Saturday, August 23, 2008

Doubt

"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth ..."--John 16:13 NLT

Yesterday I had an intellectual conversation with a friend, and we have these sorts of conversations frequently (the topic varies), and I feel maybe we are too serious for our age sometimes...but it's becoming one of my favorite things to do. Does this make me lame? Maybe just a tad.

We discussed several different aspects of doubt. When I say several I do mean several. I'll discuss a few here, and of course, I welcome any and all comments, whether they are in agreement with the thoughts I present or not.


One thing I have noticed is that at ACU, for the most part, it's not okay to doubt. Yes, there are professors and peers who are okay with it, but the majority of the time when one admits they have doubts about their faith, the reaction is typically negative. For instance, I once wrote a paper my freshman year and one thing I stated was that I felt it was good in the end when a person doubts--that person asks questions and (hopefully) does some investigating, which should eventually lead them to a deeper understanding and stronger faith. Not only did my professor disagree with me, he docked my paper a letter grade (10 points). His side comment in the margins of my paper read something to the effect of 'as Christians we should never doubt.'

In a community of faith, people should feel the liberty to be honest about what they are going through. And unfortunately, we have all been burned by the judgment of a peer. And this has taught us to hide truths we are scared we will be judged for again.

Well, in a perfect world, we would all have faith of steel--we'd always know and feel the love of God, and sense his presence and infinite power...yadda yadda yadda. In reality, there are times it is hard to reconcile this supposed all benevolent nature of God with the horrendous tragedies that happen (natural disasters, death of a child, abuse, etc.). When these terrible things happen, people wonder how God can let it happen. Where was God when that happened? Where is He now? Why God, why?

Well I have no answer...and as far as I can see...no on really does. I know in my heart that at the end of the day God is real, He is with me, and that He is powerful. And I also know that the end of Job rings true--we speak of things we do not understand, and we'll never fully "get it." So I guess my hope and prayer is that I can "get it" a little more each day, and that others who think they already "get it" can learn that they don't, because frankly...telling someone who just experienced great tragedy that God is in control doesn't necessarily comfort them. While I haven't sorted everything out, one thing I know is that God is with us when we suffer, and while He may not just snap his fingers, so to speak, and make it all better, His heart breaks when ours breaks, and there is always comfort in knowing that we don't walk through the valley alone.

On a happier note relating to God...I went to church today at Southern Hills and they have totally revamped their late service to be more modern and more geared towards college students. It was definitely an improvement! I really liked SoHi (as I like to call it) before, but I like it even more now. Todays service ended with a call to not feel like the end of the service was a conclusion but to feel like it was the beginning of our week, to bring the love of God to the people we interact with. One thing that was said was that we meet people all the time who are gasping for just one breath of God's love, and that we are that breath.

Well...in light everything blogged thus far today...One thing I know is God is real, and it's my fervrent hope and prayer that all my loved ones, and all the people I interact with, would come to know His Love. I hope everyone has a blessed Sunday, and a blessed week ahead.


"Doubting Thomas" by Nickel Creek
What will be left when I've drawn my last breath

Besides the folks I've met and the folks who've known me

Will I discover a soul-saving love

Or just the dirt above and below me


I'm a doubting Thomas

I took a promise

But I do not feel safe

Oh me of little faith

Sometimes I pray for a slap in the face

Then I beg to be spared cause I'm a coward

If there's a master of death

I bet he's holding his breath

As I show the blind and tell the deaf about his power

I'm a doubting Thomas
I can't keep my promises

Cause I don't know what's safe
Oh me of little faith


Can I be used to help others find truth
When I'm scared I'll find proof that it's a lie

Can I be led down a trail dropping bread crumbs

That prove I'm not ready to die

Please give me time to decipher the signs

Please forgive me for time that I've wasted


I'm a doubting Thomas

I'll take your promise

Though I know nothin's safe

Oh me of little faith

Friday, August 8, 2008

It's official. When you cry watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics because things are beautiful or because of a touching story about a little Chinese boy who saved some of his classmates from dying in an earthquake...you're old.

I <3 the Olympics. I especially <3 Michael Phelps. I think we all know why. Haha.

Below is the essay that is the culmination of my Psychology of Ideology class that I took in Germany. My citations aren't the best, I apologize and even feel like a poor scholar in light of that. Had I more time before it was due I would have fixed that up better. The majority of everything really is common knowledge (for a psych major at least). Please also note that my conclusion also needs a lot of work and I am aware of that. :-)




When Worldviews Collide

Thoughts, actions, rationale, and treatment of others are just a few of the components of every day life that are colored by the worldview one has. A person’s worldview is basically the way they perceive everything in the world around them based on their beliefs and values. Obviously, not everyone has the same worldview, and when worldviews collide, conflicts arise. Throughout history the disastrous effects of failing to reconcile differing worldviews can be seen (the Crusades, the Holocaust, etc.). But there are also smaller conflicts that occur between everyday people that still can have highly negative effects on an individual’s psyche.

In the year of 1939, World War II erupted and our world has never been the same since. When Hitler took power and began his crusade to exterminate the Jews, the world got a taste of how horrific it is to stand up against a worldview that refuses to recognize the validity in another. The question is often asked, “How did this happen?” While there are no easy answers, a look at how worldviews develop does shed some light on the issue.

Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist, says evil is about victimization. Accounts of evil are usually from the victims, and there are several accounts of life in concentration camps that come from the prisoners themselves. Victims sometimes tell the story governed by the “myth of pure evil” (which implies that the transgression was purposeless and without motivation). But perpetrators have ‘good’ motives/explanations in their minds, which is where the topic of victimization comes up again.

Two main motives perpetrators have are idealism and that they feel like victims themselves. The motive of idealism has to do with people working with ideals of how the world can be a better place. An example would be the Crusades that occurred during the middle ages. Killing was instrumental; it was a means to an end. This motive allows you to justify violence. The Nazis believed that an ideal world was governed and inhabited only by the Aryan race. They were idealists and were looking to create a Utopia by any means necessary.

Victimization is a motive for perpetrators because they many times feel like victims themselves. This principle often applies to wife beaters and serial killers, etc. Many times a psychological review of these types of criminals will reveal that they were beaten or abused somehow themselves. The Nazis felt victimized by the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty blamed Germany for World War I and it required the country to pay an incredibly large sum of reparations, putting the country into an economic slump. Hitler capitalized on the despondent atmosphere in the country with a Utopian vision.

The psychology of genocide encompasses not only these two motives of idealism and victimization, but it also has to do with the theory of disgust and contamination. There’s three basic pieces to focus on. The first is contact and proximity. If a roach is close or not to a piece of cake determines in our minds if contamination has occurred. The second piece is irreversibility. Once the cake has been contaminated by the roach, it is hard to redeem it. There is a rationale of “once contaminated, always contaminated.” The last piece is dose and sensitivity. A little urine in a bottle of wine will cause a person to not drink the wine.

The psychology of disgust and contamination contributed largely to the Nazi German worldview, but also to the East and West German worldviews that developed after WWII and during the Cold War. This psychology has even lingered and colored worldviews in Germany up to the present day. While the Berlin Wall itself has fallen, there is this concept in Germany called “the wall in the head.” It can most easily be defined as the separations between east and west Germans that still exists in some ways. One such example of the wall in the head is the ampelman. The ampelman is the image on the walk/don’t walk signs at cross walks in Germany. There are the East and West versions of this image, and there’s a bit of a debate on whether they should all go to a standardized image or if the different regions should keep their traditional ampelmen. Of course Westerners think theirs should be the one everyone should switch to, and vice versa. This isn’t just because the different sides are stubborn and want their own way; it comes back to this psychology of disgust. The Westerners and Easterners are still struggling to not be disgusted by one another. This wall in the head is not exclusive to Germans. Republicans and democrats, Christians and non-Christians, whites and blacks, young and old, Americans and immigrants, etc. The wall in the head is everywhere and could be redefined as the German translation of disgust and contamination.

Closely related to dose and sensitivity is the dominance of negativity. A drop of wine in urine does not suddenly make the urine okay to drink in our minds. And the root of causality is always that the negative dominates. A part of the American worldview that reflects this point, is the reaction to the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11. This one event has permanently changed the way security is run in the country, how some people perceive others who appear to be of Arabic or Iranian descent, etc. Similarly, all Hitler needed was to convince the Germans that the Jews were the cause for the pitiable condition the country was in, and this negativity would dominate enough to gain Hitler the support he needed.

Hitler employed many different vehicles to convince the German population that the Jews were to blame for the country’s ruin, one of which was censorship. As the proverbial saying goes, knowledge is power. At the book burning memorial across from Humboldt University, tons of books from the university library were burned because they encouraged independent thought. The Nazis knew if people started thinking for themselves they wouldn’t want to go along with the party’s ideas. There’s a famous quote at this memorial that says, “Where they burn books, there they will burn people also.” It was written before the Holocaust began, and is eerily prophetic.

The next ring of disgust is sociomoral disgust, which is the ring that the Holocaust occurred in. This ring of disgust is applied to people and behaviors. Disgust is about putting the disgusting object at a distance. To do this a sort of wall is erected and the person is dehumanized. A person doesn’t want their personal space invaded by the disgusting object/person, so boundaries are put up. Contempt is shown for the disgusting object/person, which makes the object/person more disposable. This same instance of disgust and contamination also occurred in the United States during the segregation and desegregation of the South. White Americans could barely see the humanity in African Americans, and segregation laws were employed to set up boundaries.

The Nazis took this logic and elevated the idea of purity to a worldview. The idea of blood purity was made a national logic. In the end, after capitalizing on this psychology of contamination and perverting the truth, the final solution seemed logical to everyday Germans who felt victimized and vulnerable themselves. This was a way to make life good again. They could envision themselves being a part of the ideal nation, the most pure nation. Interestingly, this is similar to a worldview many Americans hold. Americans see the United States as the most ideal country because it is the most free country in the world. Americans want to “bring democracy to everyone,” regardless of whether or not everyone wants it brought to them.

In Berlin at the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, there is one quote from a room that had excerpts from letters people had written is says a person “didn’t have to be revolutionary…[it was] enough to simply be oneself” to end up in a concentration camp. The physical and psychological terror of being imprisoned in a concentration camp simply because you are who you are is a foreign idea to Americans today because Americans have always been free to be whoever they want to be (for the most part; Americans as previously mentioned regarding segregation have imposed terror and restricted the rights of others plenty of times in their past—the Trail of Tears, Japanese internment camps, etc).

The question remains of why the Jews were the ones to suffer. There was a history of anti-Semitism and a need for scapegoats in the wake of WWI. When in need of a scapegoat it seems logical to look at the outsiders. The Jews were achievement oriented and some were very wealthy. Many Germans were not wealthy after the first World War, so it’s easy to see why they would want to remove the Jews who were wealthy from their positions in society.

A startling fact is that it would take 6 or more years to recite all the names of all the victims of the Holocaust. There was a room at the Memorial in Berlin dedicated to reciting the names of the known victims and a short biography of what is known about that person. It is deeply moving to be present there, where these victims finally get a time and place just especially for them, in their honor and dedicated to their memory. Honoring the value of a human life has long been a part of the Western worldview, and after WWII, this had to be reclaimed in Germany as part of their worldview.

Something intriguing that may not be all that apparent is that many Germans have a hard time feeling pride in their country, due to their dark past. In America there are some people who would consider an individual “un-American” if they weren’t proud of the United States. But it’s also not as if America’s past is blemish free. It seems that both Germans and Americans are guilty of attribution errors. Americans are guilty of over-emphasizing personal characteristics of the population as the root and cause of other countries’ mistake, rather than attributing mistakes to situations.

In the summer of 2008, if a person walked down the streets of almost any city in Germany they would observe large groups of people dressed up in red, yellow, and black garb, with faces painted, silly hats on, noise makers in hand, etc. During the Soccer World Cup, Germans came together and rooted their country on at public viewings of the games. It was a time that national pride could be seen in felt. But it was perhaps the only time pride was seen and felt. They really are afraid other countries will misinterpret any national pride that is exhibited outside the venue of sporting events. Germans today seem to be guilty of making at attribution error as well, not allowing themselves to be removed from the past situations that occurred during the reign of Hitler.

At the Nuremburg Trials, held to prosecute those responsible for the Holocaust, many defendants on trial claimed they were just following orders. In the wake of the war, they could see the reality of what had happened: mass murder and attempted annihilation of an entire race. What does a person do when they find themselves in a situation where they are forced to face the fact they have bought into a false system? If they are to survive, psychologically at least, they must find a way to resolve themselves to a new worldview.

One man who found himself right in the middle of colliding worldviews was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a Christian theologian who ended up involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. At first, this seems hypocritical, because it would be assumed that most Christians would be against murder. But Bonhoeffer maintained that being evil was worse that doing evil, and that the church was responsible for laying foundation for Hitler. Hitler was making an idol of himself and Bonhoeffer was adamant that the church needed to insist more that Christ is the only way to salvation.

The Christian worldview held by Bonhoeffer was governed by a few seemingly simple truths that in the end, turned out to be pretty revolutionary. He said that real Christianity is sharing pain. For Bonhoeffer, Christianity meant suffering alongside the Jews. His worldview can be summed up in the three ways he said one can stand up to injustice: Ask if state is legitimate, stand with victims, and jam a spoke in the wheel of the state. Bonhoeffer lived out his Christian worldview by telling the world around him that Hitler could not be their salvation, by standing alongside the Jews in their suffering, and by doing what he believed would truly be the best thing for mankind—aiding in a plot to assassinate Hitler.

There is a great quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that further defines his Christian worldview: “The church is the church only when it exists for others;” indicating that God can’t be owned by one group over another. This quote may not seem revolutionary at first glance. It’s connotation with sacrifice would seem to align it with Christian ideals, and one might assume that of course that’s the only time when church is church (when it’s existing for others).

But what does it meant to exist for others? It seems that existing for others puts a spin on ‘sacrifice.’ One exists twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. A person can sacrifice, on the other hand, for any length of time that he or she wants to.

Whether or not the church today exists for others seems highly debatable. It pulls funds for missions and instead adds on to its building (which is many times a just fine building as is). It gets antsy in its seat when a homeless man walks in on a Sunday morning. It wants its children to not hangout with the “wrong” people (who need Christ, too).

This leads back to the idea that one group can’t own God over another. But when people don’t share God (and sharing God requires sacrifice—time, going outside your comfort zone, etc.), perhaps they are trying to own Him, even if they don’t consciously realize it. And sharing God can be more ministering to people’s needs (feeding them, clothing them, listening, etc.), that just trying to convert them to Christianity. The church is the church only when it exists (sacrifices) for others. And existing 24/7 for others in a “Me! Me! Me!” society is kind of revolutionary.

Bonhoeffer’s life is an example of what can happen when worldviews collide, and worldviews are colliding today, perhaps more than ever. At the most basic level we can say his worldview was that God alone is to be worshipped, because human beings are saved through Christ alone. The Nazis on the other hand taught and believed that Germans needed salvation after WWI because the country was in shambles, and that salvation could be found in Hitler. Worldviews collided here and the result, at first glance, looks like an assassination attempt on Hitler and the subsequent death of Bonhoeffer. But really, the result was some of the clearest and most eloquent theology of our time, and an example that will live on of what it’s like to really pick up your cross and follow Jesus, of how the Christian worldview should be.

Other examples of what happens when worldviews collide can be seen in both The Wall (Peter Sis) and Hitler Youth, which touch on the topics of censorship (of radio, TV, art, print, speech, etc.) and brain washing of young people during the Cold War and WWII, respectively. In The Wall, Sis writes that at home he drew what he wanted, but at school he drew what he was told to. He also tells of how children were encouraged to tell on their parents if they criticized the government, and how phone lines were tapped, and mail was read to keep tabs on people. The communists much like the Nazis in WWII, wanted a nation of people who were identical in political beliefs and in thought. The communists want people to equate democracy and capitalism with people living on the street, so that they will be thankful for the form of government they have. They also have a group called Young Pioneers, which is along the lines of the Hitler Youth (not as violent, I gather). This youth group was a vehicle for the brain washing of an entire generation and probably had the same lasting negative effects on their mental health as involvement in the Hitler Youth did for many Germans.

The Wall and Hitler Youth bring to mind American gang life. In America, the younger generation is targeted by the older when gangs look for new members. They are taught that the gang is their new family once initiated, and that if they stick with the gang they will always be safe. Hitler wanted the Germans to believe that if they followed him, their country would never be weak again. Social proof, which occurs when everyone “jumps on the bandwagon” because everyone else seems to be as well, also occurred daily in WWII Germany. If all of a person’s friends were joining the Hitler Youth, it would seem logical if he or she also joined up, just as a young American might also be tempted to join a gang if their family and friends were in one.

In Hitler Youth the extent to which Hitler brainwashed and depended on the help of the youth that came up out of this group is exposed. Many of the youth had hard times coming to grips with reality after the war ended, because they had been so fully indoctrinated into believing Hitler’s lies. Making a shift from the Nazi worldview to a new one was not easy. For some of them it was years before they could acknowledge and accept their role in the Holocaust.

While on one hand it’s easy to say they were brainwashed, on the other, one must agree with Sophie Scholl (a former Hitler Youth quoted in the book): “We all have a yardstick inside ourselves;” a moral compass, so to speak. At some point, everyone must measure and weigh the options and choose for themselves to do right or wrong. The excuse of “I was just following orders” only gets a person so far. Sophie was a part of the Hitler Youth for a while and she was able to see it for what it really was eventually. The fact that there were those who didn’t remains to point out that the people who went along with it had to have at some point gotten a feeling that what they were doing was wrong.

It’s easy to see how a young person that was formerly a Hitler Youth might find it hard to admit to themselves and others they were a part of something horrendous. But as Viktor Frankl writes in Man’s Search for Meaning, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost and how” (Frankl ?). It maybe seem almost too much to bear to have to own up to the mistakes one might have made in the past, but if one wants to live a better life, they can choose to do right even when it’s hard.

A psychological phenomena linked to doing right even when it’s hard is the bystander effect. The bystander effect, which occurs in situations when a person is obviously in need of some sort of aid and no one offers help because no one else is either, obviously was occurring daily during WWII in Germany and other countries were concentration camps were located. Residents of the cities located near the camps knew what was going on and turned the other cheek. There is a zoo at Buchenwald, a concentration camp just outside the city of Weimar that was build for the SS’s enjoyment by prisoners. The prisoners in the camp had worse living conditions that the animals that inhabited the zoo. The SS would bring their wives or their girlfriends to this zoo, and their guests would gladly come and not see anything wrong with the picture. It makes me think of the yardstick Sophie Scholl speaks of in Hitler Youth. Were none of these women bothered by this zoo? Did any of them notice the irony? Did they notice the prisoners on the other side of the fence enough to realize the absurdity of the contrast between living situations? Surely the did. They just said and did nothing because they observed all the SS officers around them with indifferent attitudes, so the guests adopted the same attitudes.

There is a most interesting quote on the wall in the cafeteria they have at Buchenwald. It reads: “Tolerance should really be only a temporary attitude; it must lead to recognition. To tolerate means to offend.” This is a quote of Goethe’s, who was from Weimar, and is the author of Faust. As with many quotes, this could be interpreted many different ways. One thing it brings to mind is how the Jew’s were ‘tolerated’ for a while. They weren’t deported at first, just had their shops torn apart or were asked to do humiliating things in public. Little by little they ended up being one hundred percent not tolerated and the rest is history. Goethe spot on: it is not enough to just tolerate. The humanity, even when different from oneself, in another person must be recognized. If this doesn’t happen, then toleration can turn into something ugly. Toleration must become acceptance.

In Berlin, at the Reichstag there is a memorial for the parliament members who were murdered in the concentration camps after Hitler took over. Hitler and the Nazis talked the parliament into passing laws that gave special powers to the Nazis because of it being a “time of crisis” (the parliament building had been subject to arson). The Patriot Act seems to be eerily reminiscent of this incident. Americans, in reaction to their fear of terrorist attacks, have become so intolerant of intolerance that the line between protection of rights and violation of rights in order to protect them is grossly blurred.

To some degree, bias is natural. Of course individuals will believe their worldview is the most correct or the best worldview to have. But most everyone will at some point in their life call their view into question. What happens when that day comes varies from individual to individual, but most will experience some sort of paradigm shift. Some people are resilient and can make a shift to a new worldview, others cannot and their outcome varies. This begs the question: Is there an ultimate worldview?

There just may be one, but it’s highly doubtful that any human being has ever lived it out perfectly. If people saw the world through the eyes of God, maybe then they could achieve this ultimate worldview. The life of Christ is perhaps the only example the world will ever know of what it looks like to maintain this worldview. It may be impossible to live out this worldview twenty-four seven, but people could aim for the goal of picking up their cross and following Jesus the best they can. Maybe then worldviews would not collide as much, resulting in less conflict and pain in the world.

Works Cited

Bartoletti, Susan (2005). Hitler youth: Growing up in Hitler's shadow. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc..

Darley, J. M. & Latané, B. (1968). Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 8, 377-383.

Sis, Peter (2007). The wall. Frances Foster Books.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

It's been a while...

Well...right now I'm typing this up on my new and very, very fabulous laptop! YAY! It's super cute and totally fast (it's " screamin' " as Jon says).

I have some very important reading to do (the last book in my favorite book series came out at midnight last night) so this post will be brief. Just wanted to say I am all moved back to Abilene, just came home this weekend to get my laptop (it came in the mail). The house I am living in Abilene is great, but also a nightmare at times. My identity was stolen last weekend. The Grove (my old apartment complex) screwed me over on my last month's rent. And...I had my mom TiVo some Dick Van Dyke movies that were showing on the Hallmark channel, but I now realize that was pointless because I'm going back to Abilene tomorrow. Sadness.

Did I mention that I have a new fabulous laptop? It's really great! Fuschia with flowers (a modern, sophisticated print). And it's screamin'. I wonder if that's inappropriate at all. You never know with Jon. ;-) I apologize if that is not appropriate terminology. I think it's okay though.

I turned in my paper for the classes I took while in Germany. Once I do the data transfer from my old laptop on to this one I will post it here.

Mmmmm....that's all for now. I have to go read now...I'm on page 230 of 754. I gotta get crack-a-lackin'!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Selections from Journal Entries

Okay quick update: I am home. Flight from Frankfurt to London Heathrow was delayed for 3 hours (we literally sat on the plane on the ground for 3 hours) and so they upgraded us to business class for our flight from London to Dallas. SWEETNESS! I'm spoiled now and never want to fly coach again. Haha. The only downer was that everyone in our group's luggage did not make our flight from London to Dallas, so I didn't get that until last night, but over all, everything was great.

Miss Germany already.


These are some selections from journal entries we were required to do for one of our classes in Germany. Feel free to comment on them, I'd love it if my blog became a center for philosophical conversations, haha. I'm typing them up because we have to use them for a paper that is due at the end of the month. As I type different ones up I will post them here.



June 4, 2008 [Town Hall Museum in Leipzig about the city]

The paintings of the crucifixion in the museum made an impression on me. They were so bloody, which was strange to me. We do see blood in depections of Christ on the cross, but these paintings showed drops of blood on Jesus from head to toe, as if he had cuts, tons of them, spread out all over his body with drops of blood spilling out of them.

I think that as Americans (maybe everyone in the world, really) with medical technology advancing as it is, we try to avoid death and pain so much and that we don’t like to even have to think about suffering. We don’t want to imagine the degree to which others suffer. There’s a fundamental problem here. We must learn to allow ourselves to feel unpleasant things, how else will we grow from them?

June 6, 2008 [Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin]

Today was a busy and exhausting day, both physically and mentally. We visited the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial [technically named the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe], Checkpoint Charlie, and the Topography of Terror site [SS Museum].

There were many things we saw today that were hard to see. The site that left the biggest impression was of course the Memorial for the European Jews. I still can’t quite organize my thoughts on everything I saw but I will attempt to do so.

One quote from the room that had excerpts from letters people had written is that you “didn’t have to be revolutionary…[it was] enough to simply be oneself” to find yourself in a concentration camp. The physical and psychological terror of being imprisoned in a concentration camp simply because you are who you are is a foreign idea to us because we of course, as Americans, have always been free to be whoever we want to be.

A startling fact I learned was that it would take 6+ years to recite al the names of all the victims of the Holocaust. There was a room at the memorial dedicated to reciting the names of the known victims and a short biography of what is known about that person. It was deeply moving to be present there, where these victims finally get a time and place just especially for them, in their honor and dedicated to their memory.

June 7, 2008 [Walking tour of Berlin/Berlin Wall]

The memorial for the parliament members who were murdered is one of the more memorable parts of our tour for me. As our guide was talking about how the laws were passed giving special powers to the Nazis because of it being a “time of crisis,” I immediately thought of the Patriot Act. [I do not wish to start a political battle on my blog, but I believe most reasonable people can at least see the parallel here, even if only vaguely.]

Something our tour guide said that struck me was that Germany has a hard time feeling pride in their country, due to their dark past. I had never thought of that before, and think of how proud we all feel in America of our country. We are quite patriotic and are unashamed of country most of the time. But it’s also not as if America’s past is blemish free. Food for thought.

The other main thing that struck me is something that we’ve all heard before and that we hear a lot: knowledge is power. At the book burning memorial across from Humboldt University, we learned how tons of books from the university library were burned because they encouraged independent thought. The Nazis knew if people started thinking for themselves they wouldn’t want to go along with the party’s ideas. There’s a famous quote by I can’t remember who at this memorial that says, “Where they burn books, there they will burn people also.” It was written before the Holocaust began, and is eerily prophetic.

In regards to the Berlin wall, while the wall itself has fallen, there is this concept in Germany called “the wall in the head.” It can most easily be defined as the separations between east and west Germans that still exists in some ways. One such example of the wall in the head is the ampel man. The ampel man is their image on the walk/don’t walk signs at cross walks. There’s the east and west version of this image, and today there’s still a bit of a debate on whether they should leave the ones in east Germany alone, or if they should all go to a standardized image. Of course westerners think theirs should be the one everyone should switch to, and vice versa. So you can see just one small example of a bigger problem that still exists for them.

Speaking of the wall in the head, it makes me think of our walls we put up here in America. Republicans and democrats, Christians and non-Christians, whites and blacks, young and old, Americans and immigrants, etc. This wall in the head is not exclusive to Germans.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Paris, Days 1 and 2

Day 1: Train ride from 9 am to 6 pm. Arrive at Marriot via a taxi. Wrong Marriot. Nice french guy helps us out by hailing us a new cab and then we arrive at the right Marriot. Hotel is very swanky. Change into nicer clothes and head to the Eiffel and do lots of random walking around. Eat dinner at an overpriced place near the Eiffel.

Day 2: Up at 7:45 ish. Breakfast in the executive lounge and then off for a day full of sightseeing. Sights seen: Arc of the Triumph, the opera house, Pantheon, Nicholas Flammel's house (Harry Potter fans, this should be a pilgrimmage for you all to take), Botannical Gardens, an amphitheater from Roman times, Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, Louvre. Might have actually seen more than that but it's all running together now.

I am WIPED out, but I am having a blast. This is a fabulous city and I really hope to come back some day and spend a few weeks here so I can really take my time to see all the museums and stuff I want to look at.

Love and miss everyone!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rain, rain, go away

It pooooured today right as we were leaving a lecture we received at Leipzig University. NOT fun. For lots of reasons that we shall get to...But first a quick recap of the last few days:

We've been having class daily since my last entry and that has been good. Dr. Beck is awesome and we're learning lots of good stuff from him. Mostly after class we have all just been hanging out playing cards in the flats and taking short trips down town for just a cup of coffee or something like that. We like to get out and see the city but we also like to not spend a lot of money!

Day before yesterday we went to the Stasi Museum in Leipzig. The Stasi were the secret police during the time that East and West Germany were split after WWII. East Germany was under control of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Stasi helped the communists to censor people, interrogate people that were political opposition, they recruited informants (people to spy for them--this could be your boyfriend or girlfriend, spouse, best friend, etc)...It was a dark time for sure and there is tons to say and tell but the museum was really interesting. Our tour guide was very knowledgable and answered all our questions. After that we went on a psychology tour of Leipzig. I won't lie, it was the least favorite tour of everyone that we have done so far. But that's okay.

Yesterday instead of class we went to Wittenburg. Wittenburg is important because this is the town Martin Luther was from, and he is the one who began the Reformation. I will assume everyone is vaguely familiar with Luther and his 95 Theses. If not, I am more than happy to elaborate on who he was and what he did, but I am on a bit of a time crunch so I can't right now. Basically, Wittenburg is about the size of down town Leipzig. You can walk the perimeter of town in like 15 or 20 minutes haha. I know this because we accidentally took a very roundabout way to a park and figured out afterwards we had walked all the way around town. It is officially my favorite thing we have done in Germany! It was just the cutest little town and all the history it holds was of course very interesting to me and I took TONS of photos. Family, get ready for endless talk about that when I get back. ;-)

Sights we saw in Wittenburg: Luther's house, Castle Church (where he nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the church and basically started the Reformation), we climbed the bell tower of the Castle Church (WORK OUT), saw another guy's house who I don't know how to spell or pronounce his name so we'll just call him Mr. M (Mr. M housed Luther while he was kind of in hiding), we hung out at a pretty park and then we took the train back to Leipzig.

We took the wrong train to Leipzig. Basically you go to the Hauptbonhoff (trainstation) or Halle. Halle is actually just north of Leipzig and has a small airport. We went to Halle. It's like 15 minutes by train to Leipzig from there, so it was really just a minor incident. It was an adventure and really wasn't stressful or anything, just kind of funny.

Today we went to the Leipzig zoo and saw the primate exhibit. It is the 2nd largest in the world and they do experiments here (they are behavioral experiments, and cause no harm to the animals in any way) and they are very much related to psychology so it was really interesting. They house all four types of primates in their exhibit and this is the only one in the world (I think) that has all four in the same place. After the primate thing we went to the University of Leipzig for a lecture from one of the psychology prof's there. We learned a lot about how the field of psychology emerged from Leipzig to become what it is today. It really did all begin right here, so that was a cool lecture. The professor also told us about his personal experiences in the German Democratic Republic (when the Soviet Union controlled East Germany) and that was really moving. He was definitely a strong man who stood up during a time when it was dangerous to do so.

Right now...I have to go pack! I'm off to Paris tomorrow morning. Our train leaves around 8 or 9 am (Amy has our tickets so she knows the exact time) and we get there around 6 in the evening. Our hotel is going to be P-I-M-P (that just means really fabulous for anyone who is not familiar with this terminology ;-) )....Amy and I will have four days to discover all the famous sites and to find some cool places of our own there. I'm really excited! I'm off to go do laundry and pack so I will hopefully blog later from Paris! I may not have the internet there, so maybe I'll just do one when I get back. We'll see...Okay...tata!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Well, I ended up not going kayaking because my mouth was hurting and making me cranky. But everyone who went LOVED it, so we'll be going again which makes me happy!

Yesterday after class I laid down for a while to get over my grumpy mood and then I got up and got ready. We went out to eat with Maxie (the German girl we met here) and she showed us a cheap place to get pizza and pasta. It's run by Italians so it was very, very authentic, and very,very good! I had a Hawaiian pizza that I shared with another girl and it was scrumptious.

After that we headed to the place that the Bach concert was at and we got there early. There was a Germany soccer game last night, and so they had a HUGE screen set up for public viewing of the game. This is very common and popular here. See pictures below!

The Bach concert was really interesting. It was jazz interpretations of Bach pieces. I really liked it. I think I am like the only person who did haha. See pictures below.

I am really enjoying my time here because Germany is wonderful (duh!) but I am also loving the people I am with. I was worried that I wouldn't, and of course we all get sick of each other at different times, but overall Amy (my roomie and travel bud) and I are really getting along well and I love her to peices, and my other roomie, Amanda, and I have also hit it off so I am just thankful to actually have people here to enjoy this all with.

Today for class we went to the museum of psychiatry in Leipzig and had a lecture from a professor at the University of Leipzig who is very involved in managing psychiatry facilities across Saxonia (Saxonia is the state of Germany that Leipzig is in). The lecture was very informative about how the field of psychiatry works over here in Germany and we also heard from two patients there about their experiences after the wall came down in Berlin. There's a concept here called "the wall in the head" and it has many different facets, but what we really learned today was that people from east Germany were excited about their freedom when the wall came down, but there were also people who freaked out a bit because they didn't know what would become of the future and that weren't sure what to do w/ their new found freedom. That was something I hadn't really thought much about until today, so it was just really interesting to hear from these people. They are people who do have diagnosed mental illnesses but they are what they call "experienced" persons, and they actually work at the museum (the woman we heard from was the secretary and the man was the head grounds keeper/repair man), so they are learning how to function in society and have been helped getting jobs. It's a good system and is too much to completely explain here but it is neat how they are treating the patients here.

This afternoon I played spades for a while with some folks (whooped up on 'em! that's right!) and then some of us headed to a coffee shop and chatted about books we have all read. That was fun. After that we headed downtown and I bough a new cheapie bottle of perfume because i dropped mine here and it broke :-( and when I bought my bottle I got a free necklace haha. When amy bought bubble bath at the same place she didn't get anything. Hahaha. See picture below.

Well...That's all! I have a paper due Monday so I may not blog until after that. Love to you all!



Me and Amanda (we shared the pizza)

Elfie (she's the German woman who has been coordinating stuff for us here), me, Amy, and Amanda (look at the background, it's the public viewing of the Germany soccer game)


Some of the Jazz band at Bachfest


Me drinking a can of coke (notice the shape is different than in America)


My free gift haha

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

and we're back

today we had class again for the first time in a while (we had one of our long weekends this past weekend up until yesterday). class was long but thats okay, we have to learn something while we're here. ;-) [i'm kidding, we are learning quite a lot which is evidenced in this blog]

i did go to dresden this past weekend and it was absolutely beautiful. it was the picturesque Germany i think i had imagined all of Germany would like. i am by NO means disappointed in Leipzig, but i think all of us on our trip would agree dresden was prettier.

dresden was completely destroyed by bombs within like a day or two of the war ending (not sure of the exact reasons why there but if you care to you can always google it), so much of dresden is less than 60 years old. however, efforts have been made to recreate it as it was, so it still looks and feels and is in many ways historical.

amy and i did a hop on hop off bus tour of the city on our second day there and that was really fun. it had 22 stops and some of them we had seen the day before because our hotel is located in a part of town that is very historical, but there were things further away that we got to see on our tour so that was nice (we wouldn't have probably made it too far away from our hotel otherwise). the tour was really good because you could listen to headphones for an english explanation of all the sights. my personal favorite thing (and i think it was amy's too) that we saw was the dairy. Pfund's (silent p) dairy is supposedly the most famous and beautiful dairy in the whole world and i totally believe it. we ate lunch there and it was the best cheese and milk i've ever had. The Pfund brothers invented condensed milk, and i think they may have invented milk soap too, not sure. anyway it was a cool place and very beautiful on the inside of the shop.

we also saw the palace there, the opera house, the outside of a castle (it was sadly a little disappointing, not as big as i dreamed), went to church (all in German, but the church was gorgeous), and we saw/did lots of other stuff.

pictures will be coming soon. i forgot my camera in our flat and so amy took pictures in dresden and i'll get them form her to post here at a later date.

random tidbits for you all:

1. my wisdom teeth are acting up...advil is my new best friend
2. during our free time amy and i have been reading a new book series (it's not actually new, just new to us) and we are being nerdy and loving it
3. we found a famous and fabulous coffee shop in Leipzig so now i plan to frequent it (it's called Kaffeehaus Riquet and is beautiful!)
4. gelato is amazing and i know i will miss it a lot when we leave
5. 1 other person here knows how to play euchre and so he and i taught some of our friends to play. that's right family, be proud, i'm passing the love of euchre on to others!
6. at the hilton, we called and asked for more pillows to be brough to our room and they brought us towels. towel and pillow don't sound alike to me, but i guess we can't fault them since english isn't their first language
7. it rained a LOT the past few days
8. it was also cold the past few days but is warming up again


Okay...tomorrow we have class again, then in the afternoon some of us are going kayaking (it's surprisingly very cheap and the river here is calm and tranquil so don't worry mom), and then tomorrow night we are going to a Jazz tribute to Bach. that should be a very interesting concert.

lovelovelove to you all!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Buchenwald

Today we went to Buchenwald, a concentration camp located in Weimar. It was a different experience than I expected. I think I expected to want to go look at all the museums and memorials they have located on the grounds (4 museums and several memorials). But after our tour I really just wanted to leave as soon as I could.

Our tour was educational, but for the most part it was stuff I already have learned elsewhere. But just being where all these awful crimes against humanity occurred was sickening. Auschwitz is another quite infamous camp, which I'm sure everyone's heard of, and it's infamous because millions were burned there in the crematoriums. The Soviets (I think the Soviets) blew the crematoriums up that were located there, but the manufacturer was the same for the ones at Buchenwald, so seeing those crematoriums today was
also like seeing the ones that burned millions of others.

The crematorium was the last thing on our guided tour of the camp, and it was definitely emotional. Below are some pictures of the camp.

In other news...mom finally got the cell phone figured out on how to call me. So please see her for instructions if you so wish, and yes I fully expect no one other than her to call because it's freakin' expensive but I did think I would just throw that out ther
e. Also, talking on cell phones sucks here for some reason. Reception is crappy or something, I don't know.

I would also like to say Granny and Papa get my Blog read to them by Mom and they call it my Glob. Precious. :-)


Tomorrow we go to Dresden and Amy and I will be there for one night in a sweet hotel (Hilton baby, right on the river and located conveniently by all the hot spots in Dresden!).




Prisoners were brought in via the train right into the camp for about the last two years of the war. Before that they were brought to the town of Weimar by train and then walked a ways to the camp.
A zoo was built (by prisoners) for the SS's entertainment. The living conditions for the bears were better than the living conditions for the Jews and others in the camp.
This is the crematorium. For many relatives of those who died in the camp they see the crematorium as a place to pay their respects since their loved ones never received a proper burial elsewhere.
This was a plaque in the holding cell for Dietrich Bonhoeffer (see explanation of him in the previous post if you need info on who he was).
Bonhoeffer was held in the basement of this building, which once was the barracks for the SS. The SS are the Nazis who ran the camp, by the way.
This is Amanda on the train ride back to Leipzig from Weimar. There were no seats on the train so we sat on the floor. Apparently this is common or something.

Okay. Love you all!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Berlin, Hitler, Laundry, and Side Trips and Such

Random title, I know, but that's an easy way for me to remember the things I want to blog about.

To catch you all up, the last time I blogged on our first day in Berlin. On our second day, I slept in because I was beat, and then my friend Amanda and I caffeinated and headed to the Brandenburg gate to meet everyone for our walking tour. The tour was AMAZING. I wish every day we had a tour guide! He was incredibly knowledgeable about all the sites we saw and I could go on and on telling about all the things I learned but I will just briefly list and describe what I can remember at the moment:
  1. Brandenburg gate: apparently before the bombing that occurred in Berlin during the war, there were other gates. This is the only one to have survived, and that's interesting because the other buildings in the area were destroyed during the war.

  2. The Reichstag (not sure on spelling there): There is a monument to the Pariliament members here. Basically, this is where the parliament used to meet before the Nazis came to power. The Nazis and the Communists were both trying to gain control of Germany and there was a rivalry there of course. A Commie burnt down the Reichstag and the Nazis used this as a way to gain power. Hitler declared a state of emergency and talked the parliament into passing laws that basically ended up giving him just about absolute power in Germany. All the parliament members ended up being murdered in concentration camps and in other ways, hence a monument to them.

  3. Humboldt University: This is a place where Plank was a professor (Nobel prize for Plank's constant) and Einstein was also a professor here. The university was stromed by young Nazis and books were taken and burned from the library that the Nazis thought would promote independent thought and the like. There's a cool monument here.

  4. Hitler's Bunker: There's just a sign with info about his bunker where it once was. They decided not to make it open for people to walk through because they didn't want people to come and make it a place of like...pilgrimage I guess...like they don't want people who still think like him to come and pay honor to him there.

  5. The Wall: Obviously in Berlin, I saw the wall. I saw several different sections and I learned a ton about it. The wall divided people who loved each other, families, friends, etc. It is crazy to think that a literal wall was erected to divide a city. Berlin's population pre-wall was almost 1 million people larger than it is today.
Okay. So I wasn't as brief as I intended but oh well.

After the tour day, we went out for Corbin's birthday. That was fun to see night life and Berlin. Then the next day we went and looked at an Egyptian exhibit in a museum and that was fun. Kinda random but fun. The next day we went to a flea market of sorts and that was fun. I did a little souvenir shopping. :-) For others as well as myself. :-)

Laundry here = interesting. We can do our laundry at the Beck's flat but they don't have a dryer. So currently, my clean, wet clothes are in various locations in our flat drying.

Side trips: We are no longer going to Rome. Travel to Rome and Paris both is astronomical. We will still go to Paris for our long weekend though. This weekend is when we would have gone to Rome so we are instead going to Dresden for one night. It's way cheaper and Amy was able to get us a free hotel in Dresden. Thank God for Amy! Dresden is very historical and beautiful apparently, so I am excited to see it.

Grocery shopped again today. I got the biggest jar of Nutella I could find. :-)

Class: We have class in Stephen Shoemaker's flat (he's our study abroad coordinator). His flat is a lot bigger than ours so that is why we meet there. Yesterday we learned about Dietrich Bonhoffer. He was a Christian who lived in Germany and was a minister (Lutheran I believe). He is considered to be one of the best theologians of our times. He was killed for being involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler.

Today class was kinda boring, haha, so I won't elaborate on that. :-)

Ummmm...sorry for being so long winded. I think that is everything. Here are some more random photos for you guys:


Left: Pretty church...can't remember the name...I'll find out. It was in Berlin.











Above: Holocaust memorial (Technically called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe)

To the Right: A bunch of us went out last night to a place called Enchiladas (yes, you read that right, Enchiladas in Germany) and this is a group hug we had afterwards. That's me in the green sweater.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Berlin!

Okay, so our hotel here has two computers in the lobby that are free to use so yay, I get to blog. It's somewhat difficult because the keyboard is reallz similar to American ones but the z and y key are switched and some other minor differences.

Yesterday we went to several sites: we saw the gates (they're from Roman times, very cool), the holocaust memorial and museum, an exhibit on the Gustapo and SS headquarters, and checkpoint charlie (which was the Army's checkpoint at the Berlin Wall to get into the American Sector). It was a good day overall...in about an hour we are going to take a 4 hour walking tour of Berlin. I am excited about seeing more sights, but not about the walking or the sweating that goes along with it. It's way hotter here than they said it would be. A ton of us have brought clothes that are not condusive to the weather, but H&M is cheap so I may pick up a few more shirts there so that I'm not as hot all the time.

Anyway, there's tons of reflection I could give on the day yesterday, but I will wait until we get back to Leipzig and then I will reflect on the weekend as a whole. Alright I'm off with my friend Amanda to find some coffee and then meet up with everyone for our walking tour! Hope everyone is doing well and having a good summer!!! Keep the comments coming, I am loving them.

PS...Shannon, the frenchtoast nutella style is the best thing I've heard all day, I am totally trying it when I get back to a kitchen in Leipzig!