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Paul Banks
Paul Banks

Living Future Pull: A Spiritual Memoir Rosalie Deer Heart [PATCHED]

BLIXEN, Karen (1954) Out of Africa. London: Penguin. 330 pp.Karen Blixen (1885-1962; also known as Isak Dinesen, and other pen names) gave a dispassionate account in her chapter "Karomenya" (pp. 264-266) of a "deaf and dumb" boy, nine years old, who lived on her farm near Nairobi in the 1920s. Karomenya was strong, a skilled stone-thrower and an eager fighter with the other children. Blixen gave him opportunities to be useful in kitchen or house, but the boy was hardly adaptable to such tasks, and the Danish lady was willing to let him be himself - though she foresaw that he would have a hard time when he grew to be a young man. "The deepest impression I made on Karomenya was when I gave him a whistle" - and showed him how to call in the dogs with it, a process the deaf child found extremely puzzling. Another problematic child, mentioned briefly was Sirunga, whose vitality was "like nothing quite human: a small flame, a nightbird, a diminutive genie of the farm. But he had epilepsy, and, because of that, the other children were afraid of him, chasing him away from their games and naming him Sheitani - the devil - so that I had adopted him into my household." (119-120, 329) A further vulnerable person to whom Blixen gave shelter was Old Knudsen, an elderly blind Danish man, "all broken by the hardships of life, and by disease and drink, bent and crooked" (57), but still driven by some irascible spirit, and good for joking with in Danish (56-61).--- A still odder case than these, to whom Blixen devoted more of her remarkable powers of observation and description, was the "small Kikuyu boy" Kamante (pp. 29-45; also incidentally pp. 52-56, 76-77, 147-148, 150, 195, 325), whose strangely patterned early behaviour might earn him an 'autism spectrum' label from some psychiatrists; but others would attribute it to physical damage and neglect during early childhood, plus cultural norms of the Kikuyu people. Blixen noticed him herding goats, and spoke to him: "His head was big and his body terribly small and thin, the elbows and knees stood out like knots on a stick and both legs were covered with deep running sores from the thigh to the heel. ... he did not answer, and hardly appeared to see me. In his flat, angular, harassed and infinitely patient face, the eyes were without glance, dim like the eyes of a dead person. He looked as if he could not have more than a few weeks to live" (29). Blixen tried her "first aid"-level health care on this child, whose utter isolation and resignation to pain and suffering disturbed her. "I could make him answer when I questioned him, but he never volunteered a word and never looked at me."* (32) Finally she took him to the Scottish Mission hospital, though she disliked the regimented beliefs of the Scots. In three months, they had repaired the sores on Kamante's legs; but hardly those on his mind or soul. "He was never quite right in his head, or at least he was always what, in a white person, you would have called highly eccentric." (37) This queer lad became Blixen's dog manager and interpreter -- "he identified himself with the dogs, and would come and communicate to me what they wished, or missed, or generally thought about things" - and then he turned out to be a handy assistant in her elementary medical practice. (40) Eventually Kamante became her cook, employing great "manual adroitness" and access to unexpected ingredients, though it seems that he found European menus and dishes ridiculous, tasteless and ill-conceived (42-43). Occasionally, Blixen would hear something from Kamante that would illuminate the strange, twelve-year-long relationship between them (33, 39, 44-45). Years later, KAMANTE (see below) would give his own stories of life with Barance Baroness Blixen.--- *[In many parts of Africa and other continents, children are trained not to "look directly at" adults, especially elderly ones, as to do so is rude. A direct look is a challenge. The correct attitude towards the senior is to cast one's eyes down in submission. The child is also not expected to volunteer remarks, but should respond only if questioned.]--- To people of conventional belief, Karen Blixen could hardly be considered a Christian 'in good standing'. She was steeped in Unitarian doctrine, and found dogma such as the 'Trinity' incomprehensible (pp. 213-215). She got divorced from her husband, had love affairs; and blamed her husband for her many years suffering from syphilis. She described the activities of some churchmen and missionaries and scientists as a serious blight on Africa (e.g. 264, 292-293), though others she considered harmless (e.g 52-56). Blixen studied other religions, and saw merit in the beliefs and behaviour of some of their adherents. Yet a reading of 'Out of Africa' makes it abundantly clear that Blixen was a deeply spiritual person, whose soul turned toward the deity at any moment, seeing a reflection of God in a bird, a cloud, a Kikuyu child, a dog, a kindly action, a thoughtful word, a vertical line of grass burning. She gave loving attention to the sick and injured, bound up their wounds, and some of them experienced healing from this practice alone. If they needed skilled medical attention she would take them to hospital. Inspired by reflection on the spirituality of educated and uneducated Africans (e.g. 27), she wrote of God in ways that are uncommon among professional theologians. It is unusual to value 'pride' - but Blixen probably influenced by Ibsen and Nietzsche* wrote "Pride is faith in the idea that God had, when he made us. A proud man is conscious of the idea, and aspires to realize it. He does not strive towards a happiness, or comfort, which may be irrelevant to God's idea of him. His success is the idea of God, successfully carried through..." (224; cf pp. 110, 204). The argument from giraffes, for God's being, is one that Aquinas must have missed in his systematic theology (260-261).--- She appreciated some of the wisdom of Islam (103-104, 162-163), and tested it in practice: on safari with her Muslim servants, if she shot an animal the servants would rush to cut its throat 'in the name of Allah' before it died, so they could legitimately eat it. If it was already dead, they could not eat -- she would have to shoot another, or the servants would starve. Blixen found a teacher of Islam, young but having some wisdom, and asked if he could pronounce a dispensation. He chewed on the issue and gave judgement: the lady was Christian, and when she fired her rifle she would say in her heart: "In the name of God". That would "make her bullet equivalent to the knife of the orthodox Mohammedan. For the length of time of this journey, you can eat the meat of the animals that she shoots." (54)--- *[Blixen's thinking has been tracked assiduously by Judith Thurman (1982) Isak Dinesen, The Life of a Storyteller, New York: St. Martin's Press, who gives little space, however, to the theological insights of living in Africa. Late in life, Blixen was said to be hot favourite for the Nobel prize for literature, which indeed came to Africa, but to Albert Camus (Thurman, 447).]

Living Future Pull: A Spiritual Memoir Rosalie Deer Heart

CALLAWAY, Godfrey [1924 / 1926] The Fellowship of the Veld. Sketches of Native Life in South Africa. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. ix + 114, with illustrations.In the Spring 1924, the Rev. Callaway wrote his preface, saying that the collected materials "have been written from time to time during the last fifteen years" (presumably from ca. 1908-1923) and had already been published in the Cowley Evangelist or other missionary magazines (p. v). The Bishop of Zululand, in a highly appreciative Preface, remarked on Callaway representing "the true Missionary spirit: not the ability merely to maintain discipline, valuable as that is: nor sentimental affection for the black people; but such a tender and wise attitude as the priest and pastor, and others too, should have for those whom they know and among whom their life is spent: not showing them as anthropologically interesting or successful subjects of evangelistic experiment, but as fellow-members of the Christian family, sharers in the Sacrament of Holy Fellowship, inheritors of the same Kingdom, fellow-labourers in the same cause..." (p. iii). Callaway used items of his own work that underlined a cluster of real-life experience around several kinds of 'human fellowship' which he experienced and knew in a deeper way after living for years with the Xhosa-speaking people in the Transkei.--- Chapter II is on "Wealth" (Indyebo). He remarks that "In our part of South Africa there are few marks of private ownership of land. There is a happy sense of [Greek:] koinOnia (commonwealth). There are no fences or walls or hedges." (16) Chapter III is on "Humanity (Ubuntu)" -- offering a range of illustrations. Callaway quotes "our excellent Xosa dictionary" [may have been J.W. Colenso, 1905, Zulu-English Dictionary (?)] which for Ubuntu gives 'human nature or quality, humanity, kindness, manliness, manhood.' "Then comes a stroke of genius ... as if the compilers had been struggling to express a further and fuller shade of meaning and they go on to tell us what ubuntu is by describing the man who has lost it. Such a man is said to be "a common creature, worthless, contemptible; one who has thrown away the dignity of human nature." (22) Callaway then writes about respect for others, and perceiving ubuntu in others: "A man is a person (umntu) and ought to be encouraged to realise the dignity of human nature. A man cannot despise another without harming himself, without doing despite to the human nature possessed in common with all other men. The complaint of the Native is just this, that the attitude of the white man towards himself denies his own ubuntu. The white man - so thinks the Native - does not respect ubuntu, human nature itself shared by all ... the white man's attitude implies contempt for the ubuntu of a whole people, and by that attitude he is condemning himself." (23) After discussing the misfit between the disrespect of many whites for Natives, and the recorded teaching of Jesus, Callaway reaches a profound conclusion: "Ubuntu is really nothing else than the image of God stamped upon man, and by failing to respect that image we fail to respect God." (25) He then expands, to ubuntu as 'kindness', which Callaway "would be inclined to call neighbourliness. To the Native the qualities which go to make up ubuntu ... are largely social. One would expect to find this in a people so corporate in outlook. The one essential law, the fulfilment and the crown of all the other laws governing Native life is that a man should be a neighbour." (215) Some pages of examples are given. (The author acknowledges that both the native and European races often fall short in 'loving their neighbour as themselves' (29-30). The gospel vision of Father Callaway is that "a new ubuntu" is now offered to men and women, by the spirit of God working in the hearts of all, regardless of race, education or culture; and in the Church none should think themselves better than others, because "we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." (31)--- The corporateness of outlook reappears in other chapters and illustrations. The 'extended family', for which the plural noun amaziko is used, indicates 'those who are near the hearth', and this goes back into humankind's early memories of ancestors cooking and eating around one hearth (37-40). One outcome is that there are no orphans needing care in an orphanage - the extended family would offer shelter and food to any such (59). Callaway was also well aware that visitors sometimes idealise "the life of the primitive African" and wonder why it should be "disturbed by the intruding voice of the missionary"! (60) - he had his response to this, partly in a sober chapter on the witch-doctor and the sorcerer (53-56). He provides stories of individual lives, noble actions, illnesses and grief, and how they fit within local patterns of "koinOnia - fellowship - brotherhood." (73)--- Some disabled people are there, such as "the blind preacher, Bango", whose performance of Morning Worship (with six hymns for the congregation, plus the entire Litany sung by Bango from memory) was very much livelier, lengthier and participative than the priest expected (98-101). Bango reappears to request leave "to go and reap my land." This sounds odd: "reaping requires sight"; but Bango intends to sit "where the cobs which are plucked are thrown into a heap", to strip off the leaves (111). Ciliwe, the child from a standard native home, educated in mission school, baptised and confirmed, clearly had a future as a teacher or nurse. Then she fell ill and eventually was found to have leprosy, and was now "cut off from home, from school, from close companionship with friends, from marriage" (102-105). Another woman, disabled by chronic illness, was Ellen Mhlahlela. Being a patient, she made herself useful as a voluntary interpreter at St Lucy's Hospital, in early days when the foreign staff knew little of local language. "Ellen was not merely an interpreter, she was a friend - a friend of the nurses and a friend of the patients. She did not merely translate language - English into Xosa, and Xosa into English; she interpreted friendship, and became a very real link between the nurses and the patients." (106-109)


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