Saturday, April 25, 2009

"The Parable of the Eagle" by James Aggrey

I found a wonderful parable as I am working on my 2012 Olympics Reading Challenge by the Ghanan writer, James Aggrey. I include it in its entirity:

"A certain man went through a forest seeking any bird of interest he may find. He caught a young eagle, brought it home and put it among his fowls and ducks and turkeys, and gave it chickens' food to eat even though it was an eagle, the king of birds."

"Five years later a naturalist came to see him and, after passing through his garden, said: 'That bird is an eagle, not a chicken.'"

"'Yes,' said its owner, 'but I have trained it to be a chicken. It is no longer an eagle, it is a chicken, even though it measures fifteen feet from tip to tip of its wings.'"

"'No,' said the naturalist, 'it is an eagle still: it has the heart of an eagle, and I will make it soar high up to the heavens.'"

"'No,' said the owner, 'it is a chicken, and it will never fly.'"

"They agreed to test it. The naturalist picked up the eagle, held it up, and said with great intensity, 'Eagle, thou art an eagle; thou dost belong to the sky and not to this earth; stretch forth thy wings and fly.'"

"The eagle turned this way and that, and then, looking down, saw the chickens eating their food, and down he jumped."

"The owner said: 'I told you it was a chicken.'"

"'No,' said the naturalist, 'it is an eagle. Give it another chance tomorrow.'"

"So the next day he took it to the top and the house and said: 'Eagle, thou art an eagle; stretch forth thy wings and fly.' But again the eagle, seeing the chickens feeding, jumped down and fed with them."

"Then the owner said: 'I told you it was a chicken.'"

"'No,' asserted the naturalist, 'it is an eagle, and it still has the heart of an eagle; only give it one more chance, and I will make it fly tomorrow.'"

"The next morning he rose early and took the eagle outside the city, away from the houses, to the foot of a high mountain. The sun was just rising, gilding the top of the mountain with gold, and every crag was glistening in the joy of that beautiful morning."

"He picked up the eagle and said to it: "Eagle, thou art an eagle; thou dost belong to the sky and not to this earth; stretch forth thy wings and fly!'"

"The eagle looked around and trembled as if new life were coming to it; but it did not fly. The naturalist then made it look straight at the sun. Suddenly it stretched out its wings and, with the screech of an eagle, it mounted higher and higher and never returned. It was an eagle, though it had been kept and tamed as a chicken!"

"My people of Africa, we were created in the image of God, but men have made us think that we are chickens, and we still think we are; but we are eagles. Stretch forth your wings and fly! Don't be content with the food of chickens!"

His message is so wise for the people of African birth. I take it to heart, personally, as well. We all, especially as women, have allowed ourselves to be convinced that we need to settle for the life we have been given. We forget who we are and what our true potential really is. We are created in the image of God and we need to soar!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric'

It was interesting to have the central "character" of the book be a bridge! Andric' weaves his story through the history of several centuries in Bosnia...from the Ottoman Empire, to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and ends with the start of World War I. As societies change, the bridge remains constant. Interesting history, for me, of the interplay/interaction between the Turks (Muslim), Serb (Christian), Jewish, and gypsy cultures through this time. My understanding of what led up to WWI has been dramatically increased through this reading.

Monday, April 6, 2009

In the Shadow of the Moons by Nansook Hong

In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Family is a fascinating read told by Nansook Hong, the 15 year old South Korean girl that Reverend Moon chose to marry his oldest son, Hyo Jin. Interesting insider look at the "Moonies" (Unification Church) and its leaders. Nansook describes the excesses, the abuse, and the outright hypocricy of life in the Moon family.
Nansook Hong's parents were some of the original members of Moon's church, so she was born into this world, knowing no other way to live her life. She is committed to full obedience to this second "Messiah." She struggles with inner conflicts that come as one fights with what they have believed all of their life and the damage that that belief is causing to herself and her children.
A great passage in the book is found in the end when Nansook realizes her own responsibility for her own life and gains te courage to flee the life of a battered wife:
"There is an old Korean proverb: Blame yourself, not the river, if you fall into the water. For the first time in my life, that dictum makes sense to me. I, alone, am in charge of my life. I, alone, am responsible for my actions and for the decisions I make. It is terrifying. I spent half of my lifetime ceding all decisions to a 'higher authority.' Learning to make decisions for myself means being willing to accept the consequences--the bad ones as well as the good ones." (Hong, N. In the Shadow of the Moons. (1998). Boston: Little, Brown and Company.) [pg. 234].

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is an interesting look into the culture of Nigeria. I gained some great insights into the conflicts that occur between cultures as the modern, Christian world collide with a more primitive, tribal culture of Africa. Achebe describes the clashes that arise as Christianity is brought to a tribe in Nigeria and the struggles that ensue as people are told that their religion is based upon false gods. The story was very insightful to me as traditional values of a people are challenged in a modern world.