Friday, July 30, 2010

Den of Lions

Terry Anderson was a journalist taken hostage in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war in the 1980's. After his release he wrote an insightful and powerful book called Den of Lions: A Startling Memoir of Survival and Triumph. It is an engrossing account of one's man's personal first hand experience in hell, with incredible self-disclosure.

Earlier this week, as the anniversary of the three American hikers imprisoned in Iran approached, my mind went to Terry Anderson. I reflected on the parallels and differences in the two experiences. The differences form a basis for hope regarding our desired outcomes for these young people and their families.

Anderson was kidnapped, the purpose unclear. The hikers, too, have been in a sense kidnapped. And likewise, the purpose is not clear, other than they are Americans. Anderson, and the others who held hostage with him, were maintained in undisclosed locations. In the case of the hikers, we know where they are and who is holding them. Their mothers were even able to visit them briefly in May.

Like Shane Bauer, Anderson was journalist. Anderson was covering the Beirut beat for the Associated Press when taken. Bauer has been working in various locations in the Middle East this past several years.

After his release, Anderson eventually found a position at the Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University (my Alma Mater.) The experiences he went through did not destroy the man inside. He continue to be an influential voice in the world of journalism. I believe these three young people will likewise return to us, and these unjust experiences will result in making them stronger.

At various places in Den of Lions, Anderson's poems have been interspersed. This one made an especially meaningful connection with me when I read it a few years back.

Stigmata X
by Terry Anderson

No man can ever start anew completely;
he's everything he's done
or said or failed to do.
Each bit is added on,
Altering the whole,
But covering, not replacing
what has gone before.
A piece of unfired clay,
he bears the marks
and scars of all his years.
Not just clay, though
sculptor, too;
he helps to mold himself:
Object, artist, audience.
Sometimes, though, larger hands --
destiny, fate, karma, God --
take firmly hold and,
wielding fierce events,
risk fracture to hack
and carve away some
awkward, ugly bits.
The final work cannot be seen
until it's fired, and all fires cold.

Paul knew: suffering and pain
are the truest ways,
the only ways for some of us,
to draw out that within
which answers to
the purpose of it all.

Let's not forget the hikers, or their families and friends.

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