Monday, April 7, 2008


We're both reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's book "The First Circle" about life in and out of a Russian scientific lab where political prisoners work for free using their engineering skills and scientific prowess to perform Stalin's whims. While not as disastrous a place to be as the better known gulag, these "sharashka's" were nevertheless long term imprisonment. The book seems to be making the point that imprisonment is important and useful for refining and maturing people. The people not in prison have more struggles, more anguish of decisions and circumstances. The guys inside have time for self-reflection and true friendship. Very interesting. The most unsettling idea is the idea of men being put in prison for merely thinking or being accused of thinking anti-nation thoughts. It rings far to close to the events that are going on under the name of the Patriot Act in the U.S. (Anti-Iran posturing by our media,forgotten people in Guantanamo, spying and wire-tapping of U.S. citicens becoming the norm...) Another thing we learned from this book that seems to be a creepy irony is that both Stalin and Hitler created Homeland Security Departments in their countries soon before using those departments to "protect" the governments from people with different ideas by seizing them without warrant and imprisoning them.

It is a frustrating thing to think about but being removed by water, and quite some miles puts us in our own microcosm where we have decided that to live well, communicate kindly, and be obedient to our purpose is one way to respond to large injustices. It has also brought home the idea that "security" cannot be created by human structures, be they insurance policies, laws, car airbags or airport searches. Security only comes from being confident that our lives are in the hand of God and our minds are given us to use to prevent foolish accidents and the Spirit is given us to lead us to. The men in the sharashka each had their own way of dealing with the injustice of being confined wrongfully. All of them in their own way used their skills to resist the system and stubbornly to grow toward the person they wanted to be. At the same time they were all painfully aware that no matter what they did on the inside of the sharashka or what they had done before they were confined, couldn't make them secure from the whims (beneficial or harmful)of the new prison guard or the powers that were in control of their lives. Reminds me of a verse in Micah...

He has shown you o man what is good, and what the Lord requires of you.. to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

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