Notes from a fascinating world.
The world is like a bazaar, full of interesting odds and ends, and I've been exiled into it. This is my all-over-the-map (literally and metaphorically) attempt at capturing some of the world's many wonders.
Standing in the snow in Pripyat, the abandoned township across from the nuclear reactors in Chernobyl, I kept thinking about how apocalypses are alien to the American historical experience.
Perhaps that means Americans have less instinct for how to behave in such a scenario. And presumably this has much to do with American pop culture’s inclination to imagine destruction, whether through zombies or aliens or, representative of a different type of apocalypse, the collapse of a sociopolitical order thought to be stable, through Nazi conquest (The Man in the High Castle), which all of a sudden doesn’t seem altogether fictional.
In the Islamic tradition, the Quran is believed to be a recitation that the Prophet Mohammed made under divine inspiration. The angel Gabriel or Jibreel (he of the Annunciation in Christian tradition) is believed to have given him the text. Therefore Mohammed is not considered the author of the Quran but only a conduit for the divine.
But the words and deeds of Mohammed when not divinely inspired are also important to Islam. A report describing such words and deeds is called a hadith (Arabic: حديث). And in fact, hadiths are the source of many important Islamic teachings, including rules relating to prayer.
From Thamel I caught a cab to Bhaktapur, the ancient city five miles east of Kathmandu proper. The driver was a tallish, chatty man of about forty named Ben.
“Are you married?” he asked. I said I wasn’t. “Good. Single life better. Once you marry, in Nepal, all the responsibility is on the man.” I asked how many children he had. He said he had a 12-year-old daughter.
I asked whether the earthquake last year affected his family. “Yes,” he nodded. “Our house collapsed. Thankfully no one in my family was hurt.”
“Have you rebuilt it?”
“No. We’re waiting for the government assistance. But actually the amount of money they give is only two thousand dollars.”
“That’s not much for rebuilding a house.”
He shook his head in agreement. “It’s not enough. So I hope that God will help me.”
Writer, traveler, lawyer, dilettante. Failed student of physics. Not altogether distinguished graduate of two Ivy League institutions. Immigrant twice over. "The grand tour is just the inspired man's way of getting home."