From Gretchen Del Rio: Wisdom for any day but especially welcome in the Time of COVID-19.
Later today I’ll post the responses from readers to last Wednesday’s writing prompt, which is usual every Tuesday. Meanwhile . . .
In December 2015 world events led to a spontaneous eleventh hour special section – Waging the Peace – in The BeZine, which I edit. This seems a propitious moment to bring to the fore once again those ideas, ideals and experiences shared with us by Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill, Rev. Ben Meyers, Father Daniel Sormani, C.S. Sp., Sophia Ali-Khan, Israeli-American poet Michael Dickel, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi. Thanks to all of them and to Carla Prater, the assistant director of Buddhist Global Relief for their contributions to this collection and their assistance. I’ve included links to each of the features in table of contents for Waging the Peace. It is below the following introductory remarks.
Rabbi SteinBerg-Caudill (the Interfaith Rabbi) is a teacher who espouses a Jewish Spirituality and Universalist teaching for the future brotherhood of all people. When I contacted him about this effort he reminded me of what surely should be foremost in our minds and hearts:
“The Hebrew word for PEACE – שלום – does not imply a lack of strife. It implies instead WHOLENESS, COMPLETION. If one is in a state of peace, he can still be whole in a time of chaos.”
Rev. Meyers of the Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo also counsels inner peace with his You are the promise … the one … the hope. Rev. Meyers says:
“I understand and often share the ‘urge of urgency’ over the peacefulness of peace. But this I also know: We live at the intersection of action and reflection.”
Father Sormani, a Spiritan priest who has lived and worked in Algeria and Dubai and is now teaching theology at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, asks What Have We Done that People Can Pick-up Weapons and Kill. Father Dan says:
“We have become our own worst enemy. Whenever we separate the world into ‘them’ and ‘us’, whenever we accept blind generalizations and cease to see a unique individual before us, whenever we forget we are all victims of carefully orchestrated deceit and deception for wealth and power, the force of darkness wins. Bullets will never win this struggle, only the heart and mind will.”
Lest you missed Sofia Ali-Khan‘s letter, Dear Non-Muslim Allies, which made the rounds on Facebook and was also picked up by some mainstream media, we’ve included it here.
We’ve also included a video recitation of Tunisian poet Anis Chouchéne‘s profoundly moving poem against racism and fanaticism. Chouchène speaks directly to radical Islam … but I think you’ll agree that he ultimately speaks to the fear in all of us.
“Peace we keep an eye on/while it packs its bags/to abandon our lands, little by little …”
Chouchène concludes as Father Dan does, that we must be able to see the individual.
Michael Dickel‘s poem Mosquitoes (excerpt from his chapbook, War Surrounds Us – 2015, Is a Rose Press), is featured. The poem starts out with Israelis and Palestinians crossing the artificial lines that divide to offer one another condolences on the deaths of their children. This is a favored poem of mine, especially so because when I initiated The Bardo Group (now The Bardo Group Beguines) in 2011, I had in mind virtual crossing of borders through the arts. (Our mission statement is HERE.) Michael’s poem demonstrates how we are manipulated by the propaganda machine.
We’ve included a short video presentation on the seven steps to peace developed by peace activist, Rabbi Marc Gopin. Director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution (CRDC).
The Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi is Buddhist monk in the Theravada tradition, an author and teacher. He is the founder of Buddhist Global Relief. With permission, we offer the 2015 talk he gave at the New Year’s Interfaith Prayer Service, Chuang Yen Monastery. Bhikkhu Bodhi says:
“Real peace is not simply the absence of violent conflict but a state of harmony: harmony between people; harmony between humanity and nature; and harmony within ourselves. Without harmony, the seeds of conflict and violence will always be ready to sprout.“
Bhikku Bodhi goes on to analyze the obstacles to achieving world peace, the prerequisites of peace, and the means to realizing these goals.
On behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines and in the spirit of love and community,
Founding and Managing Editor of The BeZine.
Waging The Peace
An Interfaith Exploration
You are the promise . . . the one . . . the hope, Rev. Ben Meyers
What Have We Done That People Can Pick Up Weapons and Kill?, Fr. Daniel Sormani, C.S.Sp.
Dear Non-Muslim Allies, Sofia Ali-Khan
Peace Be Upon You, شوشان – سلام عليكم, Anis Chouchène
Mosquitoes, American-Israeli poet, Michael Dickel, Jewish
Peace Steps: One Man’s Journey Into the Heart of His Enemies, Rabbi Mark Gopin
Waging Peace, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddhist teacher
after Pablo Neruda
let us sit
without movement, without words
not trampling the ant
or butchering the steer
neither selling nor buying
no birthing, no dying
fisherfolk transfixed above the wave
carpenters silent by the bench
. . . . . poet
lay down your pen
let every hand be still ~
slow the racing heart,
the speed-demon mind
let us now praise the peace
” . . . we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.” Pablo Neruda, “Keeping Quiet“
© 2015, poem and photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
From “The Book of Tao (The Way), Lao-Tse (c 5th Century BCE, China, Zhou Dynasty)
And, as the song goes: “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me …” Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller (1955, America)
Peace, Let It Begin With Me
Rev. Ben Meyer
Unitarian Universalist Minister, San Mateo, California
As we contemplate the theme of Peace during the month of December, we may wonder if the wars will ever end or if violence will ever cease. I know there may be some stern souls out there who question whether our reflections on the need for inner peace will undermine the urgent need to summon all our strength to confront and overcome the machinery of war, the waves of fear, or the agencies of violence. While we think about the need for inner peace, innocents are dying in Syria and Palestine and down the road, around the corner, and God only knows where else.
Why aren’t we out in the streets by the millions? What are we waiting for?
Listen to these words the Angel Gabriel is said to have whispered into Mary’s ear:
There is strength here like the sinew of a mother’s arm.
It shatters the brittle pride of wealth;
It levels the clayfoot thrones of tyrants.
It upholds the forgotten, the scarred.
Hunger both of body and soul will be filled.
Riches will no more be rewarded.
The holy one cleaves to those who keep faith;
It will endure in those who serve mercy.
And then the Promise made to legend ancestors will be kept;
And Peace shall prevail.
I understand and often share the “urge of urgency” over the peacefulness of peace. But this I also know: We live at the intersection of action and reflection.
Self-reflection is no luxury which has to wait until more urgent matters are attended to. It is as essential to our lives as food and drink.
When we don’t take time to know and befriend the darkness within us and in the world we all too soon are overcome by our own inner demons.
Then all our efforts in the name of peace, encumbered by our rage and fear, will only serve to magnify the violence we so wish to quell. What was “the Promise made to legend ancestors”? Surely not peace everlasting—even though we should yearn for and work for and practice peace with every fiber of our being.
The Promise and The Way both lie in the possibility that you and I might come to know the holiness of peace concealed in the darkness of our hearts, our homes, our neighborhoods and THEN beyond—not in some distant land but here at home, not in some long ago time but here, today, right now.
You are the promise. You are the one. You are the way.
Be the peace you seek by seeking the peace in you.
© 2015, words and photograph, Rev. Ben Meyer, All rights reserved; shared here with the permission of the author.
If you subscribe by email, it is likely that you will have to click through to the site to view this video: