13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Getting Lost and Finding the Way, Jun 12 2007
The greatest spiritual teaching of aboriginal peoples and organised religion is that if we can open our hearts, we will help ourselves and others.
In "Three Cups of Tea", as told by Greg Mortensen and written by David Relin, nurse and mountaineer Greg Mortensen, begins this spiritual and practical journey to healing and helping by getting lost on the trail to the base camp of K2 not once, but twice, finally finding himself in a small village whose members nurse him back to health, and inspire him to his life's work: building schools for children.
The schools he builds, and the story of their building, is one of the most amazing adventure stories I have ever read. This book has everything: real-life kidnappings, fatwas declared by mullahs, love, war, nail biting descriptions of mountaineering, wise village elders, corrupt local officials, smugglers, kings and fools. All told with deft and exciting prose beautifully crafted by Relin.
"Three Cups of Tea" is also an amazing political treatise, offering the humble yet powerful arguement that educating impoverished children in Pakistan and Afghanistan, with a balanced, non-extremist cirriculum over the course of a generation, will make us all safer than launching Tomahawk missiles armed with Rayeon guidance systems. And he focuses on education of girls because they are the most likely to stay in their communities, passing their knowledge and strength on.
His journey offers proof. It is an uneducated mullah who declares a fatwa on Moretensen. And it is uneducated mullahs who are preventing girls and women from education and a voice in Islamic life. The Islamic bible, the Holy Koran, does not agree with these practices, and Mortensen's story will hopefully spread that good word to as many westerners as possible.
In fact, in a charged and hilarious section of the book, the Supreme Council of Mullahs, after careful scrutiny of Mortensen's work and behaviour, lifts the fatwa on Mortensen; "Dear Compassionate of the Poor, our Holy Korn tells us all children should receive education, including our daughters and sisters. Your noble work follows the highest principles of Islam, to tend to the poor and sick.".... "Therefore, we direct all the clerices in Pakistan to not interfere with your noble intentions. You have our permission, blessings, and prayers."
Unfortuantely, many people in the United States, inside politics and out, do not share the appreciation of the work Mortensen and his agency is doing. The book tells us that less than one quarter of the money President Bush has promised has actually arrived in Afghanistan, and of that , $680 million has been 'redirected' to bulk up preparations for the invasion of Iraq. Mortensen shares some of the hate email he receives from Americans, who brand him a traitor for siding with the enemy.
And in a briliant segment, Mortensen and Relin tell of the anger that Mortensen finally expresses, in a presentation for Congress. He starts to speak about teachers in Afghanistan not having any salary for months, no schools at all, poverty, and the importance of America keeping its promises. He tells them of the millions of dollars being spent by Saudi sheiks in Pakistan and Afghanistan to build the Whahabi madrassas, many of them extremist schools of jihad, and of money brought in by the suitcase to fuel the war on America.
Mortensen is interrupted, mid-sentence, by a Republican Congressman, who challenges him; "Building schools for children is fine and dandy, but our primary need as a nation now is for security. Without security, what does all this matter?"
"I don't do what I am doing to fight terror," Mortensen said, measuring his words, trying not to get get himself kicked out of Congress. "I do it because I care for kids. Fighting terror is maybe seventh or eigth on my list of prioitites. But working over there, I've learned a few things. I've learned that terror doesn't happen because some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan decide to hate us. It happens because children aren't being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death."
Mortensen's journey is brilliantly written by David Relin in "Three Cups of Tea." Never preachy, always exciting, often humourous and ironic, Relin's prose is on point, focused and alive.
This book should be on the cirriculum of each and every high school in North America, both for its inspiration of what one person can do, and for its lesson that education brings self-sustainment, fullfillment, and peace.