October 31, 2007

From the air: vast deserts, as far as the eye can see, dusty hard-edged mountains, and dry, dry, dry.  On the flight over, I was reading the biography of Badshah Khan, the “Frontier Gandhi”, a Pashtan (I believe I read that 40% of Afghan people are Pashtan) who raised up history’s first nonviolent army of 100,000 men, from a culture steeped in centuries of blood feuds over violations of individual and family honor. Their vows deeply impress me: “to serve humanity in the name of God… to refrain from violence and from taking revenge… to forgive those who oppress me or treat me with cruelty… to refrain from taking part in feuds and quarrels and from creating enmity… to treat every Pashtan as my brother and friend… to refrain from antisocial customs and practices… to live a simple life, to practice virtue and to refrain from evil… to practice good manners and good behavior and not to lead a life of idleness… to devote at least two hours a day to social work.”

Reading these vows gives me more confidence that what Catherine, Jiva, and I are offering in the coming days will connect across the lines of Afghan culture and Islam. At first glance, Kabul seems similar to many cities in China I’ve seen struggling to develop the infrastructure for a modern capitalist economy from the dust of total poverty. There is the ever present dust and noise of construction and traffic, the mix of old and new traditions in dress and lifestyle, the beggars that come bearing scars of disease and violence tap tap tapping on your car window, the upwardly mobile with their fancy phones and suits, and endless small shops and restaurants lining every street. I’m surprised by the similarities and curious to dive deeper into the differences in the coming days.

Catherine wrote more about our day in her blog entry so I’ll just add a few words here about the guest house where we’re staying: blissfully quiet, green with trees and an enclosed outdoor garden, a wonderful place to recharge and reflect on our upcoming training… photos to come (being 10:00pm, it’s too dark now). I look forward to qigong and meditation in the morning tomorrow as a way to ground into my intention for being here.

Love, Jesse

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