Listening To The Radio and Popping Bubbles

“Love as a concrete foundation for an authentically
functional civilization
requires the around-the-clock labors of forgiveness.
Without it, Love fails, Friendship fails, Intelligence fails, Humanity: fails.” 
Aberjhani, from  a Life Made Out of Poetry

I used to listen to the radio a lot. At home. Every time I was in the car. Distraction. Sing along. News. Weather.

And then, for about 2 years I kept the radio off. I just needed the quiet. I needed to be able to process, to think. To not think. I just needed the quiet. I didn’t need other people’s words in my head. I didn’t need their emotional mood swings in my head. I had my own.

Eventually I just listened to NPR and our local rock station’s folksy weekend segments.

NPR often leaves me in tears. Tears of laughter. Tears of anger. Tears of happiness. Tears of disbelief. No matter the cause of the tears I always come away from the reports and stories feeling like I am a wiser, more complete person for learning. For listening. For hearing. For understanding. Or, sometimes, for just trying to understand. This bubble I live in of security and comfort, privilege and possibility, pops. And that’s okay by me.

I began to write this post on Thursday after listening to a NPR segment about Doctors Without Borders, MSF, in South Sudan.  I was distracted and only got parts of it, and I didn’t hear the end of it, so I listened to it twice later that night. The sentence that had caught my attention in the car was, “This baby didn’t do anything. She was born and she didn’t get anything to eat.”


I got lost in those words and when I had a chance to listen to the whole segment I heard the story about a baby named Nenyoni (my spelling), in South Sudan. She was starving and so sick she was about to die. As I listened at home, I felt the full impact of this story. The doctor and nurse had to “shove” some long needle into the Nenyoni’s BONE. A bone marrow IV. It began to “help” Nenyoni. The doctor quietly commented that it would be hard to leave this baby in order to tend to the others. “She will die. There was no response to pain. There was no reaction when the needle went into her bone.” And so the doctor and the reporter sat with Nenyoni and waited.

They were gratefully surprised when Nenyoni woke up half an hour later. But they were shocked to discover she was not a 15 pound baby, but a fifteen pound 3 year old child asking for water. She was 3 years old. Not a baby.

After few days, Nenyoni does die. You can feel the heartbreak of the doctors in the silence of the recording. You can hear the reporter’s voice crack and you know she is crying. And the doctors say they have doubts about whether they did all they could. In South Sudan where “political conflict has caused massive displacement, raging violence and dire food shortages. Over 5 million people are in need of aid, and nearly 3 million people are at risk of starvation.” (Mercy Corps)


These doctors say no one can get used to the level of mortality here. They say they have nightmares. When their “tour” is done they feel as if they are abandoning these patients and it weighs heavily on them.

I am sorry if no one wants to think about this stuff, but really, just, what the hell are we doing?

“Love is our most unifying and empowering common spiritual denominator.
The more we ignore its potential to bring greater balance and deeper meaning
to human existence,
the more likely we are to continue to define history
as one long inglorious record of man’s inhumanity to man.”
~ Aberjhani, from  a Life Made Out of Poetry

Is this true? The human legacy is to be a long record of man’s inhumanity to man?

So, silly ole me wants to know: why can’t we seem to build this authentically functional foundation? Because with it maybe Nenyoni wouldn’t have had to die. I understand full well that there is no explainable reason that Nenyoni was someone else’s child and not mine. Or yours. In my heart, that baby is mine. Is ours. And I feel as if I have failed her. For me it does not matter that Nenyoni was born half a world away in South Sudan. Her birth and her death are what matter. Because in my Utopian, hippy-ish, communal, non-violent, peacenick, fantasy world, Nenyoni should not have been born into starvation and disease anywhere in this world.

“Human rights are not worthy of the name
if they do not protect the people
we don’t like
as well as those we do.”
Trevor Phillips,  Commission for Equality and Human Rights

We don’t have it right in this country. How on earth can the “wealthiest nation in the world” collectively look at itself in the mirror and not gasp.

In 2015, this country spent $14 million a day to combat ISIS, and $187 million a day on the Iraq War, and 400 BILLION dollars on a fighter jet. In the United States, let’s just stick with our country for a minute, 1 in 6 people go without enough food to stay healthy. 15.5 million children live in poverty. Food Banks serve 5.4 million.

We spend a lot of money on some things and not enough on others. If we have money to hunt down and kill people, and destroy just about everything we want on the other side of the world why don’t we have more money to seek out, feed, shelter, clothe, heal, save, educate and build in this country? Where is the functional foundation? Maybe if we started prioritizing enough over greed, sustainability over corporations, life over death, understanding over fear, love over hate, forgiveness over revenge, we would be taking a step forward and maybe the world would follow.

Five Day and Five Nights This is incredibly difficult to read and the photographs make you hold your breath. Yet, I encourage you. Read it. Pop your own bubble.







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