A war between heart and mind

I was excited when my trainee, Alise Dykstra, presented me the book ‘Three Cups of Tea’ by Greg Mortenson. My excitement increased after reading her wishes for me on the front page and the quote on the back page; “Here (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), we drink three cups of tea to do business, the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything –even die.”

Initially, it was these lines got me interested in the book.  I began reading with great enthusiasm. From the beginning, I was intrigued that the story was based on a true story and the participants were from different religions, Muslims and Christians.

Honestly, it was inspiring and breathtaking that an American guy was willing to do a favor for Muslims living in Afghanistan, especially for Muslim girls.

I have always thought that we are all humans with the same basic feelings and emotions which are reflected in our behavior and opinions. I had the same impression from the Americans and Muslims in the book. Overseas Americans that have been generalized as an enemy of Muslim world and Muslims who were recognized as Americans’ enemies were working for the same goal: education of girls. Reading how local people were carrying materials on their shoulders to build schools was especially touching.

In the book there were many impressing and touching scenes. After reading this book I was convinced once more that a person is a person, no nationality should be generalized. There are bad and good people in America and in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as in other parts of the world.

After reading ‘Three Cups of Tea’, I was so impressed that I began looking for the sequel, ‘Stones into Schools’. After finishing the book, I almost thought to myself that I could go to those lands to help Mortenson.

One can see highlighted parts and a lot of marks in both of these books, but after reading unpleasant news about Greg Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute (CAI) I decided not to use them for this writing. If it weren’t for the recent unpleasant news, I would have written more about the inspiring influence of these books.

Right now I have a lot to say, although I can say nothing. I know I am being overly emotional on this issue, but I can’t help it, I have to write to feel relieved. It is a mystery to me why people are always trying to destroy others. I recently read in a book, it is said this world is a battle and if you don’t kill the person in front of you, be sure he will kill you. The debate over Greg Mortenson has proved this thought. But why should it be right?  They did the same to him. I don’t exactly know whether he has been really doing what they claim or not. But in reality, at least, he was trying to do something to help the people whose lives were also paralyzed because of his country as he himself said in the book: “Each American – particularly those directly benefiting from the imperial exploitations – is morally responsible for the actions of its government.”

I am really upset about the things that have happened to Mortenson and for the readers who were emotionally touched by his story and everything in the books. Now I feel like I am again in the middle of a war between my heart and mind.  My heart says everything was true in the book, he is a good person, and he really tried to help those helpless people. But on the other hand, my mind says vice versa, even expressing those thoughts with words make me feel bad. What kind of world am I living in where it is nearly impossible to believe anyone? I recalled some lines from a book I read a couple of years ago,

And how I am to face the odds of
man’s bedevilment and God’s?
I am a stranger and afraid in
a world I never made

-Alfred Edward Housman


14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Gretchen Clauson on June 1, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    To the author…Please let your heart win this battle. Whatever holes or discrepancies in Mr. Mortenson’s stories, there isn’t a person who would deny that he has still done a lot of good in building schools and supporting education for girls in Pakistan and Afganistan. Only through face-to-face interaction with peoples of other lands/cutltures/religions, can peace take root and blossom in this world. It’s very hard to kill someone you know and love. And you learn to know and love others by living with them and helping to improve their daily lives. I’ll not be turned against Mr. Mortenson and his successes by Jon Krakauer’s timely expose… I want to believe in good, not evil. I will believe in hope not discouragement. I will believe in joy, not sadness. So, author, please think of the positive that Mr. Mortenson has done and don’t dwell on the negative that has surfaced recently. Many years of helping others should be celebrated, not belittled. Let your heart soar.


  2. Posted by Tim on June 1, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    This was a very beautifully written post. I totally understand what you were feeling as the allegations against Mortenson began appearing.

    Don’t let it discourage you too much though. As you mentioned, many schools were built and girls were educated because of his work. I don’t think Mortenson ever intentionally tried to deceive people. If anything, I think his organization received more funding than it could administratively handle and probably should have hired someone with more experience to help manage the money.

    I hope that your heart and mind can make peace with one another 🙂

    Looking forward to reading your future posts.


  3. Posted by Judith Kendall on June 1, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    As shocking as this may all seem, Greg Mortenson had the best of intentions, created schools for thousands of young women and started a much needed dialog in the west about a too little understood culture and place. No one can do all things faultlessly- he needed more management etc. but , in fact, who amongst us has accomplished so much – it’s not a false story, just rearranged. No mentor is perfect and losing faith in a desire to serve or help all peoples is forever noble. Walk the path and stay as true to yourself as possible!


  4. Posted by Joe Lyons on June 2, 2011 at 2:55 am

    Nice job with your blog Sabina. Well thought out, as would be expected from you.


  5. Posted by Morgan Sturt on June 2, 2011 at 7:55 am

    Great post!

    No man is perfect. Mortenson has done a lot of good work despite negative actions and allegations against him. He has brought to light the issue of girls education in that region more than anyone else. I wouldn’t let the allegations against him stop you from thinking you can go to any country and help out there. You don’t have to do it with his organization; you can find another organization that does similar work. If the idea of what could be done in those regions has inspired you, I’d follow that inspiration. Don’t ignore the things he hasn’t done right but take them and use them as a critic for you to do a similar outreach better–more effectively.


  6. Posted by Perishan on June 2, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Dear friend, as Troy Kennedy-Martin says ” I trust everyone. I just don’t trust the devil inside them”. So my advise to you if you don’t want to have a war between heart and mind then never forget about the devil. As I haven’t read the book I can’t tell a lot, but I believe in one thing we are human beings and sins are ienvitable to our nature.


  7. Posted by Eugene Gabrys on June 2, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    One expects literary works, especially biographical accounts, to be truthful and absent of grandiose conjecture. Irrespective of the allegations currently levied against Mr. Mortenson, the work reported completed with the help of his organization seems to have made a difference in the lives of many adolescents, especially girls and young women. Can forgiveness be granted to someone for their authorship transgressions? Perhaps. Time will tell. I say let the good work of Mr. Mortenson and his organization continue, albeit under the watchful eye of independent, third-party observers. Most importantly, let us not lose hope that “good” is done for the betterment of the world.


  8. Posted by Rena on June 3, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Struggle is inalienable part of the world we live in.. Goodness is like a treasure hidden inside of each person, but not everyone can discover it, unfortunately.. At least give chance to those who are struggling to discover this treasure, please..


  9. Posted by Ruzigar on June 3, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Salam Sabish.

    Congratulation with a great job.

    No matter where we are thankfully there are always good spirited people who will stand for other people.
    Sabish keep writing and all the best.


  10. Posted by Trey on June 4, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    I have never liked that Morteson character, Rock and Ice slammed him a long ways back before he was famous. I can’t say I’m surprised


  11. Posted by Qaymar on June 6, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Good job Sabina, really impressing and great post.

    Mortenson contributed the world a lot than any person could do and his actions building schools for girls is a good way to fight against terrorism with a knowledge (Kind of reminded me H.Z.Tagiyev)

    Keep writing Sabina 🙂


  12. Posted by Sally on June 6, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I haven’t read either of Mortenson’s books, nor have I read much about the news surrounding Krakauer’s expose and his organization, but I think that truth is a funny thing- we always expect it to be straightforward, but it’s often not. Perhaps as more information comes out, there will be a better, more complete picture of what happened. Maybe more answers will make some people feel better, but at least no one can take away the education those girls have recieved, and the interest he’s sparked in people for that part of the world.


  13. Posted by Xarici on June 7, 2011 at 2:37 am

    I really enjoyed “Three Cups of Tea” but I found it a off that Greg Mortenson would only be paying himself 20k a year, or whatever low amount the book claims. The story read more like legend than fact, but I still liked it.

    Check out “Mountains Beyond Mountains” and maybe you won’t lose hope. Paul Farmer will seem a bit more practical and less like a half mythic character who fell from the mountains to bless the poor people of Pakistan with his own brand of Western styled martyrdom.


  14. Well written, Sabina.

    Since I don’t know the real story about Morterson, I am afraid I won’t be able to comment about the main content of this blog. But I can say that, I got very interested in the book and looking forward to read it some day.

    Keep writing.


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