On August 7, the New York Times ran a story by Rukmini Callimachi about Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, a young American couple, both graduates of Georgetown University, who decided to quit their humdrum office jobs and go on an epic bike ride and camping trip that would take them all over the world. “I’ve grown tired of spending the best hours of my day in front of a glowing rectangle, of coloring the best years of my life in swaths of grey and beige,” Austin wrote. “I’ve missed too many sunsets while my back was turned.”
So in July of last year, they flew from Washington, D.C., to Cape Town, and from there bicycled through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Malawi to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania….
You watch the news and you read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place,” wrote Austin during their trek. “People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted….I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own…”
They biked through Kyrgyzstan and entered Tajikistan. It was in that country that their journey came to an abrupt end this past July 29, when five ISIS members deliberately plowed their car into the two adventurers, killing them along with two temporary cycling companions, one from Switzerland and the other from the Netherlands. “Two days later,” wrote Callimachi, “the Islamic State released a video showing five men it identified as the attackers, sitting before the ISIS flag. They face the camera and make a vow: to kill ‘disbelievers….’”
What, then, is the moral of this couple’s story? In the last analysis, it’s a story about two young people who, like many other privileged members of their generation of Americans, went to a supposedly top-notch university only to come away poorly educated but heavily propagandized – imbued with a fashionable postmodern contempt for Western civilization and a readiness to idealize and sentimentalize “the other” (especially when the latter is decidedly uncivilized). This, ultimately, was their tragedy: taking for granted American freedom, prosperity, and security, they dismissed these extraordinary blessings as boring, banal, and (in Austin’s word) “beige,” and set off, with the starry-eyed and suicidal naivete of children who never entirely grew up, on a child’s fairy-tale adventure into the most perilous parts of the planet. Far from being inspirational, theirs is a profoundly cautionary – and distinctly timely – tale that every American, parents especially, should take to heart.
Read it all (cited in the morning sermon) and make sure to read the whole Ny Times original story.