Sunday, May 24, 2009

Courageous Journey:Walking the Lost Boys' Path from the Sudan to America by Ayuel Leek Deng, Beny Ngor Chol, and Barbara Youree

Reading books like Courageous Journey: Walking the Lost Boys Path from the Sudan to America just seem to make me more and more aggravated with which countries the U.S. seems to feel it needs to intercede with and which we leave alone! It is hard to argue that it is not about oil...even though there is oil in southern Sudan, where the troubles of this book take place. It is even shown that Osama bin Laden was the person who started the conflict in Sudan between the Muslims of the north and the Christian in the south of Sudan.

I include, here, a long excerpt from this story of the Lost Boys of Sudan that talks of the hope these children had from their fellow Christian nations:

"Beny picked up the story: "Tiop said, 'You are small children, and most of you who made it here to Itang are boys. It is good for you to know why you left your homes where you were eyewitnesses to so much death. The Arabs want you to have Islamic names, like Mohammed.'...'They want to force you to be Muslims--they demand the boys and men dress like them and the girls and women dress like their women. They want you to say that you are Arabs, take on a whole new identity and not be Dinkas or Nuers, Christian or Animist. They want to rule over you, despite your qualification, if you are not Arab Muslim. But we have no right to rule over them.

"'In addition, now that they have found oil under your land, they are forcing you out, not only from Panrieng, Gokrial, and Bor, but all over southern Sudan. hat is why we took up arms and fought against them. That is why you see people here who have no hands, no legs--like me. We were wounded in the war fighting to free you from radical Arab Muslims who are yirabian--evil terrorists. They bomb us and use machine guns and tanks against us. All we have are AK-47s...'

"I interrupted him and asked where they got all that heavy military equipment. He said, 'From their Muslim brothers in other countries.'"

"Samuel broke in and said, "I asked Tiop where our Christian brothers were. I thought maybe the other Christians in the world didn't have guns or didn't know how to make them. But Tiop said, 'Oh, that is not the case. They have guns, tanks, bombs and all of that. Christian brothers in other parts of the world know how to build guns that are more powerful than what the Arab Muslims have.'

"I said, 'What are they waiting for? Why don't they help us? If they see what's happening to their Christian brothers, why don't they give us guns?'

"'Ah, that's where your part comes in,' said Tiop, setting down his cup of mou. 'They don't understand us because we speak a different language. They only understand English. You must go to school and learn English so you can tell your Christian brothers that the Arabs are trying to change the whole world to their beliefs whether we want to change or not. Then you can tell them we need guns to fight against this oppression.'

"...He [Tiop] did his part by fighting and losing his leg. Now, we've got to do our part and get an education."

Deng, Ayuel Deng, Beny Ngor Chol and Barbara Youree. Courageous Journey: Walking the Lost Boys' Path from the Sudan to America. (2008). New Jersey: New Horizon Press. 218-220.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


An ancient Hindu proverb says, "There is nothing noble in being superior to some other man. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self."

Ethical Behavior

In Les Miserables, Jean Valjean deliberated over the priority of moral principle versus personal security; his duty to others, the uniqueness of his situation, the examples of others who were ethically excellent, and the need to sonsult and rely on his conscience:

"Monsieur Madeleine [Jean Valjean] did not hesitate to sacrifice the first consideration to the second--his personal security to his moral principles. He had, it seems, concluded, after the manner of saints and sages, that his first duty was not to himself. But no situation like the present had ever before arisen. Never had the two principles governing the life of this unfortunate man ["to conceal his true identity and sanctify his life, and to escape from men and find his way back to God"] been brought so sharply into conflict..."

"It was his most melancholy destiny that he could achieve sanctity in the eyes of God only by returning to degradation in the eyes of men..."

"Whether he turned right or left the end was a sepulchre, the death of one thing or the other, happiness or virtue."

Hugo, Victor (Norman Denny, trans.), Les Miserables. (1976). New York: Penguin Books. 209, 214, 221.

Monday, May 18, 2009


"He does not believe that does not live according to his belief."
Thomas Fuller

Ethical Resolutions

"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."
Thomas Paine

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins

One of the more enjoyable of the Newberry Award winning books. Criss Cross is a "coming of age" story of a group of young people in a small town. The title refers to how peoples' lives seem to criss cross and how people and new experiences are brought into our paths.

One of my favorite passages describes the choice of having new experiences in our lives:

"I think," he [Peter] said, "that it's a good thing to get out of your usual, you know, surroundings. Because you find things out about yourself that you didn't know, or you forgot. And then you go back to your regular life and you're changed, you're a little bit different because you take those new things with you. Like a Hindu, except all in one life: you sort of get reincarnated depending on what happened and what you figure out. And any one place can make you go forward, or backward, or neither, but gradually you find all your pieces, your important pieces, and they stay with you, so that you're your whole self no matter where you go. Your Buddha self. That's my theory, anyway."
Perkins, Lynne Rae. Criss Cross. (2005). New York:HarperCollins. pg.267.


"And if thou seest clear, go by this way content, without turning back: but if thou dost not see clear, stop and take the best advisers. But if any other things oppose thee, go on according to thy powers with due consideration, keeping to that which appears to be just."
Marcus Aurelius

Saturday, May 16, 2009


"Failures are divided into two classes--those who thought and never did and those who did, and never thought."
John Charles Salak

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Infidel by Ayaan HIrsi Ali

What a shocking book this one was for me. Her descriptions of life as an Islam woman go beyond anything I have ever read before. I tried to remember, as I read the book, that she was someone who left a faith and I have never run into anyone who has done that where their descriptions are not bitter nor totally fair. Reading Infidel has increased my commitment to read the Koran, myself, to see if she is accurate in what is found there, or whether her bad (extremely bad!) life's experiences so dramatically colored her objectivity. I think that this book is a must read to understand women's experience in a Muslim world. But, I am choosing to remain a bit skeptical on some of her analysis of what the Koran actually does and does not teach so far as war and peace.

Choosing to Serve

"It is not enough to be ready to go where duty calls. A man should stand around where he can hear the call"
Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, May 8, 2009

Being Other-Centered

"In vain do they talk of happiness who never subdued an impulse in obedience to a principle. He who never sacrificed a present to a future good, or a personal to a general one, can speak of happiness only as the blind speak of color."
Horace Mann

Thursday, May 7, 2009


"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
Ray Kroc


"Men do less than they ought, unless they do all that they can."
Thomas Carlyle

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble."
Helen Keller

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


"When a person fulfills his duties he is keeping a promise."
(Funk, Alan V. Choosing Ethical Excellence. Salt Lake City:Promontory Publishing Co. (2006). pg. 104)

Monday, May 4, 2009


"The prudent man always studies seriously and earnestly to understand whatever he professes to understand, and not merely to persuade other people that he understands it; and though his talents may not always be very brilliant, they are always perfectly genuine."
Adam Smith
The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Indianapolis:Liberty Fund, 1984), 213