Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Shared Spirit

Today I was catching up on reading my friends' blogs, and I came across an incredible story that needs to be shared. I'll paste the beginning of the interview (done by my friend Andrew Kooman) here, and if you want to read the rest, follow the link at the bottom of this post to get to his blog site.

Amanda Lindhout: A Global Vision

Amanda LindhoutRed Deer native Amanda Lindhout was working as a freelance journalist in Somalia in August of 2008 working on a story about refugees when she was kidnapped with  Australian photojournalist and colleague Nigel Brennan by a band of young Somali gunmen. During her 458 day captivity she was tortured and abused, often left in chains in a small dark room.
Like thousands of others worldwide who prayed for the release of Amanda and Nigel, I followed the story and held my breath.  Amanda, with Nigel, was released in November 2009  and returned home to Canada after 15 months in captivity.  It was a time of darkness difficult to imagine, and yet what is perhaps more remarkable than the fact that she survived the terrible ordeal, is the grace and vision with which she now lives.
Since her release, Amanda has launched The Global Enrichment Foundation which seeks to build stronger communities, cultivate leadership and promote peace through education in even the most poverty-stricken and violent of countries.  The Foundation’s first initiative is the Somali Women’s Scholarship Program (SWSP).
It was my privilege to help Amanda put together a site for the Foundation, and to conduct the following interview, which took place via email, amidst her busy schedule.
Andrew Kooman: I’ve heard you talk about forgiveness, and that though not an easy thing or a straightforward path, that you’ve forgiven your captors. How essential has forgiving these Somali men been in your process of returning to normal life in the days since your release?
Amanda Lindhout: Forgiving the teenagers who took away my freedom for almost a year and half was essential to surviving my time in captivity. On a daily basis, while still a hostage, I set aside ‘gratitude time’ each evening where I would reflect on any moments of goodness I had seen in my captors. This helped me to remember that all human beings are essentially good, even if they are choosing to act in disharmony with that. Despite the abuse I endured constantly, I never doubted that those boys had inside of them the same spirit that I have, which is what all of humanity shares and which connects us.
AK: Your experience, from what I’ve heard and understand of it, seems unimaginable to me. You seem so resilient and strong. What was your survival strategy; how did you endure those long 15 months?
AL: I survived those long months in captivity by staying absolutely focused on the joy that can be found inside oneself. When you are locked up alone and shackled in a dark room, you realize that happiness doesn’t stem from external circumstances, and that despite whatever painful, difficult experiences you may be going through, you always have the power to transcend it by connecting to the source of peace which is within all of us.....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blinded by Ink Blots

This morning, before the weather later took a turn for the worst, I took advantage of the quiet sunshine to go for a ride around a lake near my neighborhood here in Thunder Bay.  My backback held a bottle of water, a book, a journal, and my favorite inky pen. The spot built into my bike frame normally reserved for my water bottle held my travel mug....filled, of course, with delicious fresh dark coffee.

After a tour around the lake, and after exploring some surrounding neighborhoods I had not yet seen, I set up camp at an empty picnic table, did some morning calisthenics, sucked back my entire water bottle, then got to the warm-down routine. Coffee and reading. Mmmmmmmm. Perfect.

I wanted to share a bit of what I was reading this morning, because I was a good moment digesting it this morning....which usually means that it's the kind of thing that is good to be shared with other people.

George A Buttrick writes:
'' A lecturer to a group of businessmen displayed a sheet of white paper on which was one blot. He asked what they saw. All answered: a blot. The test was unfair: it invited the wrong answer. Nevertheless, there is an ingratitude in human nature by which we notice the black disfigurement and forget the widespread mercy. We need to deliberately call to mind the joys of our journey.'' 

I think that we are not naturally optimists. But I also think that many of us, if not most...if not all... wish, however subconsciously, that we were. Sometimes a certain level of deliberateness is required to overcome our ungratefulness, to see through the lies we have come to believe about ourselves and our neighbours, to escape the trap of lazy thought and thoughtless order to see the paper through the blot. Something like seeing the forest for the trees.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

North Easterly.

I debated the future of this blog.

I know many faithful followers have expressed their disappointment over the last 2 months of lightweight blogging. And as I have just travelled across Canada, I discovered that far more of you were following my blog than I would have imagined. So I have a hard time letting it go.

The problem I have is with the expectation of context that comes with this blog's short history, and more evidently, in the blog title itself.... 'Northern Exposure'. It was a blog started for a number of reasons, all of them having to do with my adventurous hiatus in the North. It was a reason for me to keep up the discipline of writing, having public accountability. It was a project to keep me motivated to write while I (for once) actually had the time to do so, living so far from my regular life and lifestyle. It was a way of keeping friends and family informed on what was going on in my life. It was a way to keep people in touch with a part of the country they feel connected to in terms of cultural and national identity, but disconnected from in terms of actual knowledge.

So, having moved away from the Northwest Territories, I feel a bit weird about where to go with it now. I feel like a fraud keeping the title. I had my saturday morning rituals, I had my interesting northern tidbits complimented by random thoughts and perspectives...but they were somehow all connected to the North, or, at the very least, my northern experience. So the title of my blog is distracting me from moving forward.


To most Canadians, I AM in the north! If I were to ask the bulk of the Ontarian population their opinion on the matter, they'd heartily agree that Thunder Bay qualifies as Northern Canada. Heck, they probably all assume it's north of 60 anyway. This from a group of people who think Barrie is the far north. (sorry, Torontonians - you don't have the best reputation as being the most geographically aware...but we are endeared to you for it).

So without further ado, I will continue my relationship with Northern Exposure. But I want you all to hit the reset button on your expectations, because there are no rules, and I don't want to to have to change my blog name and theme every time I move. Those of you who know me and my vagabond-y-ness well will understand why. I'll blog about whatever comes up, be it Northern (or not), Canadian (or not), or Exposure or...mmm, let's hope it's not the latter. Though could make for some saucy saturday mornings.

For now, I continue to justify the blog title by seeing the world through Torontonian eyes. Come september, I'm back to the drawing board. Thoughts?

Cheers friends.