to avoid that altogether, but at least I have the technology to keep in touch with them.

Since living in Wrigley, my curiosity about wolves has been piqued. They are often talked about, because they are never very far away. At the airport, which is about 2 km from Wrigley, the wolves were coming onto the runway on the weekends and chewing on the wires going to some of the runway edge lights. When it’s particularly cold in winter, they come closer to town and sometimes attack and eat the local dogs. In December, wolves killed the alpha dog in town — dogs there run in packs and are not very far removed from wild, wolfish behaviour. In fact, some of what Farley Mowat talks about has helped me relate to dogs better, such as reading their facial expressions and understanding that they live by their own, non-human code. They have their own reasons for doing things, because of their canine culture.

I can see why this book is considered a classic! It is an excellent read. Farley is a phenomenal storyteller, and his story is a fantastic one. He is dropped off by a kamikaze bush pilot at an unknown frozen lake somewhere off the map in Northern Manitoba. His mission is to study wolves, their feeding habits and appetite for caribou. He plans to live among the wolves. Does that mean he crawls in their dens? Only once, and his reaction to what he finds within shakes him to the core. He adapts himself to the wolves’ ways — he learns to take wolf-naps so that he can observe them for long periods of time continuously without getting tired. And when the caribou return from their wintering grounds, he discovers, contrary to what the government has been told, that wolves are not responsible for the decline in caribou population.

Fast forward 50+ years, to this year, 2013. What is on the cover of the news/north newspaper this week?

news north newspaper

Fifty years have gone by and the problem remains! Farley Mowat correctly identified the cause of the caribou slaughter when he found a field of caribou bones near a trapper’s shack — the trapper was killing hundreds of caribou a year to feed his sled dogs. Back then, they used nearly the whole animal, but now, killing for the sake of killing makes me ill. Trigger happy people should go to a gun range and shoot paper targets, not beautiful, majestic creatures. And there are a lot of trigger happy people in the North, and they think they can get away with it, and they think they have a right to kill what they want, and they do it because their twisted sense of humanity thinks it is fun. That newspaper article speaks of 50+ animals killed with only very small portions being taken for food, a practice very much against what the elders teach. (Wolves, by contrast, kill very few caribou, and only the weak and elderly ones, and, of course, eat it all.)

Part of me desperately hopes they find out who did it all (the carcasses were found in 12 different sites, so it was probably lots of different people), and part of me knows it won’t help. Not unless the local people — the people from that community — decide it is definitely wrong and their internal culture changes. Part of me thinks that if no witnesses will come forward — and who would want to rat on their friends and family? — then the whole community should lose its caribou hunting rights. They have a grocery store; let them buy their meat there. But, that’s our ugly friend colonialism back for a visit, telling native populations what to do and disciplining them like they are children. No, the government needs to stop interfering and the people who live there need to start acting like responsible, life-respecting adults. Own up to what you have done. Admit you feel bad about it (if you do, don’t lie if you don’t). Stop killing just because you can.

I would love to ask one of these trigger happy people “what will you do when all the caribou are gone? Elsewhere in Canada, when the native animals were killed off, domestic animals were brought in. Beef replaced buffalo, pigs in place of antelope. Are you going to become farmers? That will be challenging with the wolves and bears and so much wilderness. Will you cut down all the trees to make fields? Will you grow crops to feed your cows?”

It would be infinitely better if those who live among the caribou could learn to appreciate what they have in them — an amazing, healthy food source — and protect the caribou population, to prevent their extinction. I am a stranger in a strange land; I am not from here. I wasn’t raised among the caribou, among the wolves. I was raised on a farm (which you may have already guessed), so if I want to be an activist, I should do so in the realm where my heritage is — agriculture in Canada. To be an activist here makes me judgmental, as so many environmental activists who go far from home to make a stand are. And I do have some thoughts about agriculture in Canada… but they will have to wait for another day.

Science Doesn’t Have All the Answers

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I love science. I even have a T-shirt that says “Eat. Sleep. Explore Science.” Mind you, I haven’t worn it in a while, but still, it expresses a certain sentiment.

The other day, I had a revelation. It’s a pretty big shift from that traditional “loving science” paradigm. That revelation is

Science is overanalyzing the one you love.

If you get it, feel free to click on to some other website now, perhaps one of the links to the right. If you don’t immediately get it, let me explain what I mean.

Science is great, but it is a lot of analyzing. It’s all left-brain. I think there are a few scientists out there using both hemispheres, but on the whole, it’s detached, objective and logical. Well, except when scientists get attached to a theory and then ignore evidence to the contrary of that theory, which happens more than we know, I think. But I digress.

The problem with living in the left brain is that we miss all the beauty, the art, the loveliness of the thing we are studying. We can measure the heck out of Mother Earth, and how will that help? I wonder if we could make more of a difference by just loving her?

Any happily married man will tell you — analyzing his wife, especially to her face, is not a good idea. It is not going to help her or their relationship. But loving her, and not focusing on anything besides the things that he likes about her makes all the difference. Could it be the same with Mother Earth?

I think we may already have our answer. If you look at the science that has been done on our planet, most of the time, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture for our future. But when I am actually out on the planet, in the wilderness enjoying myself and loving it — loving the Earth — I can see nothing wrong with it. I don’t see global warming. I don’t see any of the other myriad of problems the scientists say Mother Earth has. Perhaps this is just another example of the Law of Attraction at work, I don’t know. I want to see beauty, I focus on joy, so that’s what I get. Or, maybe I am just putting my head in the sand. But I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we all did it my way, and gave less power to science?

And I’m not saying science is all bad. But if you go looking for problems, you will find them. I look for beauty instead (all right-brainy now, I know)!


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For the size of our brains, we really don’t think very much, do we?!? 🙂 Sometimes we think we have a situation all figured out, but we really don’t!

Interpersonal stuff can be so tricky, or is it just me? For example, I have a friend, let’s call her “Susan,” who has a boss who is becoming increasingly more controlling, questioning, and untrusting. When this started, her first response was to be a little angry, frustrated and resist. Don’t we all want to resist being controlled?! One day, the boss demanded she fill in timesheets to track what she did every hour she worked. She began taking responsibilities away from Susan, saying “it wasn’t her job to do,” even though she’d been doing those things very well for quite a while. Then, the boss wanted Susan to write a report to summarize what she’d been doing, so all the managers could review it at a monthly meeting! Susan felt like her word wasn’t good enough, that she wasn’t being trusted. It’s not like she was a slacker, wasting time in the coffee room all day — she didn’t even take breaks!

Luckily, my friend’s capacity for anger and frustration ran out. She decided that if they wanted more reports, fine. If they wanted to question her, fine, she’d answer. She knew she wasn’t doing anything wrong, and if she had to prove it, fine. So far, things seem to be settling down, largely because she has changed her own attitude to the situation.

But she could have had a very different response. What if she had been snarky (a temptation, for sure) and put on the daily reports that she spent 2 hours doing reports for the boss! She might have thought this very clever, a little “dig” to point out the boss’ ridiculousness. But the boss could have reacted very badly, saying “that simple, one-page report took you 2 hours?!?” There could have been many ramifications — being sent for time management training, having one-on-one meetings to review how the reports are to be done, or just more hostilities between them, as the power struggle intensified. That’s what it started to feel like — a power struggle of epic proportions! Okay, not really epic, but do you see how we can blow things out of proportion? Susan has done a great job thinking and then responding, although it hasn’t been easy.

From dictionary.com:  Ram•i•fi•ca•tion   n.  A development or consequence growing out of and sometimes complicating a problem, plan, or statement: the ramifications of a court decision.

We seem to get in our worst trouble when either A) we don’t take the time to think before responding (just reacting) or B) we don’t know as much about a situation as we think we do (just plain ignorance). For example, people get angry at the big oil and gas companies for what they are doing to the environment. “We need to shut them down,” they say. I love nature, and I agree with the sentiment, but what are the ramifications of shutting down gas and oil companies overnight? Could you heat your house? Drive your car? How would you eat — do your groceries arrive at the store via truck, or via electric train? See what I mean? Very few of us are are really well-informed, and have taken the time to look at an issue from many sides and see all the consequences of our proposed solution.

I came across a blog today, about choosing not to have children. There were many comments on it, and I shared it with Darren and we spent a while reading some other blogs and sites we found. Some people only see the issue from one side, and are very opinionated! I’ve had a few thoughts on it myself, but I think this is the key: have kids, or don’t — but think about what you’re doing and decide. Don’t just have them because it’s expected of you, because everyone thinks you should, or accidentally. Did you forget the ramifications of having sex?

Some people get into huge arguments with friends or family members about the child-bearing issue. It’s always harder to have a calm discussion — thinking before responding — when we are emotionally charged or attached to a situation or issue. With my husband, sometimes I just talk without thinking — ack! If only I took 3 seconds to breathe and think, instead of immediately responding! Why do conversations have to be so rapid-fire? Am I really in that much of a hurry? Yes. No. Of course. Come here. Talk to me! Darren thinks before speaking way more than I do, and sometimes I get frustrated when he takes so long to respond! Talk to me, Goose! (If you get that reference, you rock!)  🙂

Perhaps if I practiced more of the Buddhist idea of non-attachment, it would be easier. As I understand it, this doesn’t mean I’m not attached to my husband (don’t care about him), it means I am not attached to a certain outcome of our discussions — intensely needing him to agree with me, for example. We can agree to disagree, and I can accept and respect that he has his own perspective and it’s every bit as valid as mine. I think non-attachment is powerful, but I don’t know enough about it to say more now!

Now that I think of it, words have the most ramifications of any of the daily, ordinary things we do. They can make or break a relationship, change our attitude, and even change our world.

On a personal note, I have been working hard on publishing my book lately! I’ve been in conversation with an artist about the illustrations I need and I’m all over the lulu.com site, learning about how it all works and deciding on page sizes. Then I go into my publishing program and mess with page sizes, margins, fonts, and all that fun. It won’t be long now! I’ll keep you posted… 🙂