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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Seeing what Love Can Do

O 175x360
O, photo from Pendle Hill

This is the end of my second week at Pendle Hill.  Time flies!  I’ve created the floor plan and imagined the colors of my character Alice’s home—so very different from my own.  She loves colors and moves into daffodil yellow, rose pink, tulip crimson, iris blue or sea green as the spirit moves her.  In contrast, my own rooms are eggshell white.  (Oh!  That may be where my 5-part eggshell poem* comes from. Hmmm.) 

I’ve written a few new pieces and revised some old that I clumsily lost in transferring them from Google drive to drop box in search of a program I could call up on any computer without worrying about privacy.  And—due to being here, and to a certain extent to a First Monday talk by the amazing “O,” prophet of “Love is the answer”—I remained calm inwardly as well as outwardly.**  

I am amazed to be less explosive.  I once saw my spontaneity as a positive tool of passion, and I still am unable or unwilling to mask my feelings.  But, following O (and Amanda Kemp’s meditation challenge), I find I breathe as a first impulse and that breath can inspire more choices.  O invited us to love, recognizing that she can’t command it.  She invited us to “Let us BE what Love will do.”  Let us be love!  Much of her talk/performance was calculated to make us feel—invite us to feel—the truths in these two Bible passages:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” —Matthew 22: 34-40

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expands on neighbor love: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” —Matthew 5: 44-45

O helped us to breathe in the words, especially “love” and to grow into a deeper awareness of the meaning of the choices in front of us.  She told us that the heart is the first working organ of an embryo and that nothing was more difficult than growing to be who we are from something so small.  Since we have done the impossible already, we can love as the first choice (after breathing and then diffusing situations). 

I totally agree with O, as did most of the attendees, but fear prevents me from being that loving and giving, especially where I have been hurt or fear hurt.  As Frank Herbert wrote in the ‘60’s cult classic Dune, “Fear is the mind killer.”  And yet I know that to change the structures that cause and maintain inequality in the world, I have to be willing to face death.  Like the Quaker man who immolated himself as an anti-Vietnam war protest.  Like the activist woman who stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer in the Palestinian Gaza Strip. Like the Freedom Riders who bused through the USA South to register Black people to vote.   As an ally of Black Lives Matter, I should be willing to stand up even if standing means a bullet or a beating.  If love matters, debilitating fear is its opposite.  I could bear feeling fear if it still allowed me to choose to act in love.   My holding back is partly my age and disability, but when I am less worn out—which I will be—I will no longer have an excuse not to act. 

How does being a Quaker with both a radical tradition and a direct line to God help me with this choice?  O’s answer is to realize that we die daily whenever the love we offer is rejected and that we are resurrected every day by love (and debriefing) from our friends.  True death, then, is a matter of degree.  

          Today in the break from a traditional monthly workday at Pendle Hill, we heard that the man who burned to death in protest of the USA-led war and destruction in Vietnam was at Pendle Hill the week before. One of us had known him and his wife, who wrote about her husband's action.*** We sat in silent reflection. There were no words. But I thought about the similarities and differences of the love that causes one to be willing to die vs. the suicide bombers who are willing to die in order to (or along with) killing others.  Can willingness to die remain a non-violent action?

          I am adding these thoughts to my meditations as I worship here at Pendle Hill and write my novel “Alice in Wonder," write blog posts and construct what is turning out to be almost a poem a day!

          I'll write more as way opens.

*"Walking Egg Shells," Part One, Part TwoPart ThreePart 4 and Part 5.  I have found that they have a different impact when read in reverse order, the way they show up on my poetry blog with the most recent poem first.

**I decided I need a reliable laptop so I don’t have to use community computers and have taken steps to purchase one with a reliable Word program.  I won’t use it for much else.

***Fire of the Heart: Norman Morrison’s Legacy in Viet Nam and at Home By Anne Morrison Welsh, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #381 (2005).  See also "Norman R. Morrison 1933-1965: A Light Cuts Through the Fog of War" which contains the poem " Dear Emily" written in memorial by Tố Hữu.