Saturday, April 19, 2008

Readings: The Nature of Paradox

From The Ghost Road by Pat Baker

The character, Rivers, a British physician, musing about his days traveling throughout the islands of Melanesia as a member of a missionary team:

By late afternoon they’d moored by a rotting landing stage on Eddystone, and clambered ashore to supervise the unloading of their stores. Rivers was used to missionized islands where canoes paddled out to meet the incoming steamer, brown faces, white eyes, flashing smiles, while others gathered at the landing stage, ready to carry bags up to the mission station for a few sticks of tobacco or even sheer Christian goodwill. A cheerful picture, as long as you didn’t notice the rows and rows of crosses in the mission graveyard, men and women in the prime of life dead of the diseases of the English nursery: whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, chicken pox, scarlet fever – all were fatal here. And the mission boat carried them from island to island, station to station, remorselessly, year after year.

A study in unintended consequences.