A Ritual to Read to Each Other


A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

William Stafford
The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems, 1998

Two weeks ago, wise elder Parker Palmer shared this poem with an incisive commentary on Russian president Putin’s “bloody, power-hungry invasion of Ukraine,” while imploring his American readers to demonstrate bravery by confronting the anti-democracy darkness wielding its way in their country. I would add, around the world. Moments ago, doing a quick scan of the today’s news, I read that over 400,000 Ukrainian citizens have been forcibly taken to Russia, many to be used as hostages in the battle for Kyiv. Too, that more than half of Ukraine’s children have been driven from their homes, with their mothers, to take refuge in neighboring countries.
As I wrote last week, I hardly have words. What I do have is a silent scream that could shatter if I gave it full voice. So instead I will do as Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes implored earlier this week, “Dear Brave Souls: Now would be the time for prayer that uses everything you’ve got: muscle, fervor, rigor, verve, pounding down and raising up…”

May we all be brave in such ways.
May we be awake for the darkness around us is deep,
lulling us back to sleep.

The Base for Being Human

“But this week, we entered yet another hard,
shocking chapter in the life of the world.”

Krista Tippett, The Pause, March 5, 2022
beauty in a hard place

Yes, here we are, the global community, again trying to keep our collective hearts open in the hell that is war. These weeks in Ukraine. Before that…and before that…and before that…In a recent poll close to 70% of Canadians believe we are poised for a third world war. (Global News, March 3, 2022) With the invading leader stating that all sanctions levied by the west are akin to a declaration of war (Reuters, March 5, 2022), anxieties, already exacting their cost during the pandemic, continue to manifest in myriad ways within and among us.

“Trauma isn’t limited to the mind or body of a singular person. It has the ability to have a cumulative impact on an entire people…When an entire society is desecrated, demonized, invaded or imprisoned, it reshapes the cultural gene pool of that entire generation. What is trauma then, but a collective and cumulative phenomenon.” 

Mark Gonzales, In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty, 2014

Last week I wrote in my regular Friday photo and poem feature that I had been reminded by a friend with whom I had shared Mark Gonzales’ In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty. Selecting a piece for that post, I scanned other of his entries in preparation for my virtual women’s circle, wanting to offer into the centre a “start point” inviting us to each speak to the impact of the current world events:

“In this moment, an echo is occurring across the
globe. It is the human spirit craving to be reminded
one does not need permission to grow.

In this moment an echo is occurring across our
hearts. It is the realization that love has its own logic.

Live. Love. Grow. Even if one cannot make life more
beautiful, at least make it more bearable. This should
be considered the base for being human.

May the passion continue. May the circle expand.”

Mark Gonzales, In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty, 2014

We felt deep resonance and relevance with Mark’s words as each of us took our turn speaking, passing our virtual talking pieces through several rounds of conversation. Our time together marked easefully with several substantial pauses for silence. One by one, we shared evoked images and memories, silent tears and fears, wisdom borne of dreams, intuition and lived experience. By the end of our two hours together, soothed and more settled. Life made more bearable.

Agrigento, Sicilia

In my imagination, I see copies of Mark’s book, translated so all can read, dropped from the skies into the hands of every person on earth, much like the millions of propaganda leaflets dropped from planes during World War II. Instead I’ll end with more of his good words, medicine to heal our aching souls and make life more bearable:

What better way is there to shift a paradign than by
speaking in ways that encourage dreams, laughter
and imagination. For those acts of creativity are not
luxury, short sighted or simplistic, they are essential.”

“In this collective environment, an isolated story
transforms into a personalized submission into
an anthology of shared experiences and unique
memories. With each new telling, we cocoon to
butterfly that sees each breath we have left in this
life as an exercise in evolving our own narrative.”

“This is way for you who battle with self-doubt and
hyper criticism, I remind you we are a generation
experimenting with healing in public. Be fierce. Be
forgiving. Hardcore is a façade and a trend.”

“Educate the human heart. Elevate the human mind.
Grow the human soul. This will be our generation’s
idea of a multi-taking model of learning.”

“Long live the children of fierce vulnerability.”

“In times of terror, wage beauty.”

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty

Buds in Spain

Look up. Look around. Listen. See and hear the
echoes of your wounds and dreams all around you.
Know that you are never as alone as you think. We may
even be in the majority. Each point of connection
with another transforms them from stranger into ally
in the healing process.

If you read this and still feel abandoned, walk with
head high knowing there are generations of ancestors
inside of you. We will survive this era as we did the
eras before: using the skills we have, inventing the
ones we need.

On those days when the spine or soul become tired,
imagine all of humanity whispering a twelve word
prayer inside your ear: “we are not the children nor
the descendants of a weak people.”

Mark Gonzales
In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty
2014



Several years ago, I “met” Mark Gonzales via this remarkable collection of piercing, pithy poem essays. Last week, as war in Ukraine grabbed hold of our world by its throat, a friend reminded me that I had introduced her to his work.
Any page would have been perfect today. I expect I’ll turn to Mark’s words for my Monday blog. In the meantime, if this sampling touches you, buy his book, In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty. There is no better time.

Life as Poem and Prayer

“It’s a piece of deep psychological acuity, carried in many religious traditions: that each of us is defined as much by who our enemies are and how we treat them as by whom and what we love.”

Krista Tippett, On Being, October 31, 2013

Fitting food for thought as we, the world, contemplate the current circumstances unfolding in Ukraine. A simplistic response to vilify the invaders and yet…

We see Russians courageously take to their streets and squares in protest. We read of notables resigning from posts refusing payment from their government. We know people who know people, Russians whose roots run deep and like us all, whose hearts bleed red.

Today I watched an English subtitled speech given on Friday by Ukraine’s president to Russia’s people. Clarifying misinformation, stating his position and boundaries on behalf of his country’s people, imploring Russians to remember themselves and their relationships with the people of Ukraine. Fiercely compassionate is what comes to mind.

Over the past few days, scrolling social media and participating in online seminars, I’ve been struck with the extent to which we are calling forth the balm found in poetry and prayer, in the arts, dance and song. Evoking the highest good in us, for us all. With poetic irony and prescience, this published in 2009 by Ilya Kaminsky, a poet born in Odessa, Ukraine, now living in the United States after being granted asylum with his family:

We Lived Happily during the War

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we

protested
but not enough, we opposed them but not

enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America

was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house—

I took a chair outside and watched the sun.

In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money

in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)

lived happily during the war.

Let us hold the centre, dear friends. Present with what is unfolding. Poised amidst conflict within and without. Persistent in remembering the best in who we are.

Let us take note of the ever-present beauty around us. Remain open to the mystery in the mundane. Tenacious in our tenderness. Committed in our care.

Living our lives as poem and prayer.

“Do you think it’s an accident that you were born at a time when the culture that gave you life is failing? I don’t think it is. I think you were born of necessity with your particular abilities, with your particular fears, with your particular heartaches and concerns…
I think if we wait to be really compelled by something… something big, well… we’re going to wait an awful long time and I don’t know if the state of our world can tolerate our holding out until we feel utterly compelled by something. I think it’s more like this, that we have to proceed now as if we’re utterly needed given the circumstances. That takes almost something bordering on bravado, it could be mistaken for megalomania easily, though I don’t think it is. It had a certain amount of nerviness in it or boldness for sure, something that’s not highly thought of in the culture I was born into unless you’re a star or something… regular people aren’t supposed to have those qualities. I say they are of course. That’s what we’ve got to bring to the challenges at hand, not waiting to be convinced that we’re needed but proceeding as if we are. Your insignificance has been horribly overstated.”

Stephan Jenkinson

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

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