Monday, August 10, 2009

Pumpkin Pound Cake for Peace

Pumpkin Pound Cake for Peace

Makes 3 medium loaves

4 cups whole grain flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 T cinnamon powder

1 T ginger powder

Up to 1/2 cup coconut milk

3 cups pureed baked squash (local)

2/3 cup olive oil

1/2 cup shea butter (local)

2/3 cup honey (local)

1 T vanilla extract

2 T optional coconut flakes

Big pinch salt

Sift flour, baking powder, ginger and cinnamon and set aside.

Puree baked pumpkin,oil, shea butter, honey, vanilla and salt. Stir wet mixture into dry, careful not to over-mix. Add coconut milk as you mix for sticky/doughy consistency. Scoop batter into oiled loaf pans filling halfway, garnish with optional coconut flakes, and bake @ 375 F (180 C) about 45 minutes.

Watch closely near finish, as crown and garnish become golden brown. Insert toothpick to check for moist crumb or no crumb.

Peace is the Hard Part

War is easy...

Peace is the hard part.

Let me explain: war evokes decisive action.

Run. Hide.
Shoot. Fight.

Put graphically, it looks like this:

(this is supposed to be an arrow)

While peace…looks like this:


For Southern Sudan, multiply that question mark by 10,000,000.

When I see a shiny brand new Hummer crawling over potholes in Juba, I am confused and slightly sickened (similar to how I feel seeing them in New York City). But the Hummer is obviously one man’s answer to this question mark.

There appears to be a sense among many Southern Sudanese ‘elite’ that the war is over and they have earned their place in some royal constellation – that they’ve "arrived." My exposure to the internal political discourse is limited, but I do read the local press, and sense that not much preparation is being made for lasting peace.

Weapons are being stockpiled as we speak, and despite all smiles for the recent Abyei ICC ruling, the issue of the ‘outlying’ oilfields is very much unsettled as far as the South is concerned. For any talk of clear sailing through elections and referenda, a more likely scenario is escalating inter-tribal violence, leading to yet another civil war. This time, the sad irony is that the civil war would happen completely inside the borders of Southern Sudan, the world’s newest country. The ruling Dinka are resented by much of the rest of the population, and the murmurs suggest that the tribe will be routed as the first course of action for the nascent state.

So what can any of us do to avert this painful and unnecessary catastrophe?

Take these two examples, which scientifically show the power of intention to change our reality:

Reduced Violent Crime in Washington, D.C.
A National Demonstration Project of Transcendental Meditation (TM) conducted in Washington, D.C. from June 7 to July 30, 1993, tested the efficacy of a peace-creating group for reducing crime as measured by FBI Uniform Crime Statistics. Soon after the start of the study, and during a near-record summer heat wave, violent crime began decreasing and continued to drop until the end of the experiment (maximum decrease 23.6%),after which it began to rise again. The likelihood that this result could be attributed to chance variation in crime levels was less than two parts per billion (p < .000000002). The drop in crime could not be attributed to other possible causes, including prior causative factors, temperature, precipitation, weekends, and police and community anti-crime activities (Social Indicators Research 47: 153-201, 1999).

For much more on this topic, see

And although controversial, Masaru Emoto’s work around the effect of resonance (prayer, music, words) in ice crystals is inspiring and worth a look:

A Triple-Blind Replication

Dean Radin, PhD, Nancy Lund, Masaru Emoto, & Takashige Kizu

An experiment tested the hypothesis that water exposed to distant intentions affects the aesthetic rating of ice crystals formed from that water. Over three days, 1,900 people in Austria and Germany focused their intentions towards water samples located inside an electromagnetically shielded room in California. Water samples located near the target water, but unknown to the people providing intentions, acted as "proximal" controls. Other samples located outside the shielded room acted as distant controls. Ice drops formed from samples of water in the different treatment conditions were photographed by a technician, each image was assessed for aesthetic beauty by over 2,500 independent judges, and the resulting data were analyzed, all by individuals blind with respect to the underlying treatment conditions. Results suggested that crystal images in the intentionally treated condition were rated as aesthetically more beautiful than proximal control crystals (p = 0.03, one-tailed). This outcome replicates the results of an earlier pilot test.

For example, this crystal was formed from the word "happiness"And this one, conversely, from the word, "despair"This one - "Good Job"This one from "You did it wrong!"

The above studies support my own belief that our intention is truly powerful and the guiding force of our life. Collective intention is exponentially more powerful as we see in the Washington study. So how does this jibe with the culture of silent dissent and verbal acquiescence in Southern Sudan (or anywhere, for that matter)? Mixed intentions and mixed messages inevitably lead to mixed results.

I recently spoke to a Sudanese friend of mine who is an up and coming functionary within SPLM’s ranks. Even though he ‘gets it’ – the need to thoughtfully and confidently challenge authority, to demand and create solutions, to take responsibility and quit the addiction to violence – he cannot say no or express dissent to his superiors. Otherwise he believes he will not move up the ladder, so his strategy is an old one: say yes until you arrive in a place of power, then…if your will for moving in a challenging direction hasn’t atrophied entirely, use your hard-earned position for the greater good.

Ironically this friend told me that Southern Sudanese in power are more likely to listen to khawaja (foreigners/white people) than to wise young Sudanese. He and his girlfriend said that the place to challenge the status quo is not the office, but rather, the dinner table.

So what does it take to sow the mustard seed of revolution (or better still – evolution)?

The hell with arms… I say: take up fork and knife!

Let us all make it so:

"Bless this Meal. Our intention is to understand and be understood; to satisfy our interests without encroaching on the interests of others; to serve a common vision without letting individual fear prevent the greatness that awaits us. Amen."

For a flash I imagined writing a development project around the idea: sponsoring meals throughout Sudan, whose intention is, simply, Good Conversation.

But maybe, no foreign-funded bright idea is required. Maybe, if we say it is so, the mustard seed can take root here.