Saturday, April 10, 2004

From April 5 2003 C Little, No Less

On the subject of tears - This is the message for my birthday,
April 5, which I read every year in Open Mind...
It seems more appropriate this year than ever before....

Shechinah, I pray that Your spirit may pervade
those whose tears will not flow; that they may
experience the release of feeling that connects
us to each other, to the tradition of our ancestors,
to our progeny and to all humanity.
For the blessing of tears,
I thank God that I was born a woman.

--from The Women's Hagaddah

The Haggadah is the special text used for Passover that
includes the story of the Exodus. This prayer is one of
thanksgiving for women's ability to feel and to connect.
We pray that all people may feel this connection, and
know the oneness of all life.

Women's wisdom is the wisdom of connection, but the tears
that can easily flow from our eyes have been used against
us as proof that we are overly emotional, irrational, and
unrealistic. Yet it is this knowledge of connectedness
that is lacking in today's world. When our tears can freely
flow, when we can feel compassion for another's pain, abuse
will stop. As long as we feel separate and disconnected, we can
deny other people's humanity, cause harm to one another and
to the Earth.

The dharma, the law of interconnectedness and love, has the power
to break open the heart. Women have often come to me in tears
after hearing a dharma talk. I once thanked a woman for her tears.
She was quite surprised, never having thought of her tears as a gift.
She deeply received the thanks, and in so doing her heart opened
wider and she felt great joy.

I call this magic horse my "apple-loosa"
Immersed in Sadness for the World

The rain comes and goes, sometimes thrown in a wild dance of drops through
sunlight, whipping into the earth with a rhythmic gaiety, urging seeds to germinate.

Sometimes, like today, it seems more like the tears of our loving mother
Shekinah/Gaia weeping to heal the wounds of the earth and her children.

....from the Gate of Sadness thanks, Andrew

In our culture, sadness is either a sin or a disease. Once, America
recognized it as an inevitable part of a sincere life: Abraham Lincoln's
melancholy was seen as part of his wisdom. Now, it is seen as Unamerican,
indulgent, almost European. Sorrow is diagnosed as depression, and medicated
with drugs; after all, why else would one be sad, unless one were sick?

In Buddhism, that life is suffering is one of the four noble truths. It is said
to stem not from illness, but from the natural human propensity to want the world
to be other than it is. This propensity is essential to our survival as a species --
without want, no neanderthal would ever hunt or build a home. The Talmud says,
--Without the desirous inclination, nothing would ever be accomplished. Yet it
also ensures our unhappiness, since the world will never conform to our desires.

We can still enjoy lifes pleasures, and must still seek to alleviate suffering
in others, but we can only gain happiness by not attaching ourselves to the desire
that the world be different.

One of the most important desires to let go is the desire not to be sad.
Often, when we feel sad, it is primarily at the fact that we are sad. Everyone else
seems so happy -- and they don't deserve it. Why can't I be? What is wrong with
me? Or, perhaps our sorrow turns to anger: How hateful is the world, that some
people are given love, success, and happiness, while I am not. For many people,
the most important step on a path to equanimity is accepting our sadness.

Acceptance of sadness is not the same as immersion in it. Immersion
comes when we repeat the story of why we are sad; what is lacking; what aspects
of the world should be different. We become enveloped by the sadness, wrapped
up in its stories and resultant despair. Acceptance, though, comes from seeing
that we are sad, and seeing that this, too, is God.


Our band-aid culture must "cure" sadness, or depression, by labeling it as
pathological instead of embracing the truth that our sadness can connect us to--
the Saturnine introspection which goes beyond our power to "fix" . This process has a numbing-down effect, so that we not feel so deeply, and cannot therefore
learn empathy or recognize the depth of connection to humankind, so often

How, I ask, how or when did we get so callous and unfeeling that we just nod and turn the page upon reading that our own country dropped bombs on a
mosque, where people are kneeling in prayer? When did such an atrocity become
commonplace or acceptable? Who makes such a decision? What is a war crime, or
have we gone beyond that concept-- as the article The Third World War is Now by Prince El Hassan Bin Tallal--tells us, the conflict only escalates
to include all the earth's citizens - a World War that has gone on since the first shot
was fired in the First World War is still the same war.

Make no mistake that this is a world war, albeit not like any we have seen before. The conflict is not being fought by regimented armies of men, but by individuals and by small terrorist cells on our streets and in our homes. The human race has now reached such a point that we are arguing the merits of killing a half-blind man in a wheelchair on one side, and the blowing up of 200 innocent Spanish citizens on their way to work on the other.

Significantly, neither action has brought us any closer to ending the conflict. Sheik Yassin's assassination has only served to elevate him to martyrdom, and will undoubtedly incite further violence in his name. We must remember the real danger of such an act, which could change the agenda from Palestinian-Israeli confrontation to that between Arabs, Christians, Muslims and Jews.


I am so deeply ashamed, and sorrowful, and I cannot believe that there is not an outcry from the people of the world. I think they are all over-medicated.

This is wrong. This is wrong.
Are we supposed to whisper the truth?
Speak only with tears?

Is this inappropriate immersion in sadness - that we cannot accept the truth, as terrrible as it is, because it is "all from God"? I am having trouble with that concept.
I cannot help but want the world to be different than it is. I guess I am hung up on
that one.

I punched the face on the editorial page the other morning, reading these words
"...I still believe this is a just war."

I told Robert, it made me so angry. A just war!

Robert said, you're missing the point. He says, It's Just War.
It's Just War. Get it?

I still don't get it.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Gate of Sadness
Jewish and Buddhist Teachings on the Broken Heart

The Gate of Sadness is a monograph in progress on the subject of sadness as it is regarded in the Jewish and Buddhist traditions. The introduction and first few teachings are available here.

Sometimes a crumb falls from the tables of joy
Sometimes a bone is flung.
To some people love is given,
To others, only heaven.

Langston Hughes

Sadness and joy are not opposites. They exist as two notes of a sometimes
dissonant, sometimes harmonious, chord of quiet awareness. Learning to
experience and accept ones sadness as part of the unfolding perfection of Being is
to make the darkness visible, and beautiful. It is a gate into deeply knowing that
all is God.

Denying sorrow, or pretending too quickly that everything is okay, denies
that God exists everywhere, which contradicts the unity and reality of God itself.
If God takes place only when we are happy, it is not God.

Sadness is not the same as despair. Despair is a condition of the ego, in
which the I loses confidence that the sad mind state will change. It is part of a
narrative, in which the desired happiness is feared never to come. Sadness is not
part of a narrative; it is simply what is, at this moment. In fact, despair hates
sadness, and seeks to avoid it even as it believes that to avoid it is impossible.
In this sense, despair and holy sadness are opposites.

When we truly experience, not just merely learn, that sadness is a
manifestation of God, and when we feel -- not just merely theorize -- that we are
not alone in sadness, we can become one with an underlying peace with what is
that lovingly endures even our most painful heartbreaks.

The teachings in this book flow from many voices of Jewish traditions,
and some from Buddhist ones, though hopefully they can inspire any seeker of
communion with ultimate Being. They do not represent the only voices in these
traditions on the subject of sadness, or even the dominant ones. Most importantly,
this path is not a cure for sadness it is an embrace of it. The gate of sadness will
not make us happy. But it can make us joyful, content, and loving in the midst of
pain. With an open heart, sadness and joy may thus be united.

Read more:
by Jay Michaelson

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

A Call for an Exit Door from Iraq
by Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Remarks
April 7, 2004

I am posting this in its entirety--
Please read and pass on- from Common

I have watched with heavy heart and mounting dread as the ever-precarious battle to bring security to post-war Iraq has taken a desperate turn for the worse in recent days and hours. Along with so many Americans, I have been shaken by the hellish carnage in Fallujah and the violent uprisings in Baghdad and elsewhere. The pictures have been the stuff of nightmares, with bodies charred beyond recognition and dragged through the streets of cheering citizens. And in the face of such daunting images and ominous developments, I have wondered anew at the President's stubborn refusal to admit mistakes or express any misgivings over America's unwarranted intervention in Iraq.

During the past weekend, the death toll among America's military personnel in Iraq topped 600 -- including as many as 20 American soldiers killed in one three-day period of fierce fighting. Many of the dead, most perhaps, were mere youngsters, just starting out on the great adventure of life. But before they could realize their dreams, they were called into battle by their Commander in Chief, a battle that we now know was predicated on faulty intelligence and wildly exaggerated claims of looming danger.

As I watch events unfold in Iraq, I cannot help but be reminded of another battle at another place and another time that hurtled more than 600 soldiers into the maws of death because of a foolish decision on the part of their commander. The occasion was the Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1864, during the Crimean War, a battle that was immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his poem, "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Tennyson got it right -- someone had blundered. It is time we faced up to the fact that this President and his administration blundered as well when they took the nation into war with Iraq without compelling reason, without broad international or even regional support, and without a plan for dealing with the enormous post-war security and reconstruction challenges posed by Iraq. And it is our soldiers, our own 600 and more, who are paying the price for that blunder.

In the run up to the war, the President and his advisers assured the American people that we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq. For a brief moment, that outcome seemed possible. One year ago this week, on April 9, 2003, the mood in many corners of the nation was euphoric as Americans witnessed the fall of Baghdad and the jubilant toppling of a massive statue of Saddam Hussein. Less than four weeks later, the President jetted out to an aircraft carrier parked off the coast of California to cockily declare to the world the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

For those with tunnel vision, the view from Iraq looked rosy then -- Baghdad had fallen, Saddam Hussein was on the run, and U.S. military deaths had been kept to a relatively modest number, a total of 138 from the beginning of combat operations through May 1.

But the war in Iraq was not destined to follow the script of some idealized cowboy movie of President Bush's youth, where the good guys ride off into a rose-tinted sunset, all strife settled and all wrongdoing avenged. The war in Iraq is real, and as any soldier can tell you, reality is messy and bloody and scary. Nobody rides off into the sunset for fear that the setting sun will blind them to the presence of the enemies around them.

And so the fighting continues in Iraq, long past the end of major combat operations, and the casualties have continued to mount. As of today, more than 600 military personnel have been killed in Iraq and more than 3,000 wounded.

Now, after a year of continued strife in Iraq, comes word that the commander of forces in the region is seeking options to increase the number of U.S. troops on the ground if necessary. Surely I am not the only one who hears echoes of Vietnam in this development. Surely, the Administration recognizes that increasing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq will only suck us deeper into the maelstrom of violence that has become the hallmark of that unfortunate country. Starkly put, at this juncture, more U.S. forces in Iraq equates more U.S. targets in Iraq.

Again, Tennyson's words bespeak a cautionary tale for the present:

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Like Tennyson's Light Brigade, American's military personnel have proved their mettle in Iraq. In the face of a relentless and seemingly ubiquitous insurgency, they have performed with courage and resolve. They have followed the orders of their Commander in Chief, regardless of the cost. But surely some must wonder why it is American forces that are still shouldering the vast majority of the burden in Iraq, one year after the liberation of the country. Where are the Iraqis? What has happened to our much vaunted plans to train and equip the Iraqi police and the Iraqi military to relieve the burden on U.S. military personnel? Could it be that our expectations exceeded our ability to develop these forces? Could it be that, once again, the United States underestimated the difficulty of winning the peace in Iraq?

Since this war began, America has poured $121 billion into Iraq for the military and for reconstruction. But this money cannot buy security. It cannot buy peace. $121 billion later, and just 2,324 of the 78,224 Iraqi police are "fully qualified," according to the Pentagon. Nearly 60,000 of those same police officers have had no formal training -- none! It is no wonder that security has proved so elusive. The time has come for a new approach in Iraq.

The harsh reality is this: one year after the fall of Baghdad, the United States should not be casting about for a formula to bring additional U.S. troops to Iraq. We should instead be working toward an exit strategy. The fact that the President has alienated friend and foe alike by his arrogance in "going it alone" in Iraq and has made the task of internationalizing post-war Iraq an enormously difficult burden should not deter our resolve.

Pouring more U.S. troops into Iraq is not the path to extricate ourselves from that country. We need the support and the endorsement of both the United Nations and Iraq's neighbors to truly internationalize the Iraq occupation and take U.S. soldiers out of the cross-hairs of angry Iraqis.

And from the flood of disturbing dispatches from Iraq, it is clear that many Iraqis, both Sunni and Shiite, are seething under the yoke of the American occupation. The recent violent uprising by followers of a radical Shiite cleric is by far the most troubling development in Iraq in months and could signal America's worst nightmare -- a civil war in Iraq that pits moderate Shiites against radical Shiites. Layered over the persistent insurgency being waged by disgruntled Iraqi Sunnis and radical Islamic operatives, a Shiite civil war could be the event that topples Iraq from instability into utter chaos.

As worrisome as these developments are in and of themselves, the fact that they are occurring as the United States hurtles toward a June 30 deadline to turn Iraq over to an interim Iraqi government -- a government that has yet to be identified, established, or vetted -- adds an element of desperation to the situation.

Where should we look for leadership? To this Congress? To this Senate? This Senate, the foundation of the Republic, has been unwilling to take a hard look at the chaos in Iraq. Senators have once again been cowed into silence and support, not because the policy is right, but because the blood of our soldiers and thousands of innocents is on our hands. Questions that ought to be stated loudly in this chamber are instead whispered in the halls. Those few Senators with the courage to stand up and speak out are challenged as unpatriotic and charged with sowing seeds of terrorism. It has been suggested that any who dare to question the President are no better than the terrorists themselves. Such are the suggestions of those who would rather not face the truth.

This Republic was founded in part because of the arrogance of a king who expected his subjects to do as they were told, without question, without hesitation. Our forefathers overthrew that tyrant and adopted a system of government where dissent is not only important, but it is also mandatory. Questioning flawed leadership is a requirement of this government. Failing to question, failing to speak out, is failing the legacy of the Founding Fathers.

When speaking of Iraq, the President maintains that his resolve is firm, and indeed the stakes for him are enormous. But the stakes are also enormous for the men and women who are serving in Iraq, and who are waiting and praying for the day that they will be able to return home to their families, their ranks painfully diminished but their mission fulfilled with honor and dignity. The President sent these men and women into Iraq, and it is his responsibility to develop a strategy to extricate them from that troubled country before their losses become intolerable.

It is staggeringly clear that the Administration did not understand the consequences of invading Iraq a year ago, and it is staggeringly clear that the Administration has no effective plan to cope with the aftermath of the war and the functional collapse of Iraq. It is time -- past time -- for the President to remedy that omission and to level with the American people about the magnitude of mistakes made and lessons learned. America needs a roadmap out of Iraq, one that is orderly and astute, else more of our men and women in uniform will follow the fate of Tennyson's doomed Light Brigade.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Perfection in Darkness

Its a dark, gloomy day. I love it.
Its my birthday and we are swimming in
April Showers. About three inches of rain
has fallen in the past few days, a third of
our annual rainfall. Hallelujah!

Andrew Nagen called me this morning
with a birthday song:

Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you,
May the Angel of Death pass over your house tonight,
Happy birthday to you!

Its also my son Maxs birthday today. Hes 20.
He was the gift on my birthday in 1984.

Its also the birthday of poet Richard Eberhart
Hes 100 years old today. Heres one of his best-known
poems from the Philadelphia Inquirer Online

Perfection in darkness

The Eclipse

I stood out in the open cold

To see the essence of the eclipse

Which was its perfect darkness.

I stood in the cold on the porch

And could not think of anything so perfect

As man's hope of light in the face of darkness.

- From Collected Poems, 1930-1986

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Pink Roses

Thank you David, for taking the time to write to me.
Were you birthed in the house you returned to, that was gone - or
was it the first home of your life?
Just wondering.
I had a similar experience.

Late in May 2003 I returned to a small town in South Carolina, called Glendale, with my husband, my daughter and grandson Noah. It had been 25 years since we left there with our baby girl and two goldens to move way out west.

We drove down Emma Cudd Road, over a raging river - heavy rains resulted
in flooding above--down into the valley, where the rickety old wooden
house we had rented as poor chiropractic students once stood in a clearing,
overlooking a pond ringed by thousands of pink roses on a wild abandoned hedge...

Friends had even thrown a wedding there once - in a tent in the grove,with music, crystal and champagne - because of that riot of roses and the perfume that filled the night.

A lifetime later - 25 years !- we were in town for a reunion - and we wanted to see if the house was still there where Ariana had been born, in 1977.(It was an illegal homebirth and cost $15 for the midwive's kit to be replaced! )

Of course it was gone, and that wasn't such a surprise ... surveyors for
a natural gas pipeline had come through before we moved out and the
understanding was that this old house was in the way.

(I had dreamed once while sleeping there, nestling my infant daughter, that the winds had risen and the whole thing collapsed in a heap of sticks. It was
just hanging there inexplicably, suspended on the chimney.)

We drove up and down the road, measuring the curves, when I saw
a small rose hedge on the edge of a sodden wood. The little pink
wild roses were twining up a telephone pole.

Robert could see it - the turn of the road he remembered. But there was no pond, curiously: it had been filled in years ago, and the big trees were long gone.

Not a trace of that tumble-down memory remained.Now there was a little subdivision of solid brick houses, along a familiar drive. Behind one house was the old barn, still standing.

I didn't feel certain I was even in the same place until we drove in
a little ways--looked out across the slope of the hayfield. Then it was the lay of the land, the old brambles and elderberries, the color of the grass and
angle of light where I used to run - I knew I was back *home*.

A golden retriever came barking at a run over to us, and she looked for all the world like our dog Nell who had given birth to ten puppies back then, in those fertile days.

Noah was asleep in the car, so we turned around and drove out, over the
foaming, red-clay river. I thought about that image and it said to me: water under the bridge.....

I picked a little sprig of pink roses, and they filled the car with a pink aroma --something like Evening in Glendale, Southern-style. Revival, anyone?

Related posts - June 1 2003