Thursday, April 28, 2011

Three Cups of Tea: Desire to believe in great men - the subsequent betrayal & shattered faith


I remember my first Mortenson Moment. It was a few years ago, in an old auditorium in Santa Fe, N.M., and I sat waiting with my wife and son in a large murmuring crowd. Greg Mortenson, arriving late, flashed a shy smile and a namaste sign as he took the stage. He had a bashful cluelessness that somehow made him all the more endearing. Soon he launched into The Story: How in 1993, he stumbled into the tiny Pakistani village of Korphe after a failed attempt on K2. How the kind villagers nursed him back to health with many cups of tea. How as payment for their generosity, he returned to build a school. How that one school became hundreds of schools across Pakistan and Afghanistan. And how, tonight, we could help him build more.

If Mortenson’s story—distilled from his mega-bestseller Three Cups of Tea—seemed smarmy in places, its pull was irresistible. Anybody with a heart had to be inspired by the beautiful idea that one man could make such a profound difference in such a hard and desperate part of the world. I remember thinking that this was not only a book talk and charity fundraiser, it was something akin to a religious experience—a modern-day tent revival. People had not merely come to listen, they’d come to believe. Mortenson, a son of missionaries and a nurse by training who by then had been thrice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (and whose books were required reading by the Pentagon), was a secular saint who’d seized upon a revolutionary notion that soared across conflicts and continents—the power of educating children, especially girls, in tribal societies racked by poverty and war. In our cynical age, he was one dreamer who seemed to give off an authentic halo glow. That night, I could see genuine reverence in people’s eyes and in the earnest faces of children clutching their jars of pennies. [...]

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