Light In Action

Climate Change is our Love Story

I am growing slowly, steadily. Imagine a dandelion, stretching its yellow tendrils. in the face of climate disaster I’m humbled but not cowed. I am reconfiguring the pieces of my life.

The tempests, the droughts, the melting ice caps are speaking to us louder than any scientific treatise. Human greed has caused havoc with this planet. The biodiversity is amazing and wonderful.CopywebZayEli snow Global warming has informed us that humans have smashed tough boots into the ground, causing massive carbon footprints. Humans over consume, overcrowd the land, pollute the air and seas shamelessly.

Our exploitation has broken harmony with creation. When we create dissonance with creation, we break with the Creator. We cannot be a people following God and continue our current lifestyle. The 8 commandment says

Do not steal. We steal forests, rivers, and food from the poor. The 7th commandment says

Do not commit adultery. We do rape the land with fracking, building pipelines through aquifers, and mountain-top removal for coal powered electricity. The 6th commandment says

Do not kill. The killing that happens because of fueled vehicles, air-conditioned buildings, and butchering animals breaks my heart. Do we need to destroy so much of the earth? Will motorboats and hummers be remembered in 100 years when eagles and big cats and coral reefs have died?

We were given a Garden of Eden. We are not to dominate. It is not even a Garden entrusted to us. We are dependent on it, and thus must listen to its needs, not only to human needs.

Where do we find guidance in the midst of climate change? The stories of Genesis, Navajo creation stories, and the Cherokee and Seneca are ancient lessons. The guidance of human behavior, human love and justice can be found in many scriptures like the Torah, Bhagavad Gita, and the Bible. Thirdly we can listen to the voice of creation today. The Christian trinity is the Creator, the Messiah and the Holy Spirit. Well the Spirit is sending us messages—in a nonverbal voice--some of destruction and some of hope.

My journey includes learning how to listen beyond the fray of human discontent. My vision includes welcoming all types of humans and allowing all living creatures to live in their niches. My work is to listen to the Holy One who blesses all species, and doesn’t favor humans over others. I need to listen to many who are saying, “I can’t breathe.” Chesapeake mass killing 2011The needs of dolphins, redwoods and rhinoceros are interwoven with my needs. The survival of the planet is the same story as Noah and the Ark; as the Navajo Changing Woman; as condors that soar in the Andes; as sea turtles that march up the beach to lay eggs. I don’t despair. It’s our story; it’s a love story.

I bend and learn in the face of climate disturbance. . I trust in the universal power. I do not understand the sturdy dandelion, but I listen to the wind that scatters its tiny helicopter seeds. And I  smile.herons sunset

 


Peace with a Pint of Irish

I was in Ireland all of 20 days and I've been puzzling "why is the human race so violent and yet so loving?" How can this be? I can't find a kinder warmer people than the ones I met on Dublin streets. The Irish seem more active in their churches than other Europeans. Yet my time here has reverberated with violence: a Malaysian plane shot down; killing willy-nilly in Gaza/ Iraq; plus a local homicide/suicide in the Irish news. It's troubling because the AVPers  in Dublin from over 40 countries (including violent places like Iraq, Mexico, Ukraine, Israel, Sudan) are working for peace in these countries. They share powerful stories of peace at work.

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So I've been trying to learn from the sea-washed eyes of the Irish. Here I've seen that anger and frustration don’t necessarily lead to violence. Did you know that? The driving force behind war and murder is being disrespected. To feel shame is so degrading, that it's better to eliminate the other than to endure such pain.

Ireland has its rich history of misery and glory.

First, it seems that the Celts who were Christians in the 4th century in Ireland did well including their native rituals/symbols. And there's signs of Ireland's symbols of divinity (or otherworldliness) everywhere. Ireland has 40,000 prehistoric stone circles, of ring forts which are illegal to destroy. Plus belief in fairies seem alive.) The Anglo Normans invaded Ireland in the Eleventh century. Then through trade and intermarriage they became "more Irish than the Irish."

celtcrossAnother prolific sign all over Ireland is the appealing Celtic cross, a cross encircled by the sun. Some see the Celtic cross as a compass used by those planted so close to the sea. The interweave of the Celtic knot is a masterpiece befitting of a sailor. I saw a 10th century church where the baptism font included the Celtic knot and two stags alongside the cross. So when a culture lives with respect, such symbols of pagans and Catholics seem to thrive side by side. How is it that Christians on the mainland had such massacres as the crusades? Notice that the witch burnings for 5 centuries barely grazed Ireland. Religious tolerance was inculcated early.

Brigit the Irish Saint and St. Patrick in the 5th century modeled amazing cooperation. In the Trias Thaumaturga (extensive Irish history). Brigit's founded many churches and was beloved in the Diocese of Elphin. Her friendship with Saint Patrick is acclaimed from the Book of Armagh:   "inter sanctum Patricium Brigitanque Hibernesium columpnas amicitia caritatis inerat tanta, ut unum cor consiliumque haberent unum. Christus per illum illamque virtutes multas peregit".

Between St. Patrick and Brigid, the pillars of the Irish people, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many great works.

But we have heard of the wars between the Irish and the English. The fight between the dragon and the lion: the green and the orange. I won’t say more of the troubled time in Northern Ireland when Protestant and Catholic fought. “And the tears of the people ran together.” The official peace accord was signed in 1992, but a remarkable turning of the tide happened in 1976. Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams organized peace marches in Northern Ireland after 3 children of Corrigan’s sister were killed by a gunman in a car. Tens of thousands turned out: Catholics and Protestants marching together. Corrigan said,

Maired Corrigan

  “We reject the use of the bomb and the bullet and dedicate ourselves to building a just and peaceful society. We offered love, not condemnation and self-righteousness, we offered forgiveness and reconciliation, and a vision of a Northern Irish society based of equality, fairness, and justice. If we want to reap the harvest of peace and justice in the future, we have to sow seeds of nonviolence here, in the present.”

Joan Baez wrote about Mairead Corrigan, "The breath of God ran through her like a fair summer breeze. She was endlessly brave, going into the homes of ‘the enemy’ unarmed. God bless the brave women of Ireland who, for a brief but exceptional moment in time, waged mass nonviolent warfare in one of the most violent times in the world."

 


AVP, Ireland, Rhythm of Universe

Six inmate AVP facilitators shared their personal journeys:

“Though we may be in the gutters some of us still look at the stars”

“In the past the people were afraid to approach me because of my reputation of violence, since I became an AVP facilitator people find it easier to approach me when looking for help with their own problems”

“I came to prison ….. with a life sentence for murder……..a year later I did my first AVP workshop…..it taught me to turn my back on violence…..it gave me the tools to change my life….it taught me a lot about empathy…which makes it less likely to be violent towards somebody. This is probably the most important thing AVP has taught me and if I can teach that to someone else I have done my job”

“it taught me to be creative….I write a lot of poetry now…..I couldn’t live without AVP….thank AVP for making me the man I am today.” Finally one inmate concluded with the words of John O’Donoghue:

“May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.”

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Open Letter to Gaia

I am your daughter. You have suckled me throughout my life. There is milk and fruits and honey for me to enjoy. You are larger than the prairie, more rugged than any mountaintops, more forgiving than a quilt of snow. You are expansive like the universe, yet tender and dear like a sister’s embrace. I trust you completely.  GirlsSnow2014 - CopyFor ours is a wordless love, an intangible working relationship. I am so grateful, and I show my gratefulness to you by living as fully as possible. I show respect to the elements: earth, air, fire and water. I will not take you for granted: the promise of you living with me is pretty much a forever promise. Some days I show my respect by not capitulating to depression. Some days I make myself can food, or to stop buying anything in plastic. Sometimes I spend time working through my prejudices and resentments. But most days I love you by laughing at myself, and making room to dance.

I know my work is important. I am like a blade of grass, or like one ant in the Sahara desert. I do not doubt that what I do is valuable. But in the last year, I’ve sensed that our loving relationship has changed. You need me now, more than in the first half of my life. I have heard your anger and your pleading. You have tapped my shoulder, and I must enlist myself in your service.

What does that mean? What am I to do?   In my youth our relationship was happiest when I was sailing, or chasing horses, or fishing for crabs, or building forts. I like caring for birds and some herds. I live in the city now. I love trees and orchards.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I am working hard, and my attitude is improving. For half my life I’ve been working to stop human violence. Now I’m asked to stop violence to our waters, landmass and air. It’s hard for me to change my time commitments.  I need to keep a hopeful vision front and center; I need to listen to signs, dreams and positive actions out of unsuspecting places. If I listen to those only wanting to stop KXL pipeline or stop mining or fracking or this or that, it’s depressing. As for the environmental movement, there’s a lot of fear out there. I refuse to let fear rule my actions. Please help me to be a community builder, not a wet blanket with other environmentalists.

You are asking me to change my life. I need to change in drastic ways, but healthy ways. I know I will be a better person, and I’ll enjoy myself more. I have an intimation of the changes needed:

  •  Better eating. Eating less and healthy and with intention
  •  Grow more food. Develop more relation with the soil. Learn about it, love the soil around my house.
  •  Get support in changing my transportation needs. I fly a few times a year.

Precious One, you are Mother, Wholeness and Ever-Changing Trickster. I know humans are not a big part of the picture. We are an arrogant race. I love you and I know that others love you as dear as Life.

May we grow in wisdom and in harmony with your amazing elemental soaring sensational Planet.  Yours truly, Minga

 


Suffragettes, Chicks and Gitmo

Why would 100 prisoners organize a hunger strike in Guantanamo? Did our Congress answer that question adequately before an army of doctors coerced force feeding? Force feeding is not the opposite of hungering for food. Feeding tubes down the mouth are dangerously painful. Force-feeding is rape of the stomach.

Guantanamo Bay
Guantanamo Bay

It’s mutilation of the esophagus. And violation of one’s dignity.

Human life begins with eggs, seeds and then food. Food has a double oo. Food is one letter away from good. Good is one letter away from God. I’ve watched a scrawny, pinion-peppered baby robin get fed. I see that tiny dinosaur head  with saucer eyes and huge mouth gaping wildly towards the mother. That robin chick clamors for food. It chirps vigorously before, during and after being fed. From mom’s beak, down mom’s throat and then regurgitation into chick’s mouth. Gulp, yum. Food.

But food is something we decide we want. Birds would never feed chicks against their will. Even a severe parent can’t force their child to eat those smelly foods, moving the jaw up and down.

Hunger strikes are often related to prisoners struggling for human rights. In England and the US women fighting the right to vote decided to stop eating about 1910. Pankhurst described the suffragettes’ ordeal, “[the prison Holloway] became a place of horror and torment. Sickening scenes of violence almost every hour of the day, as the doctors went from cell to cell performing their hideous office.” When the prison guards opened her cell door, Pankhurst raised a clay jug over her head, to avoid the force-feeding proclaiming, “If any of you dares so much as

Alice-Paul
Alice-Paul

to take one step inside this cell, I shall defend myself.”

Why does the US think that force-feeding is helping humans on the path of sanity and justice? Morally, only the very sick or wounded should be force-fed. Can we learn from the past, or will we veer towards extinction? Alice Paul, who more than Lucretia Mott or Susan B. Anthony, ushered into the White House the right to vote, was force-fed along with other women. Remember by 1913, the campaign for females sufferage (started in 1848), was floating like a dead fish in oily Potomac. In March of 1913 Paul had organized a march of 8,000 women which upstaged Wilson’s inauguration. Later, they organized a sustained picket (first group to wage civil disobedience) in front of the White House, called the Silent Sentinels. In 1916 hundreds of women were arrested for obstructing sidewalk traffic. In jail our foremothers, Lucy Burns, Dora Lewis, and others were beaten, hurled against walls, choked, and kicked. But the worst punishment was being force-fed.

At Guantanamo approximately 100 of the 166 detained prisoners are refusing food. Of those, 29 were being force-fed, shackled to a chair, fitted with a mask with tubes inserted through their nose for up to two hours at a time. Over 130 have joined the hunger strike that began February 2013. Force-feeding is considered torture by the United Nations and condemned by the American Medical Association. One prisoner described force-feeding by saying it felt like, a "razor blade [going] down through your nose and into your throat.

Is the treatment in Gitmo racist? The US treats immigrants as guilty, inhumanely, without evidence. A recent letter from a prisoner says, “I do not wish to die, but I am prepared to run the risk that I may end up doing so, because I am protesting the fact that I have been locked up for more than a decade, without a trial, subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and denied access to justice. I have no other way to get my message across…”

Why would so many men and women go on a hunger strike, knowing they will receive the extra torture of force-feeding? They must be fighting for their lives. In 1917 finally Woodrow Wilson persuaded Congress to put the 23rd Amendment to vote. He had promised 5 years earlier in 1911 when first elected that he would defend women’s rights. Only after hundreds of women had suffered in prison was Wilson persuaded to act. Aleluja. Now for 93 years women have reaped the benefit. Suffragists risked their Lives, willing to die, so that we their grandchildren can Live.

What will we say in 90 years about the 30 Guantanamo prisoners asking Obama & Congress for their civil rights? These people, most are innocent, are choosing the torture of force-feeding instead of the long languishing torture of prison without cause.

Jewish scriptures proclaim, “Choose Life so that you and your children can live.” The baby birds that flap and tumble and chirp outside my window eat ravenously. They have their answer. The summer winds blow hot this year. Cuba is far away, and Guantanamo is a nightmare that I choose to ignore. “What does our God require of me?”

Gitmo in Severe Weather
Gitmo in Severe Weather

The Boston Bomber & Mother Bears

Cambridge Rindge & Latin High School

Whatever was Djhokhar Tsarnaev thinking-- accused of setting off homemade bombs on April 15? It’s baffling. Here is a teenager, deeply wounded, isolated from all he knew, and now in police lock-down. I did meet him a few times when he was 16 at the Cambridge high school. Djhokhar grew up in Massachusetts where “all the kids are above average.” (as said by Garrison Keillor). His fate is wrapped up with the fate of hundreds of injured people. I do not excuse what he did.

When my curious sons entered high school, I was shocked at the danger exposed to them: the hazing, the used needles, the assaults. In 2005 I woke up from a daydream that the US is a safe and law-abiding society. Like ice cubes down a sweaty back I realized our cities can be a war zone for teenagers. My son was harassed by gangs after school: he was intimidated and paralyzed. He escaped physically in one piece, but his inner landscape was scarred.

Now after Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT an epiphany strikes me. A major problem of our culture is that Americans murder one another as much as we kill “enemies” overseas. An armed police officer is employed at the high school, where students have been removed for

Boston in Mourning
Boston in Mourning

carrying switchblades. After Kennedy’s assassination Malcolm X famously said, “The chickens have come back to roost.”

You know what I’m saying? These massacres, by and for Americans, show how our young men are addicted to violence. It’s not criminals pulling the trigger-- it’s not the drug dealers, nor the crazies, nor the sociopaths. It’s our children, growing up under the opium of the gun. By 10 years old, Americans learn that problems will get solved if you carry a gun. Our boys are executing the values promoted by the NRA and allowed by the media (TV, games, CDs). It’s Djohkar this time, next time it could be your nephew. Kids have access to guns, and access to making bombs. The hard truth of the Boston bombings is this: we are all complicit.

The effect of mass violence is a people in trauma. Our haunting fear is that our children are at risk in schools, on buses, huge concerts, and now at large sports events. Where is the fierce mother bear icon to protect the defenseless? Imagine a grizzly hunting for berries, and finds her cubs in danger? See her stand rising up on hind legs, bobbing her head-- doing anything to keep her cubs safe.

Christians wait piously inside church, praying for their salvation. At night Godly people lock their cars with a McFlurry shake in hand, hoping not to hear gunfire outside. Will salvation come in church, in the courts, or in the jailhouse? Where can we reverse the gang-busting, trigger-happy attitudes of our young people?

My sons are excelling in college, but did not escape unscathed the initiation rites of teenage cruelty. My sons grew up happily engaging with people like George Zimmerman and Djhokhar Tsarnaev. My sons are constantly living out the question: how can you be a respectful, strong man without being violent or revengeful.

How  can we stop accepting violence?

We will talk for months about the Marathon bombings in Cambridge where the two Tsarnaev brothers grew up. Djzokhar, the 19 year old, was a year behind my son in high school. They played volleyball together, my son was the team captain. My older son worked for at a summer job for 3 years with Krystal Campbell whose body was blown up by the bombing. One son knows the accused, the other one knows

Asking for Guidance
Asking for Guidance

the victim killed. If you didn’t know someone who was injured, you probably know someone one step removed.

Our family is struggling, the same as most of us are trying to make sense of it all. Let’s not just continue work as usual. We do not have to accept the use of violence when our cubs get as big as we are. Mother bears can do more than growl.

The Jewish scriptures provide understanding for Boston’s tragedy and the culture of violence:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,

mourning and great weeping,

Rachel weeping for her children…, because they are no more.”

This is what the LORD says:

“Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded…” (Jer. 31)     Let’s get to work.

Statue in Harvard Yard
Statue in Harvard Yard