While we have talked about many aspects of Fieldwork: a novel by Mischa Berlinski, we have one rock left to turn over. And it’s a fairly big one, so I left it as a stand alone discussion.
Before we dive into talking about the belief in Rice, I had to keep reminding myself this isn’t real, Berlinski made this up. But didn’t he do a fantastic job writing about Rice, the rituals, and how it influenced the Dylao’s daily life? I really enjoyed the Walker’s translation of Psalm 23 — and thought it was clever of Berlinski to even give it footnotes!
I am Wu-pa-sha’s bi’na-ma; there is nothing I want.
He brings me to sleep in the soft grass of the green rice fields.
I love the familiarity and comfort of this passage brings and the way it can be translated to speak directly to a group.
Obviously the more the Walkers understood the Dylao, the more their work could penetrate hearts and lives. But it is equally obvious repentance, for all of us, involves some form of turning from aspects of a culture. I’d imagine you’ve lived that tension in your own life — whether it’s playing cards, watching TV, getting a tattoo, or having an alcoholic beverage. Part of our walk of faith are very clear (do not have an affair), but many are gray and left to our own conscious, convictions and the guiding of the Holy Spirit.
Martiya felt so strongly about the role Rice played in Dylao culture, she was willing to kill. She believed she was protecting an integral and sacred part of their culture. The fact that her lover was going to leave her probably factored in, as well as some form of evil spiritual element. Could the Dylao still be the Dylao without Rice? How would giving up Rice impact their culture and identity?
Where have you encountered local beliefs? When is OK to adapt customs without much change? And what is our role as “outsiders” in helping our new brothers and sisters navigate those decisions? I look forward to wrestling over this with you in the comments.
Thanks for a great time discussing our first novel! As to our next book — we will start it the first week of March and I’ll announce it next week. During the month of February we will talk about all things books and even have an interview with an author! It’s a chance to share book recommendations and add to our to-read lists. Fun, fun!