Inspiration from Sages

Spring

Spring's Truth

The world is sweet and dripping with Spring. Holy abundance has sprung underfoot. My heart quickens at the sweet flute of finches, the hum of the first bees at the cherry blossoms.  Wasps, lizards, chipmunks and coyotes learn to adapt to this explosion of Spring. And yet. I live with dissonance.

The discomfort is that humans show evidence that they cannot live harmoniously with other creatures. Humans murder each other intentionally more than any species. Kurds, Syrians, Americans, Australians, Russians, Salvadorans, Haitians, are starving or leaving homes or stealing from neighbors, or selling drugs or putting bullets in peoples’ brains. The United States, because it’s the largest exporter of military equipment and Intel, is the heftiest bully in Earth’s neighborhood. US weapons are killing young lives. This country crowned with verdant trees deports refugees under death threats back home. Mockingbirds sing while we bomb countries like Syria—Afghanistan—Yemen.Read more


Love Thy Neighbor, Harvard

Statue of John Harvard

I have a neighbor whom I love and I deplore. This neighbor is rich, delivers great classes, inculcates our youth into the echelons of power, and sometimes leans in on justice. I love him, I love him not. I often have to contend with this guy. Who is this bemouth taking up lots of real estate in my mixed neighborhood? It’s Harvard Yard, Harvard housing, and its ubiquitous campuses. Like wild turkeys protected in Cambridge, Harvard is an institution with a long tail.Read more


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.

images

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."

 


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

River Runnels

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!

Silvia Suñé

 

 


Worthy Warriors Shout Out

Karman, Gbowee, Sirleaf

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.


US NV Movements & Courageous Leaders

Henry David Thoreau Civil Disobedience 1849

Abby Kelley Foster/Susan B. Anthony/Elizabeth Stanton
Mock voting booth for women suffrage 1872

Alice Paul women suffrage 1920

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
Bearing Witness1984

Act UP in NYC 1985
Gay rights and stopping unfair medical practices during AIDS epidemic

Bill Mckibben 350.org Stop Tar Sands 2010

Kathy Kelly Voices of Creative Nonviolence 2003

Nonviolence Peaceforce International 2003


Her Peace was more than Trees

Mathai

“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.”


A Trumpet Calls as our March Begins

Joeseph E Lowery delivers a blessing in Washington DC. Jan 20, 2009
Joeseph E Lowery delivers a blessing in Washington DC. Jan 20, 2009

Lowery's words begin with the Black National Anthem, found in many church hymnals by JW Johnson and JR Johnson, and sung in AME churches across America since the 1920s.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.
Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day.
We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration.

He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.

Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.
For we know that, Lord, you are able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds, and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.

And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.
And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.
Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together as children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone.
With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

Lowery ends with a rhyme, tongue-in-cheek, from the 1960s: If you're black, Get back; If you're brown, stick around; If you're yellow, you're mellow; If you're red, you're dead; If you're white, you're allright.  (As I recall yellow in this context refers to pale-skinned folk of African descent.) During all the race riots of the 1960s/1970s, it was popular to sum up how the dominant culture catergorized and disposed blocks of people, judging them by surface features.
This system of color-based privilege exists in southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, , Namibia) today and in other countries, where clearly coded messages were obvious to even the most casual observer. I hope that Lowery's last ditty is the death rattle to typecasting in out times. He calls us to keep our feet straight in the path of integrity, no matter what leopard spots or racoon mask we wear. May our hearts stay true despite the drunkeness of the world's ways. Embrasos en paz, Minga


Gene Robinson's prayer 1.19.09

Sarah Pulliam at Christianity Today transcribed Bishop Robinson's blessing. This was given before the concert, but for some strange reason, wasn't publicized.

God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears -- tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless  this nation with anger -- anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Bless  us with discomfort at the easy, simplistic answers we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.
Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

And God, we give you thanks for your child, Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for all people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady, calm captain.
Give him stirring words; We will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand, that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity, and peace. Amen."