I’m having a little funeral in my bedroom tonight. In mourning and saturated with the world’s suffering, I thought I’d better take some moonlit, middle of the night moments to reflect, digest and process.
For Syria, Afghanistan, Paris, Beirut, South Sudan, Palestine, and all those in between which are too many to mention. For refugees and the violence of borders, including those many unnamed who are still drowning daily, or currently existing in miserable conditions on the Greek Islands and elsewhere. Or for those who have sewn shut their mouths and gone on hunger strike, in protest over being corralled at the Macedonian border. And let’s not forget the men, women, and yes, also kids, pepper-sprayed by the CRS recently at a peaceful protest over conditions and repeated police violence in ‘the Jungle’ in Calais. For all those who have been beaten or otherwise mistreated as they attempt to reach safety.
For displaced, disadvantaged, disaffected and dispossessed folks of all varieties everywhere, who are often almost invisible; whether they live down the road alone experiencing their own personal apocalypse, or on the other side of the world, like the indigenous First Nations peoples in Australia, Canada and elsewhere (whose ongoing struggles have often been effectively eclipsed from both the history books and contemporary coverage – see here and here for more).
Horrific as all this is, my mourning is not solely reserved for violent conflicts and the human implications of terrible governmental policy, but also for all ideological, class-based, race-based, gender-based, mind-body based, whatever-based borders – there are, again, too many to mention. So instead I’ll say, for insidious borders and separation of all kinds, which is the root of all violence. For the lack of love, from the tiniest insult to the most grandiose, worldwide, monumental fuck ups.
For forest fires in Indonesia as the price of palm oil. For the half of the world’s wildlife lost in the last 40 years. For oncoming eco-apocalypse. For David Cameron’s soul, and all the others, who probably aren’t even aware of how soiled their souls are, because we each tend to live in our own private universe of fortified personal borders, to greater or lesser extent. For the soul of our culture and the future of our children, and for all the Earth’s creatures. For this madhatter’s teaparty at the end of the world, which, as Stephen Jenkinson says “sometimes feels like dancing” (if dancing is possible or probable for you), “but it’s terminal alright”.
Here’s a black square of funereal solidarity with all of that vastness. Solidarity with sadness and sorrow. No flag-waving antics, just an expression of deep sadness, frustration, confusion and anger.
I read this thing, and the guy Parker Palmer wrote:
“I know many people whose own wounds — held in a broken-open heart — have made them “wounded healers.” Instead of growing bitter and brittle and passing their pain on to others, they’ve said, “this is where the pain stops and the love begins.” Not in spite of their suffering but because of it they’re better able to offer active forms of compassion to others who suffer…”.
It’s an old tale which might sound cliche, and it’s probably much more difficult to put into practice if you’ve experienced really vicious wounds, such as the deaths of several family members and living through the reality of war. However, as PP puts it;
“In a world that can be as heedless and heartless as ours, kindness must grow from deep roots if it is to be strong and sustainable. As the Poet (Naomi Shihab Nye) says, “before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, / you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.”
Sorrow, like love, knows no bounds and no borders. Resilience to trauma is not a hardening of the heart, but a broken-open heart, and the healing of the world relies on our willingness to open ourselves to that brokenness, and to love it better through our learning and change-making. If we allow ourselves to feel beyond our personal borders, there is no way that we can avoid that black square of solidarity with suffering.
My weeping for the world tonight was followed by reading this article about breaking the cycle of violence. It’s written from more of a spiritual perspective, rather than political, which is probably more my own default setting. It made me aware that I’m now trying to break down the border between those two ways of seeing the world, in an attempt to disallow myself the potential of escapism from either! Multi-angles, varying perspectives. We all have our tendencies and blinkers, and those blind spots are where the miscommunication occurs. That very miscommunication is borne of borders and separation – it’s our great challenge when striving for community, and it’s how a million miniature violences are made.
The article also brought back the memory of a quote from another article I read a few years back. This quote resonated with me due to it’s paradoxical and difficult simplicity, so I stuck it on the front of one of my notebooks, for the inevitable days when I’d forget.
The article was about a Palestinian father and an Israeli father, whose daughters had both been killed, and who later met at a meeting of ‘Combatants for Peace’ (an organisation through which former fighters unite in the search for peace, similar to this one which has sprung up in the US.) One of them was quoted as saying,
“In the end there will be a peace agreement, that is absolutely clear. it will happen at the moment when the price of not having peace exceeds the price of having peace.”
This statement is not only about acceptance, as it might sound to some (although anyway, there is really no ‘only’ about acceptance). Instead, I hear action coarsing through this statement’s veins. It is exactly why we must now disrupt the peaceful sleep of ‘our’ politicians, and yet even more importantly, it suggests each personally moving towards a painful place – because we can’t move collectively towards peace without also disrupting our own personal peace.
As we know, plenty of humanimals are already lacking that peace, but for those of us who aren’t living in war zones or are relatively unaccustomed to struggle, we might need to expand our personal borders a tad in order to see this madhatter’s teaparty as it really is.
It will mean increasing resilience to go beyond our own comfort zone. It will mean educating ourselves on the specifics of situations which certain parties would prefer to hide from us, and it will ultimately mean taking action. It will mean a super noisy and disruptive gatecrashing of the filthy festival of capitalist interests currently dominating world events and wrecking the ecosystem, and it will mean working hard to not let a search for personal peace skew our perceptions.
Basically, I’ve come full circle back to the point that I always end up at, which is the understanding that “I am you, you are me, and the world is us”, just like Krishna-nonguru-murti always said. Life as relationship; a dynamic entanglement between self – environment – other. Living this truth is somewhat more problematic than just writing it or speaking it, however.
Peace for all begins with moving towards difficult truths, person by person. There really is no freedom until we are all free, and this is why the phrase ‘your liberation is bound up with mine‘ is taking on a new urgency for me. It’s also why frustration, sadness and anger is disrupting my peace tonight, and why I’m ranting and chanting and carrying on, on facearse and wordpress at 2 am. Perhaps this is not the most productive soapbox, but sod it… I’m trying, in my own way. Moving forwards towards further wholeness, integration, and all that jazz.
Which brings me nicely to the crux of the matter. What I’m wondering is, given current events, is there any chance we can all maybe speed things up a bit?! As in, BLOODY GET ON WITH IT, this moving towards the tipping point at which the price of not having peace exceeds the price of having peace? Pleeease?!
Gahhh. I’m tired of bad news – of staring this vast abyss of sadness and sorrow down in all it’s monstrosity – but I’ve lost some of my ability to look away, and I hope you do too, because there is a whole new peace in peacelessness. It’s complicated, messy and human. It’s real life man, shit happens! The way I see it, if you don’t feel the need to weep for the world sometimes, then we’ve all got a problem. Positive thinking is not the precursor to peace. Personal peace is not even the precursor to peace. Moving towards peace can only happen through a paradoxical process of simultanously holding peace and peacelessness.
As I quoted in an earlier post, but because it’s so excellent I will quote again;
“To act (where many others don’t) and yet to question that action – in the very name of that action – while acting, [which] is the sublime fulfillment of what it is to be human – to be in open conversation with one’s world at all times. It implies a sensibility that transcends itself, and that therefore has the possibility of acting as the seed of a more conscious future” (a delicate activism, davidoff & kaplan).