Chapter 1 The Seed and Its Promise

An overworked hill, denuded by need,

Eventually causes a mudslide to speed.

Habits that harm need resources that heal;

Orphans, the hopeless, does this appeal?

On September 18, 2004, much of the city of Gonaives in Haiti was buried by a massive mudslide. More than one thousand men, women, and children lost their lives, suffocated by a mountain that moved suddenly.

It took a lot of effort over many years to move that hillside. More than four hundred years ago, when the area was first settled, the hills were covered in trees, trees whose roots ran deep, trees whose canopies sheltered the earth below.

And then, in their need for charcoal to fuel their simple stoves, the villagers began to uproot their trees and leave the soil without protection. It took years to expose their sheltering hillside and turn it into a sagging monster waiting to pounce.

Tropical Storm Jeanne drenched the northwest coast of the island. Finally the saturated hills could absorb no more. Shifting under its own weight, the mountain suddenly let go. In its slide forward, it turned to a thick, viscous wall of mud that avalanched downward upon the townspeople.

In minutes, it was over. The rain continued to fall, joined now by the frantic tears of those left behind.

To convert these trees to charcoal was a way of life over many years. It was the custom, a commercial necessity; and yet, allowed to go on without restraint, this simple provision led to a disaster.

Have we, in our advantaged communities, so uprooted our economic environment that we, too, are beginning to be buried alive?

Our trees of ethics, virtues, and integrity that provided needed services to others for the common good have been uprooted and converted into free-for-all fuel for modern marketing practices.

What used to be service has become exploitation.

Our communities are becoming saturated as our manufacturers struggle to survive in today's hugely competitive marketplace.

We appear to have too many producers selling the same goods or services to too few consumers. Only by continually upgrading their marketing message can all these industries survive.

As the messages overlap one another and we consumers work harder and longer to afford to pursue the latest upgrade in our pursuit of the promised benefits, the mountain of our own making begins to slide.

It would now seem that we are reaching our design limits. Even the most alluring upgrades often turn sour and disappoint. For example, as I sit here writing with my mechanical pencil in a spiral bound journal, my wife, Treena, has just hit that button on her laptop and lost an entire body of work. Poof! In one nanosecond it's all gone. Another so-called promise hits the dust while I turn the page and slowly carry on!

Ha de ha! I have at this moment spent one and a half hours trying to find how to make the visible marks on a document invisible. It was perfectly simple when I found what I had done. I agree with Graham it can be very frustrating, although I'm not sure how he knows when he is completely computer illiterate! (It must be from hearing me "snort" when something goes wrong!) Yes, I am self-taught. That's what makes it fun! However, I, like many others, could not write as Graham does. Imagine twenty-seven books with a pencil and an eraser! I like puzzles and have always taught myself everything. I must admit my computer helps to keep me humble. Does his pencil do that, I wonder?