The observable examined

Of Gulags and Heavens

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I couldn’t help notice the irony in a couple of stories circulating in the media.

The first  is a book review – Escape from Camp 14 – which is the story of a man who escaped from one of the North Korean gulags.  A couple of weeks ago,  I had read the excerpt of his actual escape – Escape from a North Korean Prison. This account already gives us a glimpse of the dehumanizing conditions Shin Dong-hyuk endured and how he made good his escape over the freshly dead body of his friend (he was electrocuted on the fence when trying to escape). I thought this was cruel. Till I read the book review. Shin actually witnessed the beating death of a 6-yr old classmate, the reason: she had stolen a few kernels of corn. In his teen years, he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother. He was also punished for the misdeeds of his parents (North Korea believes in punishing the whole family for an individual’s violations).  I urge you to read both of these pieces to understand just how messed up North Korea is. To witness a completely brainwashed people whose self-image, actually never mind, one doesn’t exist, please watch this full length video from National Geographic. It is so tragic as to almost make you incredulous. Control over the individual’s mind is absolute. This is a nation of a little over 24 million people!!

The cover story in the latest issue of Time Magazine is entitled – Rethinking Heaven! In time for the Easter weekend, the article is a nice tour of how the notion of Heaven has evolved over the years in Christian thinking. Essentially, our conception of heaven has mirrored the dominant cultural sensibilities prevalent at any given period of time. Today, some in the church are advocating that Heaven is not a place up there in the clouds guarded by pearly gates. Rather, it  is to be achieved by being eco-friendly, and making a difference through active participation in improving the lot of the underprivileged. In other words, Heaven is a place that can be built on Terra Firma. This to me is a very promising trend.

But, surely what constitutes Heaven must be relative. To Shin, escaping from the Gulag and having the chance to be human for the first time must have been Heaven!


Written by asterix98

April 7, 2012 at 6:10 am

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