Monday, 14 July 2008

How Big is Your World?

This is a question that I have often thought about, perhaps because I have done so much traveling in Third World countries. It came to my mind again yesterday as I finished reading “The Bookseller of Kabul”, which I recommend by the way.

When I was in McLeod Ganj teaching English to the monks, yes there are Tibetan monks about who speak English with a Scottish brogue – don’t you love it? – I was astounded by their lack of knowledge in the area of science, specifically cosmology. Because I have an affinity for physics and cosmology I use words from those disciplines for examples, which ended always with a long and convoluted explanation about space, the planetary system, etc. AS in the Madrassas (Islamic seminaries) the education of Buddhist monks is concentrated on religious text (but we leave out the “we are right and everyone else is wrong” diatribe). Most of the monks enter the Temple at the ages of eight or nine and that is their formal education. But consider this, where their knowledge of the physical world is limited, their familiarity with the spiritual world exceeds mine by far. The abilities of some of the older monks are astounding – the ability to control their body functions up to and including their deaths, the ability to penetrate and travel in spiritual realms that I have only read about.

What about a young woman in Kabul? The Taliban prevented the education of an entire generation of women and subjugated them. Even though the Taliban is gone, the mindset of many of these women prevents them from moving beyond the barriers that were imposed. They are for the most part, illiterate. They have never traveled outside their village or town; some of them have never left their father’s house. In Khost on the Afghan-Pakistan border the law of purah reigns, the total segregation of men and women. The town appears to be devoid of women as they are rarely allowed out. They move from their father’s house, after an arranged marriage in which they have no say, into the house of their husband. How big is their world? What they know of the outside world is what they learn from the men in their homes. Men who get their knowledge from the state television, the Mosque, and if (a big one) they can read, whatever state approved or smuggled in papers and books they design to take in. They know nothing of science, literature, world politics, the intricacies of economy, and the variety of cultures in the world.

The young boy in Rabat who has to work because the father is dead. He left school after only a very few years and now must toil from dawn to dusk to put enough food on the table for his family. He goes to the Mosque, listens to the older men who lounge in the coffee shops, and watches a great deal of television which in large percentage consist of the reruns of really bad American serials. He sees the wealthy tourists come through the Medina, and the rich Moroccans in their mansions in Soussi but knows he has no chance of ever living that life. There is no government program to feed his family while he goes to school in order to improve his lot.

It is not only the Third World is it? What about the children in the American ghettos? They see Hollywood’s version of life in the movies and on television, but does that help them make a life. Is there anyone there to tell them how essential an education is? Anyone to encourage them and support them? Violence, drugs, and the pressure of various gangs surround them. How big is their world?

This line of thought always makes me monumentally grateful for the education and worldview that I had as a child and young woman. Knowledge in my world was revered, any knowledge, all knowledge. Even though my talents lie more in the sector of Political Science and literature, I have a continuing thirst for physics and cosmology and I try to keep up with all the modern discoveries. And the other world, the spiritual world is one I continue to explore and strive to make my way on the Path.

So, that’s what I was thinking about. What do you think?

Here is an excerpt from “The Valley of the Kasbahs” for everyone

Here is an excerpt for everyone BUT JMB and Q.



jmb said...

I found Bookseller of Kabul one of the most depressing books I have ever read. Not only were the women totally oppressed by the patriarch but so were the men. Will that feudal system ever end?

I'm just passing through and will be back to read both excerpts as I'm sure you knew. I had reddish hair once too you know.

jenny said...

Oh my! Oh mercy me! Oh my giddy aunt!!!!!

I will be first in line to buy that book! Where's the fan? It's getting toasty in here! Whoo!

You certainly have a way wih words and those steamy sex scenes come alive!

I've missed you. and I come around from time to time and you don't know how pleased I was to see you leaving a comment on my post. We have been busy, oh yes, and loving baby Peter (but don't tell anyone else the name!). Any more excerpts?? Or do I have to wait for the book? Augh!! :o)

I Beatrice said...

Just for the moment I have no words - except: SHOCK AND AWE perhaps?

I haven't got my head around any of it properly yet. There's a powerful book in there though, that much is clear. Two or more books perhaps? I hardly know. As I said, you took me completely off guard - and until I get my breath back (and my head around it), I won't be capable of uttering a single sensible word ...

I Beatrice said...

I haven't read "The Bookseller of Kabul", but was profoundly moved by "A Thousand Splendid Suns"; along somehwhat the same lines, I think?

One observation from the latter book..... that, under the Soviet occupation, there was "never a better time to be a woman in Afghanistan"..

Now, who would ever have expected to hear anyone saying that? Much less an Afghani father to his young daughter. Apparently they had their freedom then, though. Until the Talban arrived, promising glorious freedom from tyranny - delivering quite the reverse!

Truly, it makes me feel very spoilt and fatuous in my little comfort zone of England!

I Beatrice said...

My first comment relates to your book excerpts - I should perhaps have placed it there?

Sorry - I was temporarily quite shell-shocked!

sally in norfolk said...

welcome home... :-)

aims said...

Oh! I see everyone is commenting over here instead of at the post. Ah well - I left my messages right under the excerpts. I'm sure you'll find them!

I can see IBeatrice WAS quite shell-shocked! Teehee!

lady macleod said...


I agree about the depressing, but very informative I thought. Certainly rang true with what I know from traveling in the region.
Hey, from the moment I opened the door of my hotel room I knew. It takes a redhead to know one!
Thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

I was sitting in Le Grand Comptoir when I read your comment. I began to laugh and clap my hands and my smile was so big that three of the waiters just had to see what was so wonderful!What a great review. Thank you. You get some credit you know, it was your idea to turn it into a story..

I think a few more excerpts before the end of August - but you still must buy the book! and all your friends, please.

Thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

i beatrice

"shock and awe" eh? I like that!
"A thousand splendid suns" is on my bedside table now. We are indeed blessed to be women in the west.
Thank you for coming by, and I will look forward to your further comments on the excerpts.

lady macleod said...


Thank you love, and thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

Find it I did you sweetheart you! thank you for coming by.