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October 21st, 2007

02:43 am
I need to write more. I've been stumbling over words. They need to flow, elegantly, from my fingers, from my mouth. I can barely get my mind around my thoughts, but maybe if I could get words around them...

I was going to go watch Blood Diamond today but then I didn't (but now I'm watching it). Instead I checked out A Long Way Gone, memoir of a boy soldier, and started reading that. And I find what I read there easier to visualize than what I'm reading in Kavalier and Clay, what I'm reading in Parting the Waters. It's real, and while I'm certainly distant from it, I KNOW people with the same sorts of stories to tell and that makes me feel not so distant from it after all. This isn't the story of a life so incredibly different from my own - okay, it is - but not so much that I can't imagine it, visualize it, relate to it. And I think the most powerful thing of all is knowing the reality, the humanity, of the people, knowing that their reactions aren't necessarily any different than mine, yours would have been. What's his name, the psychologist, his study on obedience, certainly that's scary, realizing that any of us could harm others just because we were told to. But this is realer (more real, whatever) - this isn't a dry, controlled, scientific study. This is life, and people trying to survive and protect themselves, their families, and their belongings. And bad things happen.

And the people who do bad things are people too. Even the leaders, though I still struggle with that. What motivates their sick, twisted minds? Maybe they are truly psychopaths, even if banal psychopaths. But aren't they still people? What are their stories? How can you go from being someone's child to an evil warlord? I think of Going to St. Ives - that mother loved her son, but she was a "good" enough person that she killed him to end his reign of terror. But how did he get to be such a horror in the first place?

Maybe my problem is that I can't give up on good and evil - because I've seen things that make me feel that such is "good," it warms my heart, I feel touched, and other things that make me feel that such is "evil," horrible, cruel, grutesque, heartless, violent. But evil actions may be motivated by good intentions, and vice versa. Which matters more, morally, intent or consequences? You can't ever see the long-term consequences completely.

We cling, mentally, to simplified world orientations, as foundations upon which to interpret the world, even when our experiences refuse to be so easily, and often binarily, analyzed. So we can say that good and evil are just opposites we have imposed on the world, two sides of the same coin, while in the ultimate transcendent reality there is no difference at all. And at the same time we can say that life is good, should be affirmed, should be lived. I say so. Joseph Campbell says so. But what makes life "good"? My life, your life, a mass murderer's life? Procreation is desirable for evolution, for the perpetuation of the species - but just because it responds to a natural instinct, does that make it "good"? Or "evil"? I can say again and again that it's neither, that it's neutral, that life is not inherently anything, it is good and bad - and yet I can't give up on life. Because to do that would be to give up on my life. It's funny, but nobody listens to you when you are dead, they only listen to the more optimistic things you said when you were alive.

Blood Diamond had some good lines. For example:
Benjamin Kapanay: My heart always told me that people are inherently good. My experience suggests otherwise. But what about you, Mr. Archer? In your long career as a journalist, would you say that people are mostly good?
Danny Archer: No. I'd say they're just people.
Benjamin Kapanay: Exactly. It is what they do that makes them good or bad. A moment of love, even in a bad man, can give meaning to a life. None of us knows whose path will lead us to God.

Something to think about. Don't know when I'll ever stop thinking about it.

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June 13th, 2007

02:51 am
the adventure continues. you know where to look.

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May 13th, 2007

09:25 pm - just this
Remember those summer days, when at some point in the afternoon I would go upstairs, do a sudoku puzzle or two, and take a nap? The weather's been warm and the days have been long and my body thinks it's summer and afternoon naps are in order. If only.

My pulse has been really strong lately. I'm a little concerned, but the doctor says I'm just dehydrating. At least I know I'm alive, right?

I'm happy, for a lot of little reasons. I like what I'm doing, and my future looks meaningful. Who knew I could be so excited about a 30-page research paper. Hopefully comps will be this much fun. Basically all I do these days is either research and write about Liberia, prepare for Ghana, knit, and draw. It's almost enough. Alex was watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail earlier, which reminded me of Spamalot, and finding my grail. Right now, Liberia's my grail, and I'm focused. I'll be a little lost when I get back, but maybe I'll be inspired. We'll see what the future brings.

Apparently I'm expected to at least get a Master's degree. At least that's what my grandma expects. Who knew. Sometimes I forget that this life is not my own, but that everyone has hopes and dreams and expectations for me. I'm okay with that though. I'm enjoying academia again, this ivory tower, but I'm so excited about my current project because it will have an on-the-ground, non-research, volunteer component.

I've decided it's time for me to move on from a certain someone, because my emotional attachment is so unhealthy for me. It was like lifting a heavy cloak off my shoulders. But my life is still a lot like The Office and if I find my own bed of hot coals to walk across, maybe I'll finally get the courage to confront him about the poor current quality of our friendship. Because right now, I'm letting the friendship go along with the crush, if that's what it takes, but that's really sad to think about.

I'm starting to get close to some seniors, and the next thing I know they'll be gone. I want the next few weeks to go by as slowly as possible.

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December 1st, 2006

05:29 pm - World AIDS Day
I love this country: http://www.aidoh.dk/inthenameofgod

Excerpts from press release:
"They will bomb back sexual education and ban information on contraception that they see as an invitation to voluptuousness. In the same token the Roman Catholic church asserts that contraption is impermissible according to the biblical doctrines, so they advocate the absurd allegation that only ‘unprotected sex’ is admissible. The consequences may be disastrous for the proliferation of AIDS an STD’s and so the result will be increased suffering"

"It is important for the church to join this art manifestation to emphasize that the Bible should not be used to preach against contraception, but on the contrary churches everywhere should join the efforts to combat the proliferation of HIV and display compassion and solidarity with those infected and their families."
Current Location: København, Danmark

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August 31st, 2006

12:44 am
for further adventures in denmark, check out http://arielae.blogspot.com

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August 29th, 2006

10:47 pm - new rules, new letters, and the other end of the alphabet
Having finally learned a bit of Danish (Jeg er i Danmark. Jeg bor hos en familie. Jeg hedder Ariel.), I'm really interested in the phonetics of the language, because they are SO different from English. I though I was pretty on top of all the "a" vowel sounds, but boy was I wrong. Practice makes perfect though, so who knows how many things I'll be able to easily pronounce by the time I leave. The Danish letter Å, which comes after Z and makes an O sound, is creating some problems for me, because it's often typed out as "aa." So instead of being first in alphabetical order, I have all but once been last. Of course, when we line up for things in different alphabetical sections, like today for textbooks, the alphabet only goes to Z. But instead of being in the A-G line, I was supposed to be in the R-Z line. Thanks a lot Denmark. I'm getting married and changing my name before I come back here. I like knowing for certain where to find myself. Or maybe I'll just join the one A Aronsons. But then I wouldn't be first alphabetically anymore. Oh the tragedy.

Everyone keeps telling us that the Danes are often perceived as rude because they don't have a word for "please." I'm kind of disgusted by the emphasis the people who perceive the Danes as such put on that simple little word. Of course the way something is said says more about politeness than the words themselves. Everything I hear about Danish manners and such I like (except their punctuality). They're sarcastic but also really honest and straightforward. So much more genuine. In America, people throw words around too much. Words like please, people don't mean them when they use them. It's just habit and "good manners" and a way of pleading.

The Danes keep to themselves, but I feel comfortable smiling to people I pass in the street. They give off much more welcoming vibes than the New Yorkers I see on the train and subway. I don't know yet how much of København I could walk around in a day, but at least the parts I've explored so far just feel small and cozy. Even though I can't read any of the signs, I'm not overwhelmed.

Unlike Star Island, where nude sunbathing is explicitly forbidden, in Copenhagen it is legal in the parks and on the beaches. I've been doing a lot of Star Island/Copenhagen comparisons, even though they're really not at all alike. For example, at DIS, you can only smoke outside by ashtrays. And the facilities manager has to clean them up, instead of me doing it (imagine Skip Holt emptying butt cans). It's nice to have Laura here to talk about Star Island with. I was wearing my Star sweatshirt when I got here, and another DIS student asked me if I knew Zach Bouricius and Tom McCarran. Small world. And Laura met a friend of Amber's and a friend of Bethy's today. It really is just impossible to escape that place. And I like that. It's nice to live in a place where I can sunbathe topless without having to worry about the politics involved. Not that I would, but it's a matter of principle. The Danes are the happiest people in the world, and Pelicans would be a lot happier if they were left alone to sunbathe at Lovers without having to worry about getting in trouble. That kind of thing is SO good for developing positive body image and comfort with one's body.

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August 28th, 2006

11:04 pm - where the minimum wage (for 18+) is 93 kr
Well, I'm kind of overwhelmed by all the DIS activities that have me meeting many American students my age who I may never see again, but I'm really liking my host family. Tonight Siv's best friend came over for dinner. At the meal we all talked about minimum wage and some Danish political issues and youth drinking and racism in Denmark. These are the kinds of things I want to hear about. So I'm tired, but it's great. We had a bus tour of Copenhagen today, which was nice, I saw some of the important sites, like the little mermaid. But afterwards I took a "scenic" route back to the train station from DIS and walked down some pretty happening blocks which gave me a better sense of the city. I really like it. And I got a complimentary chocolate with my coffee. I love people who love chocolate as much as I do. I'm trying to get a sense of the value of kroner. Until then, I'm probably paying way too much for everything. But that's what I get for studying in one of the world's most expensive cities (and the happiest- I wonder what that says about money).
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted

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April 12th, 2006

07:19 pm - ?בריק אתה
There were times in my life when I could reconcile "God" with my personal concept of the divine. But theology makes me angry, the way it quotes the Bible or emphasizes Christian imagery in a way that relates an otherwise good notion of faith with Christianity. I hate the word God, and any sense of it that is personified. I think there's something to the Jewish notion of not being able to name God. The next religion class I take (and there will be more, even though I'm a history major) will be about Judaism and Jewish theology. Christian theologians drive me crazy.

Anyway, reading theology may help to understand the concept of faith, intellectually and even spiritually. But it's not a lived experience, and that's what I'm lacking. Especially now, when for the first time in my life I am going without a seder. I'm wishing now that I went to the school one tonight, but I chose not to because I was looking for something more intimate. There were some kids having their own seder at a picnic table in the mini bald spot tonight. It was cute. I wish my friends were more Jewish. I have a haggadah, I have a seder plate, I even have matzo ball soup mix.

I wish passover fell on a weekend this year, like it did last year. Then I could go to Florida and celebrate with the rest of my Jewish family. And Gabe is old enough now to be the youngest. And I would be an adult, celebrating my favorite family tradition with my family. Instead, I get to dance and go to a meeting and read a story about a baptism and read about England in the 1920s. And if I have time, make some soup, and eat it without ceremony or wine.

If I've broken any sacrament it is this: this night will be no different from any other night. And now I am set adrift. Another cord cut. What is trust in a value-center without commitment to a cause? I already chose not to commit to religion, because my interest is too personal, of trying to understand my own faith. History interests me, in the hope that I can use it to help the future. Theology is too much theory and not enough real world application. I'll develop my own UU humanist theology at some point in life. Until then, I'll enjoy the sunny weather and maybe some good soup.
Current Music: birds!

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March 25th, 2006

11:10 pm - y'all come back now, y'hear?
My key card doesn't work so I'm scared to leave Evans in case I can't get back in, plus I can't get into other dorms. We got back just after 8, so by the time I discovered my card didn't work, Res Life was closed. It's depressing, alone in my room. I could clean the room or do my laundry but neither is appealing. And I didn't get to see Anna in Chicago because we left early, which I was fine with because that kind of thing seems to happen to us all the time, but it's frustrating and sad and is just making me more depressed right now. Oh well, ten and a half more weeks. Only that long left in this state in 2006, too.

But I'm not writing because I'm sad. I'm writing because my Mississippi Habitat experience raised some thoughts I'd like to flesh out and discuss about religion and leadership. To me, the two have always been intrinsically connected, but here they're two separate tracts, that will probably come back together in their application to my life.

I think the peer leadership dynamic of the Habitat trips is kind of awkward. And I was somewhat privately critical of my leaders, even though they did a good job. But it was hard knowing when I could and should take on leadership, and when I should just let them lead. I couldn't become an RA based on how I would do things better than my freshman RAs, and I can't become a Habitat leader by explaining in my application what I would do better than my leaders. Those points have to be expressed without being negative. Obviously, that which I am critical of in others I should work not to do myself, but when is it appropriate to be forthright in my critique? That's hard to know. I know I am not the leader I wish I were. I don't have perfect leadership intuition, and I have never been comfortable leading on my own. Sometimes when I assert myself, I'm wrong. And because of that, I don't trust myself in leadership when the path isn't clear. So now, the goal is to hone my intuition and become more comfortable with leading--especially when the people I'm leading aren't assertive enough. How do I inspire? How do I do the Ella Baker style grassroots organizing I dream of?
For now I'll just keep dreaming.

These Christian girls in my vans were talking about the different Northfield churches they've visited and Carleton Christian programs they're involved with or tried out. In the end though, they both strongly agreed that they missed having a church community. I agreed with them completely, and the feeling only got stronger as I talked with nice old churchfolk in Mississippi. I'm half-tempted to go to church on Sundays even if it is at 10 am and the minister is, from what I hear, more political than what I'm looking for. He won't be here for the chapel UU service, don't know if that's better or worse.
The Jesus billboards in Missouri and elsewhere just made me laugh; the daily devotionals before work each day were fine, though the one minister taking all our names and hometowns to pray for us individually made me somewhat uncomfortable. I don't want to be prayed for, least of all by strangers. It's a waste of spiritual energy. Conversation and food are enough for me, especially from the welcoming Southerners, even if the idea of a vegetarian is foreign to them. At the Episcopal church, they invited us to a concert they were holding downstairs after our barbecue dinner with a Christian folksinger. He was good, got us all to sing along, and even if some of the Jesus stuff made me uncomfortable, it was really relaxing and fun and I'm glad we stayed. I like being with people who enjoy singing along to corny folksongs.
I'm still becoming more and more of an atheist everyday (though still afraid to commit), but that doesn't mean I don't need religion.

The kind of homesick I was this week was not in vain, at least. But even though I'm going to try to do like the singer told us and put a little love in my heart, there are still a lot of holes.

More later, perhaps.
Current Music: Johnny Cash

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January 27th, 2006

09:55 pm - spring in minnesota
It's line I'm balancing on the line between extreme bliss and deep depression, and afraid to move at all. I'm afraid of falling, but I also fear contentment. Because I'm afraid that if I don't need my friends, I'll lose them. Last night before I went to bed I became energized with happiness and peace. I had a productive day, and somehow that made everything better. This morning I awoke from a deep deep sleep, feeling tired but still filled with that same contentment. There was a spring in my step, I felt festive and cheerful. I had been having a dream about Pelicans. The weather is fucking with me, absolutely beautiful. For March. But unacceptable for January in Minnesota. So do I enjoy it, for how can I not, or do I wish it was cold and snowy and I could go traying and skiing and skating? So I've been happy most of today, and part of me still is, and can so easily access that place of peace. But I'm alone and lonely with nothing appealing to do in the absence of my roommates. It's weird how, after spending my whole life as an only child with my own room, I've become so dependent on my roommates. To keep me going. I used to feel fine about going out on my own, but now, with social groups settled and whatnot, I need a friend. I want to hang out with friends, talking, playing games, drinking. Not dance parties and loud crazy things. Not movies or shows. Just good company. But I'm not sure where to find what I want tonight.

In other news, AFAC's taught me something. The ideal solution is never possible. Principles have to be compromised, and the best solution is the one that does the least damage. It's a sad state of affairs, and I'm not sure where to go from there. The system of the world isn't going to be overturned. The ideal can never be achieved. But we still stick to our values, and hope things work out as perfectly as possible. And there's something really heartwarming about that, about being somewhere that does that, even if that only puts off the problem for a couple more years.

And so, here I am, faced with fear and challenge and desire. I have to do something with my night, because if I do nothing I'll fall. There's something in the air tonight, and it may be opportunity.
Current Mood: okAY

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