Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about despair and hope… how do we move from one to the other, how do we not lose hope when so many terrible things are going on — from our own neighborhood to all around the global community. In this age of nearly unlimited internet connectivity, we hear about these tragedies in nearly real time.
Earlier today I posted this on Facebook:
135 killed in Gaza, no end in sight… kids from Central America and Mexico locked up in Texas warehouses… journalists sentenced to 10 years in prison in Burma…
In the middle of my comfortable life it can be easy to ignore all this and more. The practice: Not turning away.
Not turning away is not easy, but it is what I understand to be the foundation of our bodhisattva vows. Being present to the truth of suffering, connecting with compassion inside of me, and then taking loving action from that place.
After I put up that post, I thought a lot about how I could respond in each of those cases. Initially I felt a sense of hopelessness, of how daunting it is to even consider addressing any one of those. But thanks to that very internet connectivity that made me aware of these situations, I was able to find what some other folks are doing to respond. And so was born… The Yes List. Who knows… maybe this will become a regular feature on The Jizo Chronicles.
YES! The Open Letter crafted by Jewish Voice for Peace… eloquent and powerful. A call for compassion for all sides, at the same time recognizing the root causes of the violence and calling for Israel to end the illegal occupation of Palestine. I encourage you to sign the letter. And let us know what other creative and generative responses you know of to this crisis.
YES! The good work of United We Dream, an organization pushing to re-frame the situation with the children in Texas as a refugee crisis, not an “illegal immigrant problem.” UWD has organized a three-day vigil in McAllen, TX, to raise awareness of this issue and they’ve got a petition you can sign to urge President Obama to take action to protect all immigrant families.
YES! This piece of news just came to my attention in the last day, and I am more attuned to it because I’m here in Thailand right now and there are seven Burmese women in the group I am currently helping to facilitate. With this being a very recent development, I couldn’t find an immediate response. But I am betting that Amnesty International will be an excellent resource, as it always is in cases like this. Keep an eye on them — they’ve already got an article on the situation posted here.
And for good measure, here’s one more to add to the Yes List, a creative response that I just love. A group of folks in Dallas, TX, took to the streets on Friday to demonstrate for their right to open carry…. guitars. Yep, guitars instead of guns. Amen.
Guitars, not guns. My favorite of the week.
Maia – I cannot thank you enough for this post. It speaks to the heart of the overwhelm and despair that is all too easy to visit. I will follow up on these resources and spread them around.
Many many thanks. they came at just the right time.
A couple more to add here, related to the violence in Gaza:
1) Fast for Peace, July 15:
This coming Tuesday marks the conjunction of the Muslim fast of Ramadan and the Jewish fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz. In honor of this day, Eliaz Cohen, an Israeli settler and peace activist, has called upon Muslim and Jewish congregations to consecrate their fasts toward breaking the cruel grip of violence that afflicts the nations of the Holy Land. “In both traditions,” says Cohen, “this is a day dedicated to introspection, assumption of responsibility for repairing and purifying, and repentance.”
2) BDS — Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions
Calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of Gaza
To contend with today’s happenings requires sooo much energy. And… we can’t just crawl into a cave and pretend none of this is happening …. much as we might like to. As a Buddhist, I find these thoughts from Stephen Batchelor’s book Confessions of a Buddhist Atheists a helpful reminder for how to maintain balance.
“In Pali, Mara means “the killer.” The devil is a mystical way of talking about whatever imposes limits on the realization of one’s potential as a human being. As well as physical death, Mara refers to anything that wears you down or causes your life to be reduced, blighted, or frustrated. Craving is a kind of inner death because it clings to what is safe and familiar, blocking one’s capacity to enter the stream of the path. Yet other kinds of ‘death’ can be imposed by social pressures, political persecution, religious intolerance, war, famine, earthquakes, and so on. Mara permeates the fabric of the world in which we struggle to realize our goals and achieve fulfillment. Siddhattha Gotama was no more exempt from these constraints than anyone else.
If Mara is a metaphor for death, then Buddha, as his twin, is a metaphor for life. The two are inseparable. You cannot have Buddha without Mara any more than you can have life without death.
Instead of perfection or transcendence, the goal of Gotama’s Dhamma is to embrace this suffering world without being overwhelmed by the attendant fear or attachment, craving or hatred, confusion or conceit, that comes in its wake.”
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