Monday, June 28, 2010


Nor wild romance, nor pride allured me here

Duty and Destiny with equal voice

sustained my steps: I had no other choice.

Something for Africa to do or say...


After a week of “bunking” (as my bishop laughingly called it), I'm ready to get back to work. This past week, and really the last two, have not been so effective for my project. Indeed, I have not moved forward much at all. The experiences I've had were enjoyable, certainly, but now I need to be more effective. I loved going to a World Cup match, and thoroughly enjoyed the Grahamstown Arts Festival, but those things really aren't why I am here.

For the past few months, I've struggled with enthusiasm. I remember with fondness the electric fire I felt for what I was doing as I prepared for a mission, and seek the same degree of energy in my life now. These past two semesters, though very busy, were really a time of cooling; the engine of my heart has slowed considerably. My passion has ebbed.

Part of that has been due to a lack of direction. Like a ship without a course is blown all about, it is difficult to make headway without clear goals. This journey has been plagued by that problem - where am I going in Africa? Why, really, am I here?

Problems are so much harder when they are undefined. Confusion is perhaps the worst of foes; when the conflict is clear, although the battle may still be incredibly difficult, it is possible to succeed. When the enemy is unknown, it is difficult to make headway, or, having made it, to know that one has advanced. Divine inspiration circumvents these problems, of course, but it seems that much of the time we are given to struggle a bit for ourselves in order to grow.

Mathematics provides a decent metaphor. Easier problems are spelled out in symbols; more difficult problems are described ambiguously in words.

And so I think on Prometheus, Fire-bringer. Prometheus' great service to mankind (in most of the myths about him) was that he brought fire. Light and heat. In my clumsy attempt at a metaphorical treatment here, light is clarity: Prometheus brings the ability to define problems, to see things as they are, and (abstractly) to see things as they can be. In this way, Prometheus brings hope. The earliest story of Prometheus actually links Prometheus and Pandora. Prometheus' gift inspires the gods to send Pandora's box, containing both ills and hope. Clarity and hope: Vision.

Fire is also a source of heat. Perhaps the most common metaphor is the link between fire and passion; given fuel, fire turns potential into energy. Our whole world is based on this idea: fossil-fuels consumed in controlled bursts of explosive fire provide the force, the motion, the drive, the energy of our lives. I'm not speaking about sex; that's one use of energy, but certainly not the only type of passion. And in most cases, it is fire that unlocks the potential. Interestingly, man doesn't have this ability in himself; he receives it from the gods. From Prometheus. Fire-bringer. Bringer of Vision and Passion.

And so what is the modern Prometheus? From where does modern fire come? This is not only an abstract question: “Where do I go to become passionate about what I do?” In the later Promethean myths, Prometheus is the go-between, the advocate of man with the gods, the one that brings gifts from the gods to man (for the moment, we can ignore the context of Prometheus' gifts). In Christian theology, this role is fulfilled by the Holy Ghost.

Indeed, the Mormon hymn gives us, “The Spirit of God like a fire is burning!” (Hymns no. 2). The Spirit of God is the Spirit of revelation; it provides clarity on otherwise unknowable things.

President Hinckley linked the Spirit of God to “a great, overpowering Spirit of optimism” (Ensign, Nov 1995, 72); I would say that the Spirit provides hope. Clarity and hope: Vision.

The Spirit also provides passion. Positive passion is often called enthusiasm: en-thou-siasmos – God in us. That is the function of the Spirit – to work inside of us and to set alight the fire of our potential, and to inspire us to do that which is good. Thus, Ether could not be restrained because of the Spirit of God which was in him; Nephi and Lehi could not be held by prisons, the disciples of Christ spake and they could not be held by bars or pits, because of the Spirit of God.

In other words, to gain fire, seek the Spirit of God.

Stepping away from Greek tradition and into Hebrew, continual fire is found in the temple, on the altar of sacrifice, in the candelabra, and on the altar of incense; significantly, at the scriptural dedication of several temples, “fire came down from heaven... and the glory of the Lord filled the house” (2 Chron 7:1): covenant making and covenant keeping. From one of my favorite lines of a hymn (though not in our hymnal – it may not be doctrinally correct) - “I have read a fiery Gospel writ on burnished rows of steel” (The Battle Hymn of the Republic): the scriptures. From the Book of Mormon and the Bible [paraphrase]: as they prayed, each was surrounded by a pillar of fire.

The methods are the same, and I don't mean to focus on them here. Simply that as we draw closer to God and seek the companionship of His Spirit, we are filled with Vision and Passion, and our potential turns into energy and reality.

I have found that to be true over the past few days. Over the past two weeks. Two weeks ago, when my enthusiasm was at its lowest ebb, I began to pray with a lot more intent than I otherwise would. That prayer led to choice clarity and vision about my future and about my immediate purpose here. Subsequent struggle to draw nearer to God – not merely to go through the motions, but to truly seek and wrestle with the Lord – have provided additional hope, vision, clarity, and passion. Sincere scripture study has augmented and extended the fire of the Spirit, and I am regaining the passion I once had for the things that the Lord would have me do.

I find comfort in that now, because I was not the original impetus for coming to Africa. I am here because I felt like I needed to be, feel like the Lord wants me to be, feel like I will need to have been here. Hence, the opening poem, which I found on a wall in Grahamstown – “Duty and destiny with equal voice sustained my steps. I had no other choice: something for Africa to do or say.” (Pringle, whoever that is)

And so this week I go back to work in earnest. And I feel the fire begin to return.

Here I am at the Stadium in Port Elizabeth, just before the England Slovenia match. It was a lot of fun, and as you can see here, I'm pretty excited about it. I'm holding an England scarf and flag in my hand, and a South African vuvuzela in my right. I didn't want to not wear a soccer jersey, so like the South African fans there, I'm wearing a Bafana Bafana jersey (the away jersey).

In the match, Ashley and I (Collins nephew, and the person I sat next to) asked an England fan who was painting his friend's face to paint ours as well, which he was happy to do. I'll post those when I get back.

The seats we had were incredible - eight rows up from the field itself, right at England's corner for the first half. We sat in the right row but wrong seats until someone came at halftime and asked us to move; at that point, it was even better though. My actual seat was halfway between the corner and midfield for the second half, which is exactly where Slovenia was defending, so most of the second half action was right in front of me. :-D

Btw, the English fans were a lot of fun. They had one whole section to themselves, where everyone was standing and cheering; stamping and shouting England, or singing (loudly!) "Rule, Brittania!" and "God Save the Queen."

Here are some guys on stilts advertising for a couple of shows in GRahamstown, during the National Arts Festival. Grahamstown Festival was a lot of fun; I saw some good shows, and a lot of beautiful artwork.

Louis Mhlanga (stick your tongue on the back of your top teeth, and then blow through your mouth so that your cheeks puff out a bit and the air sloughs off of them in order to get the right "h" sound here. It's a lot like the Welsh double-l if that helps anything), a Zimbabwean jazz guitarist and singer. He was VERY good, and very enjoyable to listen to. We spoke to him afterwards, and he was also very humble and down to earth. If you like jazz, you should find this guys cd- I definitely will when I get back.

Grahamstown was experiencing perfect autumn-like weather while we were there. Although it was a bit chilly at times, mostly it had the same beautiful refracted light and autumn like feel I would find at home, with the pleasant addition of flowers in full bloom, almost everywhere you looked.

I included this one because I am not usually very pleased with my pictures of people, and I feel that this one actually turned out quite well. This is Rebecka Rönndal. Note the fallen leaves behind her - again, Autumn.

And here are the three of us in Grahamstown. I think we were all pretty tired by this point, but we had a lot of fun regardless. Me, Macrae McDermott, and Rebecka Rönndal, form left to right.


  1. What is up man? You got to do something I only dream of doing once in my life going to the world cup game. You are so lucky. Man, I cannot wait to see your english painted face. Those pictures must be pretty sweet. Well, I am so proud of you for all the hard work you put into your intership. You have no need to regret any work you did out there. Those people faces show that you made a difference in their lives. Thanks for making a difference in my life. By the way Tevan and Lyanne say hi.

  2. I am enjoying reading your thoughts. I am happy to see you turn to the Lord for your "fire." There is no better place. We love your posts and hearing about what you are doing. Brett is very envious that you got to go to a World Cup match. The children think you are very lucky to be in South Africa. We hope you have continued blessings there!