Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Observation from a Social Experiment

Any time you bring a group of strangers together, from all walks of life, and force them to close quarters with constant interactions . . . it becomes a social experiment.

Think of Gilligan's Island, or the show Big Brother. This was what happened in Nepal. Ten of us medical providers from across the country came together. We met for the first time around an orientation dinner in Kathmandu. Then, the next day we did a tour together. After than, we lived and worked side by side for the following 16 days. We spent the days hiking up the steep mountains together, or working in the clinic. We ate every meal . . . including snacks . . . together. Even at night our individual pup tents had to be crammed side by side on the small terraces that clung precariously to the mountain side. You could hear your new found friends breath, snore, scratch and . . . unfortunately fart.

Each day you watched "alliances" form and fail. You watched romances bud . . . wavier . . . and bud again. It was interesting. One thing that I did observe (again), is how insecure we all are.

Sometimes I know that I am too critical of the farce-factor of Evangelicalism. However, those antagonistic to Christianity (as most of my American buddies in Nepal were, based on their comments) certainly don't have any less of a fraceness. It is amazing how insecure you can be . . . even after getting your PhD and MD from Harvard . . . that you have to constantly talk about (and embellish about ) your accomplishments.

So my lesson was this. When I get tired of the pretentiousness of Christians (including myself) and start to wonder, "Maybe truth is found elsewhere," I am once reminded that the honestly grass is not greener there. Like when Jesus asked Peter if he was going to leave him in John chapter 6:

66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

67"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.

68Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

I heard a Christian missionary to the Muslims once say, "When you feel tempted to become a Muslim yourself . . . then you really know Islam." I guess I really never got to know Islam then. The more I knew, and the more I hung out with Muslims in Egypt . . . the less desirous I found the religion. Talk about pretentiousness!

I've also spoken to ex-Evangelicals who have become new-agers, or actually converts to Hinduism or Buddhism. Several on our trek have new age leanings an of course we were working in a Hindu country. But again, I do not see these people living closer to honestly . . . but further from it. So, as much as Evangelical dishonesty bugs me . . . they certainly don't have a corner on the pretentiousness market

I've also had the opportunity to hang out with a lot of smart atheists. Same thing. They too tend to live dishonestly, especially when they try to put meaning into the meaningless (meaningless according to their paradigm).

So it was good living with people from the non-Christian perspective. I've always thought our youth would do better if we exposed them to all the world views from a young age . . . but let them really interact with these people. First, it would reduce the tendency for us to demonize the non-Christians. For example, I have some really nice gay friends and I'm glad they are my friends. They are wonderful people. Also it stops the pendulum from swinging to the other direction (from demonizing) thinking that the others have something better than us.

I closing an a segue to the next posting, the people that I find living most closely to the bottom floor of honestly are the word-smiths. Those who write lyrics, or prose or stories. However, in their great honesty, they often reach depressing conclusions (without the hope that is in Christ).

I've decided to surround myself with the best of the 20th century word-smiths so I'm continuing to read James Joyce and now Lenard Cohen. I want to reread Frost next.


Don said...

Thank you for those insights. I agree. Though my blog is about leaving the pretensions of the south, I found the same games being played in the west. It is a human heart issue.

As a photographer, I agree and disagree with taking pics on trips. It cannot recapture the feeling of being there. But photos still trigger the memory and help others see enough to be satistfied.

Hope you are feeling better.

Don in AZ

MJ said...

I didn't know you were a photographer. I do have some regrets that I didn't take a battery charger or second battery on my Nepal trip (for my camera). One of the docs brought a professional camera and took about 1200 shots. I just sent him a jump drive to download his photos for me.

I know what you mean about the south vs north thing. Being from the south, but marrying into the north I see the way each handles the dark secrets of families and they do it very differently.