Tag Archives: prayer

Mark Twain, prose writer and protester.

Mark Twain has been called “the Father of American Literature” and his work Huckleberry Finn the Great American Novel.

Samuel Clements was his real name. He took the name Mark Twain after his time as a riverboat captain on the Mississippi river; Mark Twain meaning deep water, of a safe place to passage.

Mark Twain is taken, on face value, as a humourist. He was the master of colloquial language. This is what brought him success as a writer.

A lot of his writing comes from his own experiences. While looking at his biography, I was amazed at how much he did during his life. Twain tells us to write what we know. It is because twain had a lot of life experience that his writing could be so diverse and plentiful.

Twain knew what it was like to be poor, he knew what it was like to have plenty…and then to lose it all again. He started life as a poor boy who had to leave school at 10 to work in the mines. He made a lot of money with his works and with his lectures and essays. Twain was a master in the newspaper and magazine world while he was still working in the area. Then he lost it all when he invested in a printing or typesetting machine that was too complex to run.

Mark Twain became outspoken in his later years and spoke greatly against Imperialism. America was going to war with Spain to make the Phillipines an American territory. Twain thought at first that America was trying to liberate the Phillipines to create a new republic with their own government. It was when he discovered that the Phillipines were not to be free but come under the power of an Imperialist American government, he penned a short prose entitled The War Prayer.

This is a dramatised version of that short story.

Mark Twain was saying to us, to think before we act or even pray. For praying for victory in battle is to pray that some fellow humans lose, not only their battle, but their lives.

Twain accomplished something that  I too wish to do with my writing. While my main mission remains the same… “to bring beauty to those who cannot see it for themselves”, I choose also to highlight the atrocities of war, of cruelty and injustice done to all people of the world, in hopes that by highlighting, people who in a position to stop the abhorrent acts committed against fellow human beings, may read my words and be persuaded to act.

Twain told us that in remaining silent, we perpetuate the lie that all is well. To ignore atrocities is to endorse them. Let us act with compassion towards our fellow humans. If we as single voices cannot cause change in the hearts of a regime who promotes injustice and inhumane acts, then we as a collective can do more by uniting our voices, in protest against those acts.  We need to make our voices public.

Twain by writing the War Prayer was voicing his disgust at the senseless violence of war. By writing Huckleberry Finn, he was using sarcasm and irony to voice his opinion about slavery. The novel is in fact about freedom. Freedom not only of the slave Tom, but freedom for Huck, from people who would bind him, cause him to conform to society and their practices.

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The Day the Earth Stood Still

Describe a moment in your life, where, like Janet or Jock, time has stopped for you and the world takes on a completely new, vivid aspect. (For readers of my blog that aren’t students in my class, Janet or Jock are from a book called Remembering Babylon by David Malouf).

The year was 1990. It was late May. I had just come back from a a short term mission trip to the Phillipines. I was serving in the poorest city on the poorest island in one of the worlds poorest nations. The people I was serving called themselves the Warai Warai people. Translated it means the Nothing Nothing people. They considered themselves worthless. They survived day after day on the rice and bananas they grew, then hens and eggs that wandered around, and the small fish that they could catch. There was one telephone in the city. You needed to book 3 days in advance if you wanted to use it, and then wait in line for 6 hours.

While there we are able to save the life of a baby with a $2 tube of ointment. I made friends with so many. We bought a fishing boat for the church, to better provide for its members. We bought a rickshaw type bicycle for a family so they could operate a taxi style service for any foreigners who might come to the village.

I came back and again started my night shift job, working with the  underage prostitutes and drug addicts of Kings Cross, attempting to find them accommodation, provide counselling, a coffee, a referral to a doctor or other service that they may need. It was raining, a quiet night on the streets.

I was sitting at my desk and started praying. “God, why am I here at this job, when I could be over in the Philippines doing so much good? Anyone can do my job here.” That’s when God decided to teach me a lesson.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. One of the regular boys was there.

“Dave, Come quick, Celia just tried to commit suicide!”

I grabbed some bandages, locked the door to the refuge with 15 sleeping people inside, and ran to help Jason with Celia. Underneath the Coke sign, on a bench seat, sat Celia with both wrists slashed and losing lots of blood. I was able to quickly wrap both her wrists and encourage her to return to the refuge with me so I could call an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, Celia panicked and started to pump her fists to encourage the blood to flow once again. She was determined to die, but we were able to calm her again, and she agreed to go with the ambulance and then later to rehab where she got the long term help she needed.

Later another boy came to the door suffering hallucinations from a drug he had taken. I was able to calm him down until the effects of the drug wore off and I put him to bed in one of our detox beds.

Still later a heroin addict was found in the back alley, having overdosed on a bad batch, I was able to revive him and call an ambulance and so save his life.

At that stage I realised what was happening. God was speaking to me. I prayed again. “Ok God, you know what you are doing. You have me in the right place, at the right time”.

I grew that night in my trust in God, and my realisation that He knows far better than I ever will about whats going on.

 

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Blake, Contraries, and the modern day.

A while ago I wrote a story about a farmer finding God. I reread it today and thought how it ties in with what we have learnt this semester about William Blake and Contraries. About black and white, good and bad. This story shows that but also shows a man seeking God on his own terms, finding God where he is, not in a church. I think the nearest church to this bloke would have been a few hundred kilometres away. Read it for yourself and see if you can see the connection. Please feel free to comment ( or peer review if you are in my lit class)

Dave

Prayer from the heart of the land

©Dave McGettigan 2 August 2011. Edited version may 2013.

 

Well God, I really don’t know how to start. I have heard of praying before but I have never done it, so I don’t know the right words to say. I will just say what’s on my mind.

I never believed in you before. You were never mentioned in my childhood home, except when dad lost on the horses, then he was heard to yell out your name.

I just got on with life here on the station. There was work to be done, so we rounded up some of the hands and did it. We rode the boundary fences, and sometimes didn’t come home for weeks if there were repairs to do.

Every once in a while, we mustered a few hundred head, and sent them off on trucks. A few weeks later, our bank account swelled so we could pay our tabs and workers, and save a bit for a not so rainy day.

The stationhands had their own ideas where we came from and how everything came into being. There was a story for everything; including how we got the space between the clouds and the Earth when Yondi pushed up the sky.

Some of the tales I found quite credible; but I always thought there was more to it.

When the droughts came, I heard other farmers over the UHF cursing you. Men would sob over the airwaves telling us how they didn’t have enough feed and the bank wouldn’t extend their credit any further. I listened while they unashamedly wept because they had to shoot cattle so emaciated that their legs wouldn’t hold them up any longer. The women would do wonders with what little food they had in the pantries; and cry when they didn’t know where the next meal was coming from.

More than once I had to tell the aboriginal workers that they were free to wander the property to search for food and water and to take care of themselves and their families as they could no longer rely on me. I would tell them they could shoot a bull or cow if they couldn’t find any other tucker. We couldn’t afford to feed the cattle anyhow. Often during these times, I would open the door to an unexpected knock, to find a slaughtered kangaroo or emu, given as a gift from a grateful farmhand.

We couldn’t go to the city. We wouldn’t survive there. We don’t know the ways of the people in the cities, and growing beef cattle is all I know.

I was thankful that the kids were in boarding school. The school offered the boys a full boarding scholarship so I didn’t have to worry that they would starve. They would also have hope and wouldn’t see the despair in my eyes. At best, with the learning, they could get work and live in the city; if the station failed and they couldn’t take over.

Then the rains came. The station flooded, but we were prepared and had dug extra dams in anticipation of promised rains. All the creeks and rivers overflowed and dams that had been empty for quite a while now broke the banks.

The stationhands returned and claimed credit for the rains stating they had been to see Uncle Bert and he calls water from the sky. There was dancing in mud puddles by all and sundry. The men all stripped to their shorts, grabbed some soap and had a welcome shower. The women dressed in summer frocks also welcomed the drop in temperature as the water began to cool everything by a couple of degrees.

The grasses grew, and trees sprouted new shoots. The birds were quick to return. Their songs once again woke me each morning and I was grateful that I had no further need for that wretched alarm clock.

I rode out to see the extent of the damage the drought, then the floods had caused. When I was a couple of miles from the homestead, I saw no living cattle. White bones were the only evidence that cattle once roamed these plains.

I realised I would have to take the chopper out to do a major muster. Then we would know exactly what financial position we were in.

We had to buy more stock from the south and with the rains, the banks would extend us credit and our accounts would swell with the rivers.

Last night I looked up at the stars. There is no possible way that they were all set in place by the ancestors of our stockhands.

I think about all the beauty in the world around me. The red earth, the green grass and the blue sky and I know there has to be someone responsible. My wife says a bloke on the telly talked about you and how even when we stuff up, you still look after us. I think that’s great. Fair Dinkum.

Well, I just wanted to say thanks God, for everything. You know, I think without the hard times, we wouldn’t know how good we got it. I reckon that when I am out on the land, fixing fences or whatever and I get a bit lonely, I can talk to you because you are always there.

So… well, see ya. Talk soon.

 

Oh yeah…Amen.

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