Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Interview

I have come to find out that there is something of a tradition of playing “games” between blogs. They sort of remind me of “ice breakers” that people used to play at parties many years ago.

Well, Sumi over at Ethnically Incorrect (I would read that blog just because of the kewlness factor of its name, let alone that she has very intelligent things to say) got hooked into an “interview game” and was looking for volunteers to interview.

Well, I figured “what the heck”, it seemed like a very unlikely thing for me to do, so I volunteered to be one of her people. So here are her questions to me and my replies. I guess that now I am supposed to make the same offer to anyone else who might liked to be interviewed. So feel free to volunteer.

The rules for this game are at the bottom of this post.

Sumi asks:

1. What is the most wondrous thing you've seen during your travels through Africa

Now that is not easy. Almost everything about Africa is wondrous. Even with all the pain, suffering and cruelty that goes on there Africa is one of the world’s most amazing places, especially Northern Tanzania.

This is the southern edge of the Serengeti, and the end of the Great Rift Valley. This is where humans first walked on this earth, our nursery, perhaps the real Garden of Eden. It often seems so when you see a flock of Hornbills land in a Jacaranda tree, or are surprised by a mother elephant and her baby walking across the road.

I don’t think I can narrow it down to just one thing, so I will give you two different, but equally wondrous things.

The first happened last year on the Prophet’s (saws) birthday.


The main street of Arusha was filled with hundreds of people who were all marching to the beat of the Daf (frame drum) making Zikr and asking that the peace of Allah be given to the Prophet (saws).

There was no political rhetoric, no messages of hate, just gratitude for the mercy of our Prophet (saws) and the Message he was given.

But even more wondrous was that there were both Sunni and Shia marching together, and there were Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs on the street and they were all smiling, some people were clapping in time with the drums and the Zikr.

At least for that day in that place there was no strife or divisiveness and no one wanting his group to hate everyone not like them.

The other wondrous thing that comes to mind is Mount Meru in the late afternoon light.


Arusha town sits at the foot of Mount Meru, and the mountain dominates the view. I always though if it as a sort of guardian watching over the area. There are a million views of the mountain, each more beautiful than the next.

2. If aliens visited you and asked about the current state of humanity, what would you tell them?

I would tell them that as a species we seem to have become trapped in a sort of collective early adolescence.

While as individuals we can sometime behave as adults, as a group we seem to exhibit all the traits of a self absorbed twelve-year old.

As a species we have not learned that our actions have consequences, that what we do effects others and there can be long term effects to what we do that will come back to haunt us.

As a species we do not treat each other as human, but as things for the most part.

I would tell them that while I had hopes that someday we would grow up and develop the traits of adults, like conscience and the ability to understand that other people have a soul and a heart, but that if they knew what was good for them they would stay away from us for a while more. We are too immature to socialize with.

3. What do you think is the goofiest thing about yourself?

Hmmmm…… That is a hard one. I guess it would be my accent.

Usually I speak with a “standard American” accent; I have worked hard to cultivate it. But my real accent is South Western, with a lot of “Reservation” thrown in. It will come out if I am excited, or angry, or very relaxed, or at some odd time. “Boy Howdy Alaykum y’all.”

4. What is the name of the "obscure martial arts" that you teach and has it helped to shape your beliefs? If so, how? I'm cheating, that's three questions, but I have to ask.

Yes you are, but that’s OK.

The art is called in general Pencak Silat (pronounced Pentjak Silat) and comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, The particular style I practice is called Silat Zulfikari (named after the sword that the Prophet (saws) gave Ali (ra). Its roots are from West Java, but it also draws from other areas.

You can read about it in depth at

It has indeed changed me. Every martial art that goes beyond the brawling stage has a spiritual component to it. That is because martial arts deal in life and death, and to confront death you need a spiritual ground. This is why you have Zen associated with Karate, and Taoism with Tai Chi Chuan.

For Silat in general to a great extent, and for the style I teach in particular, the spiritual foundation is found in Islam and expressed through Futuwwah (usually translated as “spiritual chivalry”) What I am aiming for in my martial art is to be able to just do my spiritual practice in such a way that my clumsy attacker falls and hurts himself.

5. What was your favorite story when you were a child?

That is another hard one, not because I don’t know, but because you most likely have never heard of the stories I knew growing up.

When I was a child, television was called “grandparents” and mine told me and the other kids stories every day. There was a story for just about every place around us. Stories that told us who we were and how we related to our environment.

I liked Coyote stories, and the ones about Old Man Owl because they were funny. Old Man Owl was always doing stupid things and getting himself in a jam.

I think my favorites though were about White Painted Woman. She is one of the Holy People and she is sort of a Prophet in that she taught the people how to live.

Every girl used to go through a special ceremony called the Girls Puberty Rite. It lasts for several days and the story of White Painted Woman is told through song, performance and dance.

The girl who is at the center of the ceremony acts out the story of and becomes identified with White Painted Woman. So Much so that she becomes invested with her spirit. During parts of the ceremony people will come to her and ask her to pray over them for healing.

As a child my favorite part was when the Gan, the mountain spirits, came at night and danced around the fire for us. (they were just men in masks, but a bit of something else as well).

So I guess my favorite stories were the ones that told us about White Painted Woman., and her twin sons Born of Water and Monster Slayer.

So there you have it, my interview.

Here's how you can play the interview game:
1. Leave me a comment saying "interview me." The first five commenters will be the participants.
2. I will respond by asking you five questions.
3. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. (Write your own questions or borrow some.)


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