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Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Jack and Kathleen's lives have changed in many ways since they met in Ordinary Man and the intensity of their feelings for each other continue to grow. Now that Kathleen has moved to Nashville to live, they feel like they can finally move forward in their relationship.
Jack knows Kathleen is the woman he wants to spend his life with. But he has been careful not to rush her Jack and Kathleen's lives have changed in many ways since they met in Ordinary Man and the intensity of their feelings for each other continue to grow.
But he has been careful not to rush her; she has given up so much just so they can be together. When Jack's career success and the depth of their love for each other fuels another's jealous violence, it threatens the relationship they have just begun to develop. That is something you can have every single day of your life. Seeing how small we are in the grand scheme of things is only one portion of this exercise. The second, more subtle point, is to tap into what the Stoics call sympatheia , or a mutual interdependence with the whole of humanity. Let us postpone nothing.
Let that determine what you do and say and think. Meditating on your mortality is only depressing if you miss the point. The Stoics find this thought invigorating and humbling. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own. What we have influence over and what we do not.
A flight is delayed because of weather— no amount of yelling at an airline representative will end a storm. No amount of wishing will make you taller or shorter or born in a different country. And on top of that, time spent hurling yourself at these immovable objects is time not spent on the things we can change. Return to this question daily—in each and every trying situation. Journal and reflect on it constantly. If you can focus on making clear what parts of your day are within your control and what parts are not, you will not only be happier, you will have a distinct advantage over other people who fail to realize they are fighting an unwinnable battle.
Epictetus the slave. Marcus Aurelius the emperor. Seneca the power broker and playwright. These three radically different men led radically different lives. But they seemed to have one habit in common: Journaling. In one form or another, each of them did it. This daily practice is the philosophy. Preparing for the day ahead. Reflecting on the day that has passed. Reminding oneself of the wisdom we have learned from our teachers, from our reading , from our own experiences.
Not everything is as clean and straightforward as we think they may be. Psychologically, we must prepare ourselves for this to happen. Seneca , for instance, would begin by reviewing or rehearsing his plans, say, to take a trip. And then, in his head or in journaling as we said above , he would go over the things that could go wrong or prevent it from happening—a storm could arise, the captain could fall ill, the ship could be attacked by pirates. By doing this exercise, Seneca was always prepared for disruption and always working that disruption into his plans.
He was fitted for defeat or victory. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it…. The Stoics were not only familiar with this attitude but they embraced it. It is why amor fati is the Stoic exercise and mindset that you take on for making the best out of anything that happens: Treating each and every moment—no matter how challenging—as something to be embraced, not avoided. To not only be okay with it, but love it and be better for it.
So that like oxygen to a fire, obstacles and adversity become fuel for your potential. The parents of these people had been told over and over again that they were uglier and stupider than the Tutsis. They were told they would never be as physically attractive or as capable of running the affairs of the country. It was a poisonous stream of rhetoric designed to reinforce the power of the elite. When the Hutus came to power they spoke evil words of their own, fanning the old resentments, exciting the hysterical dark places in the heart.
The words put out by radio station announcers were a major cause of the violence. There were explicit exhortations for ordinary citizens to break into the homes of their neighbors and kill them where they stood. Clean your neighborhood. Do your duty. If a person was able to run away his position and direction of travel were broadcast and the crowd followed the chase over the radio like a sports event. The avalanche of words celebrating racial supremacy and encouraging people to do their duty created an alternate reality in Rwanda for those three months.
It was an atmosphere where the insane was made to seem normal and disagreement with the mob was fatal. Rwanda was a failure on so many levels. It started as a failure of the European colonists who exploited trivial differences for the sake of a divide-and-rule strategy.
It was the failure of Africa to get beyond its ethnic divisions and form true coalition governments. It was a failure of Western democracies to step in and avert the catastrophe when abundant evidence was available. It was a failure of the United States for not calling a genocide by its right name. It was the failure of the United Nations to live up to its commitments as a peacemaking body.
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All of these come down to a failure of words. But they can also be powerful tools of life. They may be the only ones. Today I am convinced that the only thing that saved those 1, people in my hotel was words. Not the liquor, not money, not the UN. Just ordinary words directed against the darkness. They are so important. I used words in many ways during the genocide—to plead, intimidate, coax, cajole, and negotiate.
I was slippery and evasive when I needed to be. I acted friendly toward despicable people. I put cartons of champagne into their car trunks. I flattered them shamelessly. I said whatever I thought it would take to keep the people in my hotel from being killed. I had no cause to advance, no ideology to promote beyond that one simple goal. Those words were my connection to a saner world, to life as it ought to be lived. I am not a politician or a poet. I built my career on words that are plain and ordinary and concerned with everyday details. I am nothing more or less than a hotel manager, trained to negotiate contracts and charged to give shelter to those who need it.
My job did not change in the genocide, even though I was thrust into a sea of fire. I only spoke the words that seemed normal and sane to me. I did what I believed to be the ordinary things that an ordinary man would do. I said no to outrageous actions the way I thought that anybody would, and it still mystifies me that so many others could say yes. My father was a farmer, my mother his helper. Our house was made of mud and sticks.
We were about a mile away from the nearest village. The first world I can remember was green and bright, full of cooking fires and sisters murmuring and drying sorghum and corn leaves in the wind and the warm arms of my mother. Our house had three rooms. There were small windows with pieces of hinged wood to keep out the sun and rain. The house was built on an incline of terraced farms, but the small yard outside was flat. My mother kept it swept clean of seedpods and leaves with a homemade broom made out of bundled twigs.
When I grew old enough she would let me help her. I still remember the happiness I felt on the day when she trusted me to do it by myself. From the courtyard you could look south across the winding Ruvayaga Valley to the opposite hill. It seemed an awesome distance, like looking into another country. The hill was laced, as ours was, with houses made out of mud and stucco and baked red tiles, dots of cattle grazing, the groves of avocado plants, and the paddlewide leaves of the banana trees that practically sparkled in the sun. On a perfect day you could lie in the grass near our home and see people at work in the fields on the next hill.
They looked like ants. And far, far in the distance you could make out the clustered roofs of the village called Gitwe, where my parents told me I would one day learn how to read and write, which neither of them could do. Bird, inyoni. Mud, urwoondo.
Stones, amabuye. Milk, amata. To enter our house through the front door you had to step up on a stoop made of gray rocks. I used to climb in on my hands and knees. To the side of the door was a flat stone used for sharpening machetes.
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There was a shallow depression in the middle where rainwater would collect. After a storm I would splash my hands around in the cool water, putting it on my face and letting it dribble down my cheeks. It was the best part of the rain. When those storms came in September the lightning and thunder scared me.
My three younger brothers and I would sometimes huddle together during the worst ones. And then we would laugh at each other for our cowardice. Thunder, inkuba. I got a lot of attention from my mother as a result, and trailed her around the house hoping she would reward me with a chore. The firmament of our relationship was work; we expressed love to one another in the thousands of little daily actions that kept a rural African family together. She showed me how to take care of the baby goats and cows, and how to grind cassava into flour.
Even when I came back to visit my parents when I was grown it would be only minutes before I would find myself holding an empty jerrican and going to fetch well water for my mother. There was a narrow path from the main road that twisted up the side of the ridge and passed through groves of banana trees. I had learned how to walk on this path. It was our connection with a small village called Nkomero, which occupies the top of one of the hundreds of thousands of hills in Rwanda. There are at least half a million hills, maybe more. If geography creates culture, then the Rwandan mind is shaped like solid green waves.
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We are the children of the hills, the grassy slopes, the valley roads, the spider patterns of rivers, and the millions of rivulets and crevasses and buckles of earth that ripple across this part of Central Africa like the lines on the tired face of an elder. If you ironed Rwanda flat, goes the joke, it would be ten times as big.
We had to learn the hard way how to arrange our plots of corn and cabbage into flat terraces on the sloping ground so as not to turn a farm into an avalanche. Every inch of arable land is used this way. The daily walk up to a family grove can be an exercise in calf-straining misery going up, and in thigh-wracking caution going down. I think our legs must be the most muscular on the African continent. Continues… Excerpted from "An Ordinary Man" by. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group. All rights reserved.
No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. The Boston Globe An extraordinary cautionary tale. Louis Post-Dispatch Read this book. It will humble and inspire you. The Times , London. When a crazed army officer barged into the Hotel Des Milles Collines, Rusesabagina treated him much as he would any angry hotel guest.
He offered the man a drink, and then deferred to every statement his guest made. And finally, when the man had calmed down, Rusesabagina suggested a solution that might make all parties happy. He bet his own life on his belief that, even in the midst of a genocide, most people are only a conversation away from their normal selves. This may seem a very strange belief for a contemporary Rwandan to hold.
Before , the exceptionally courteous population of this tiny, beautiful African country seemed anything but dangerous, but behind their smiles, Rwandans nursed deep political and historical grievances. Angry talk shows on the radio stoked long-held resentments against the Tutsi minority. Neighbor began attacking neighbor, and a killing spree began that would eventually claim the lives of at least half a million people in the space of just a few months. But Rusesabagina clung to his confidence in the power of language. Even when the streets were littered with corpses, he patiently continued talking until each killer in front of him turned into just a man, open to making a deal.
An Ordinary Man makes clear that the most famous hero of the Rwandan genocide survived above all because of his strength of character and his capitalist wits. Rusesabagina had originally trained to be a pastor, but as an industrious young man, he decided there was little opportunity in the clergy and instead found a career in a multinational corporation. Not at all.
If I was able to save lives, it was only because I had some useful tools at my disposal. I had a five-story building in which to hide people. I had a cooler full of beer and wine with which to bribe the killers.