Saturday, March 04, 2006

Thinking about elephants

When you see an elephant on the road, what do you think? I have realized in these months, seeing elephants on the road, that I don't think, that at least to this point I had not thought. What is it like to be an elephant? Is it work or play to walk down the road? Is it good news or bad news---or something else---that an elephant is in a (Hindu) temple, touched and fed and touching people?

As an American in India I count myself blessed. So many things I have not seen in the US I see here. They challenge me, give me the opportunity to think again. How does life work? We have seen an elephant in a plantation, hauling logs; I can imagine that is work. What of the elephant walking through town? So India and the elephant can be a dose of humility, that I don't know what's going on, I don't know how life works, and have the opportunity to learn.

The dose of humility continues in other categories. Can you decipher which pepper corns are ripe, ready to be picked? whether the liquid rubber has dried long enough that it is ready to be pressed? which leaves or spices should be picked to cure this kind of headache or that kind of cut?

How should I interpret time? If you come 45 minutes late for an appointment with me---quite a possibility here in India and many countries around the globe---obviously you are careless, lazy, rude and not a reliable employee. Except of course that telephones and transportation may be irregular, and your 45 minutes late meant you were helping a distant friend with an urgent issue.

How shall I interpret gestures? Two men walk hand in hand or lean on each other. That means?---that they are good friends, quite willing to express their friendship physically, and quite unwilling to touch any woman physically lest they convey sexual impressions that would be wrong.

What does it mean that I turned sixty this week? It means a party, to be sure. My wife and I planned to serve tea, with cake and local onion donuts (vadai), to our community. We thought that would be the end of the story, but India knew better. The Principal of our college and his wife visited at 7:00 am, to bring gifts of special clothes for the day. The greetings in the community throughout the day were clear and direct, not just in passing. The tea in the afternoon, our gift to them, should begin with their speeches of their thanks to us, their gift to us, their prayers, and a ritual cutting of the cake. To become sixty (to have seen a thousand moons) is to reach wisdom. What I knew---I'd turned sixty---now had a new interpretation, the gift and responsibility to be wise, to practice wisdom.

It strikes me that there is something similar in religious life, this challenge of interpreting, perhaps especially for Americans. Oh, yes, we know all about religion. People go through various motions and try to be good. But then there is this new data to be interpreted in the Christian tradition: God on a cross, that God went not just through the motions, but through life and death, in order to be good for us. Something to think about.

---If you think about it and write us and want a reply, please include your email address in the body of your note. Thank you!


  • Very interesting observations and comments. I remmeber in China that physical bouandaries between men and women sound very similar to what you expressed here about people in India. It makes me wonder about our notions of "right" and "wrong" -- and morality in general.

    -- Tim Garrels,

    By Blogger Timothy, at Sun Mar 05, 12:53:00 PM PST  

  • I love you Dr. Carter, I love you Mrs. Carter.

    Aaron Singleton

    By Blogger Aaron Singleton, at Thu Mar 09, 10:09:00 PM PST  

  • AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Aaron told me of this site!!

    I can't WAIT to see you again because YES- I am BACK at Concordia!!!!

    Right now I'm studying to become a Lutheran Classroom Teacher for MATH! I'll probably end up being a Middle School Math Teacher!

    I'm in photography now again which is great!

    Aaron and I have MANY times reminiscing about you and how valuable you really are. It was GREAT to get to know you a little bit last year, and I am looking forward to seeing you around again next year!

    - Ryan Coenen

    By Blogger Ryan, at Fri Mar 10, 08:51:00 AM PST  

  • Ok, so I have a question. Was Eve's sin, that she took of the fruit and ate it, or, was it that Satan gave her the option, and she considered it in her mind. Perhaps, since God said, "Do not take of this fruit," it was when she took of that fruit. But how does that relate to us in modern days, when we resist the action of sin, but the thought of sin occurs? Or should we just acknowledge that we sin, all the time, and say, "Lord have mercy." Not worrying about what our sins are, but that we do sin and have forgiveness? I'm trying to figure out tempation, and I don't feel like we went over this in OLF.(Although, I may have just not been paying attention) Thanks Dr. C!

    --Aaron Singleton,

    By Blogger Aaron Singleton, at Sun Mar 12, 03:00:00 PM PST  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Concordiamike, at Fri May 05, 08:54:00 AM PDT  

  • Dr. Carter,

    Mike Nielsen here. Found your blogsite while searching around the CSP website for updated news. Was wondering how you are doing? I hope you and your wife are enjoying your time in India. God's Blessings to you.

    Michael Nielsen

    By Blogger Concordiamike, at Fri May 05, 08:55:00 AM PDT  

  • Dr. Carter,

    This has nothing to do with your posting, except I do like lessons in humility. Thanks for sharing yours.

    Anyway, this is Nate Reichle. I am being ordained in Cambridge, MN at Joy Lutheran on July 2nd at 3 pm. If you're back in the country by then, it would be great to see you there.

    Thanks for your influence in my life.

    Christ is risen!

    By Blogger Nate Reichle, at Thu May 18, 08:23:00 AM PDT  

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