Archive for the ‘Inspiration from Sages’ Category
Today the river was liquid cellophane, silver and lugubrious. Thank God I am ambulatory and up before the Harvard hordes.
I had a nightmare the night before. The dream was a bad car accident where I was terribly hurt but without a drop of blood. Do you ever wonder where pain comes from? Does the river feel the pain of all the chloride and aluminum metals? Do beetles have receptors, knowing when your boot crushes them? Such were my thoughts on this early morning run by the Charles River. I was running despite the groaning of my joints and the dullness of my head. Often when I’m stuck or in trouble, I just run by the river edge. Sure , just rationalize it as exercise to relief stress, but I know better. I’m actually trying to become the river, to move over this earth soaking knowledge like water.
Today I was not disappointed. Spring came in the strangest form, not daffodils, not the bluegills running downstream. There, next to the packed earth of my running trail were little 5 centimeter mounds of dirt. These primordial mounds were tiny bubbles. Not linear ziggurats my brother made of sand, no they were pebbles of dirt piled by a blowhole. Scattered like confetti They were everywhere. The worms of spring had awoken. Not a one of their congregation was visible, just these tiny portals crested with a posy of earth. This way I knew the worms are doing their work without having to step over the slimy buggers. The geese were out trumpeting and cropping the grass to a nub. Among bright green tufts sat the worm piles, like drip castles made on the beach. They are fine decorations without their slithery blind carpenters. I know worms are the farmers of dirt, composting our soil. It’s nicer to see delicate mounds instead of a toilet thimble.
Running under the majestic sycamores, I saw buds all about. My stride stretched. I made my shoulders drop with my exhale. I and the worms are sharing this plot of earth. Do worms have nightmares? I just steamrolled over a worm hole pulverizing the mound. Oh well. “Sorry, for destroying your day’s work. Sorry for being a chunk in a delicate world of new growth. I can’t claim to be an animal rights maniac when I kill so many species with my gluttonous lifestyle. On a material plane, I take up more space than an elephant.
These squirmy, gutsy worms not just making rich loam for mammals, but aerating the surface. I run, thud, stretch, thud. My heavy steps harden the earth. I am planning Seder dinner, I pray for my son in New Orleans, I will build a garden bed. But the worms, they are preparing the earth better than a horse and plow. I run hard over the land, and the worms, one by one pull out the dirt, leave earth in piles, dive under and push the organic stuff.
Two Quakers taught me a lot. The first one I listened to and the second one I argued with. The first one, John Calvi, is a well-known healer who pronounced, “If you can’t pray, at least do something for 10 minutes daily where you are not thinking of yourself.” Oh-kaay. That way I’ll be ready, and open for the Messiah, who has come and is coming. So though my turbid brain wasn’t pray, my song to earthworms has saved me for today. The other Quaker, Lita, told me that history wasn’t important, but the fact that Quakers believe in continuing revelation is. I protested, I love the story of daredevil Quakers. This history informs me. But reveling in Quaker past glory is hubris and bunk. I lost the argument with my friend.
I feel strong and relaxed as I run over the last bridge. Revelation comes in small increments. I dodge a patch of daffodils on my way home. My nightmares met into the dank soil. But my foot comes down flat onto a worm mound. Splat!
At the end of October I learned that Eileen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, along with 2 other women, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman. Johnson Sirleaf is the first elected female African president and Gbowee from Liberia is active reconciling fighting factions. Karman,a 32 year old, Yemeni journalist inspired thousands of Yemen women to speak out. Karman called the award “a victory for our revolution, for our methods, for our struggle, for all Yemeni youth, and all the youth in the Arab world.”
I find myself singing Handel’s Aleluja chorus when I think of these three women at work in this tattered world. Go Madam Eileen. Give your heart, Gbowee. And Karman, speak the truth. Thank Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Abraham and especially Sarah. Finally we can hear some women’s voices. Thank you ancestors and the Living Spirit. In Liberia after the November 7 elections, Johnson Sirleaf appointed Gbowee to head a National peace and Reconciliation Initiative. “Reconciliation is a personal, internal, collective journey that people must decide they are going to take,” says Gbowee. Without a country addressing national grievances, no healing can occur. Liberians are still divided over the 1985 presidential elections and problems of unemployment and disempowerment rise up like a dusty whirling dust storm. During Liberia’s civil war, Gbowee brought together several dozen Christian and Muslim women who rose up to stop the war.
Sirleaf is affectionately known as Africa’s “Iron–lady”, due to her iron determination. She was awarded the Peace Prize for her “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” There have only been 12 previous female Nobel Peace Prizes in 110 years, one was Wangari Maathai in 2004. Here on this October day speckled with yellow leaves falling like stars, we say goodbye to Maathai recently deceased and hello to Sirleaf, who will continue to inspire us to the higher calling of unity. Turn away from petty disputes toward healing.
Dear ancestors, Ishtar, Sarah, Hecate, Shekinah, Kali, Mary and Sophia. Give us guidance. Thanks be for all the women warriors who carry the torch of truth and compassion across the weeping land.
Henry David Thoreau Civil Disobedience 1849
Abby Kelley Foster/Susan B. Anthony/Elizabeth Stanton
Mock voting booth for women suffrage 1872
Mahatma Gandhi started satyagraha in India 1910s
Salt march 1940s
Rosa Parks Civil Rights in Alabama 1961
MLK Freedom Riders in south 1960s
Robert/JFK US Peace Corps alternative service to military1960s
US Academia recognizes need for peace Departments 1968
Lentz Institute; Colgate; Manhattan Universities in forefront
Cesar Chavez Dolores Huerta United Farm Workers in CA 1970
Robert Hunter Greenpeace 1971
Seabrook NH and Antinuclear Movement 1979
Berrigan brothers Plowsharers Nuclear Disarmament 1980
Elise Boulding Culture of Peace 1980s
Jim Corbett in AZ 1982
Sanctuary Movement and Civil Initiative
Churches Sanctuary Movement in TX,AZ Chicago 1984
Peace Brigades International 1981
Pledge of Resistance against contras in Nicaragua
Act UP in NYC 1985
Gay rights and stopping unfair medical practices during AIDS epidemic
Kathy Kelly Voices of Creative Nonviolence 2003
Nonviolence Peaceforce International 2003
“Wangari’s concern for the planet was drawn from her deep concern for humanity. It was very clear to her that for humanity to thrive, our planet had to thrive! For our children to be healthy, our environment had to be healthy. She held the strong view that if we learnt how to manage our natural resources, we would learn how to manage our countries.” Says Miriam Were, a Quaker doctor who counted Wangari her friend.
Wangari Mathai was a great Kenyan leader who died last week age 71. “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness,” she said, “to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”
Mathai was the first African woman to win the Peace Prize. The Nobel committee in 2004 called “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” It was a moment of immense pride in Kenya and across Africa. The Nobel committee hailed her for taking “a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights in particular” and for serving “as inspiration for many in the fight for democratic rights.”
Her Green Belt Movement has planted more than 30 million trees in Africa and has helped nearly 900,000 women, inspiring similar efforts in other African countries. The trees provide income, firewood and prevent drought. She went on to obtain a doctorate in veterinary anatomy at the University of Nairobi, becoming the first woman in East or Central Africa to hold such a degree.
She was a thorn in the side of Kenya’s previous president, Daniel arap Moi, whose government labeled the Green Belt Movement “subversive” during the 1980s. Maathai protested the proposal of a huge skyscraper in Nairobi’s central park and soon afterwards she was beaten unconscious by police. She protested the elite holding onto privilege in 2008 and was hit with tear gas by police.
There is a lot of poverty in Africa. Yet Africa is not a poor continent. It is endowed with human beings, sunshine, oil, precious stones, forests, water, wildlife, soil, land and agricultural products. So what is the problem? You cannot be secure by using your power to control resources and deciding that you can’t share them with the rest of the world. You will not realize peace that way. You will have conflict.
“People, especially in Africa, must invest in peace, must invest in preventing conflict. We must allow our children to grow, to go to school, instead of carrying guns to shoot each other. You cannot have security by putting borders around yourself.”
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