Tuesday, May 23, 2006

pass the bread

Here is a chunk of the clear-eyed and compassionate baccalaureate address given by Bill Moyers to the graduates of Hamilton College last week. (Read the whole text, transcribed at Common Dreams [News and Views for the Progressive Community] to understand the context of the title).
...The hardest struggle of all is to reconcile life's polar realities. I love books, Beethoven, and chocolate brownies. Yet how do I justify my pleasure in these in a world where millions are illiterate, the music never plays, and children go hungry through the night? How do I live sanely in a world so unsafe for so many?

I don't know what they taught you here at Hamilton about all this, but I trust you are not leaving here without thinking about how you will respond to the dissonance in our culture, the rivalry between beauty and bestiality in the world, and the conflicts in your own soul. All of us have to choose sides on this journey. But the question is not so much who we are going to fight against as it is which side of our own nature will we nurture: The side that can grow weary and even cynical and believe that everything is futile, or the side that for all the vulgarity, brutality, and cruelty, yearns to affirm, connect and signify. Albert Camus got it right: There is beauty in the world as well as humiliation, "And we have to strive, hard as it is, not to be unfaithful...in the presence of one or the other".

That's really what brings me here this afternoon. I did put myself in your place, and asked what I'd want a stranger from another generation to tell me if I had to sit through his speech. Well, I'd want to hear the truth: The truth is, life's a tough act, the world's a hard place, and along the way you will meet a fair share of fools, knaves and clowns--even act the fool yourself from time to time when your guard is down or you've had too much wine. I'd like to be told that I will experience separation, loss and betrayal, that I'll wonder at times where have all the flowers gone.

I would want to be told that while life includes a lot of luck, life is more than luck. It is sacrifice, study, and work; appointments kept, deadlines met, promises honored. I'd like to be told that it's okay to love your country right or wrong, but it's not right to be silent when your country is wrong. And I would like to be encouraged not to give up on the American experience. To remember that the same culture which produced the Ku Klux Klan, Tom DeLay and Abu Ghraib, also brought forth the Peace Corps, Martin Luther King and Hamilton College.

And I would like to be told that there is more to this life than I can see, earn, or learn in my time. That beyond the day-to-day spectacle are cosmic mysteries we don't understand. That in the meantime--and the meantime is where we live--we infinitesimal particles of creation carry on the miracle of loving, laughing and being here now, by giving, sharing and growing now.

Friday, May 19, 2006

everest peace project summits 10

The Everest Peace Project, an interfaith, international, multicultural embodiment of the power of cooperation, courage and friendship to achieve extraordinary goals, is celebrating the successful summit of Mount Everest by ten of their climbing team yesterday. The team includes South African Selebelo Selamolela, who is only the second black African to ever reach the summit of Everest, David (Dudu) Yifra and Micha Yaniv who are now the second and third Israelis to summit Everest, and Ali Bushnaq, who by reaching beyond the advanced base camp (he had to turn back from his summit attempt due to pneumonia) has climbed higher than any other Palestinian person.

The brainchild of American Buddhist Lance Trumbull, the team previously climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and will continue to on to Peace Climbs on the highest peaks of each of the other continents. From their website:

"We will climb together not as individuals who belong only to this or that nation or faith, but as a team who all share a common home: the earth. By bringing people together from different cultures we will be setting an inspirational example of courage, friendship and teamwork - and through our Peace Climbs show the world that people from various faiths can live together, work together, and depend on each other while doing something extraordinary..."
They are also raising funds for Room to Read, an organization which has partnered with rural communities all across Asia by providing challenge grants and donating expertise to build schools, establish libraries and fill them with donated books, establish computer and language labs, and provide scholarships to underprivileged girls.
David (Dudu) Yifrach, Ali Bushnaq, and Micha Yaniv holding the Israeli and Palestinian flags joined together

Little update: Yifrach waved this flag on the summit & there's a great photo of that at OnTheFace

(Thank you to my friend and "bnai mitzvah sister" Margie for sending me this story, via the United Religions Initiative)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

there is no other art

Invisible Work
Because no one could ever praise me enough,
because I don't mean these poems only
but the unseen
unbelievable effort it takes to live
the life that goes on between them,
I think all the time about invisible work.
About the young mother on Welfare
I interviewed years ago,
who said, "It's hard.
You bring him to the park,
run rings around yourself keeping him safe,
cut hot dogs into bite-sized pieces for dinner,
and there's no one
to say what a good job you're doing,
how you were patient and loving
for the thousandth time even though you had a headache."
And I, who am used to feeling sorry for myself
because I am lonely,
when all the while,
as the Chippewa poem says, I am being carried
by great winds across the sky,
thought of the invisible work that stitches up the world day and night,
the slow, unglamorous work of healing,
the way worms in the garden
tunnel ceaselessly so the earth can breathe
and bees ransack this world into being,
while owls and poets stalk shadows,
our loneliest labors under the moon.
There are mothers
for everything, and the sea
is a mother too,
whispering and whispering to us
long after we have stopped listening.
I stopped and let myself lean
a moment, against the blue
shoulder of the air. The work
of my heart
is the work of the world's heart.
There is no other art.

(from: The Largest Possible Life)
(and thank you to Joe Riley and his Panhala poem a day subscription service)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

inspiration of the day

Signs of Light/Inspiration of the Day ("Welcome to a good news portal! Extraordinary, positive changes are happening all around the world and are often overlooked. Come in and get inspired with uplifting stories ...") which is one of the good works of CharityFocus ("an experiment in the joy of giving"), links to this exquisite and poignant photo essay of beauty and joy and love:

The real does not die, the unreal never lived. --Nisargadatta Maharaj

Inspiration of the Day: She walked down the wedding aisle, without once stopping to use her oxygen tank. 21-year-old Katie Kirkpatrick made it to the altar, holding off cancer to celebrate the happiest day of her life. She had already survived cancer once, only to have it return to her lungs and invade her heart. Her organs were shutting down, but this was not going to stop her from fulfilling her dream of marrying Nick Godwin, her high school sweetheart. Five days after the wedding, she died peacefully among loved ones.
The touching 12-photo picture story shares Katie and Nick's remarkable journey.