Friday, August 31, 2012

If We Build It…….

As I have made my way through a hot, humid, congested summer on our little island, I have had many occasions to reflect on my energetic responses to the crowds, the sluggish traffic, the aggressive attitudes of consumers determined to have the dream vacation, the carelessness of cyclists and moped riders about personal safety (theirs and mine), and the end-of-season weariness of so many year-round islanders.

The summer season is both curse and blessing.  The livelihood of the island depends upon the influx of strangers into our living space for 10-12 weeks every summer – and so we welcome the blessing each stranger brings.  The greater human diversity that comes with July and August keeps us all from becoming too parochial.  Through the eyes of strangers we appreciate the beauty of our island home more consciously.  We learn a more gracious hospitality as we share our beaches and walking trails with people who only get to enjoy them for a couple of weeks each year.  We make new friends – if only for the brief length of a conversation while watching the sun set over the waters at the far end of the island. Summer can be an astounding time of connection. These are the blessings.

The down side is that our serenity is disrupted.  The courtesy islanders normally extend to one another on the roads is marred by too many cars trying to get to the same place in the shortest amount of time.  We all have to allow an additional 20 minutes to our routine travel time for running to the post-office or for getting to a doctor’s appointment on time.  Long lines at restaurants make having a relaxing meal  at a restaurant a rigorous challenge and it isn’t so easy to find a spot to put down our beach towels at the water’s edge, never mind finding a place to park the car.  Crime rates go up and the quality of life goes down.  The noise is assaultive. Stress increases.

In my annual quest for grounding and a calm, hospitable approach to the rigors of summer on the island, I came across a book titled Healing the Future –Personal Recovery from Societal Wounding by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn and Matthew Linn.  A footnote in the introduction captured my imagination: Quantum physics reveals that despite the apparent solidity of matter including the matter of our bodies, there is nothing other than energy.  That means we are energy beings interacting with everything in the entire energy fieldwe are entangled in an unfathomable number of energy vibrations and we are connected to all of them. (Bruce Lipton, “How your Beliefs Control Your Biology, July3, 2008).  Lipton, a cellular biologist, also remarks that “If you only focus on the person, you miss the energy of the field” – referring to the environment which is ultimately nonvisible and energetic. He also cites Einstein’s observation that “the field is the sole governing agency of the particle.”  

I do not pretend to understand quantum physics – but the metaphorical language helped me shift in my consciousness from a state of anxiety and resentment in response to the disruptions that the summer season represents to a broader reflection on how I may be related to the energy field – and how do I contribute to it for better or worse.

I am choosing, yet again, to affirm that I have power to transform and transmute and affect the field in which I live and move and have my being.  A simple thing like shifting from an adversarial stance in the long line at the post office to one of friendship and compassion for all the other “energy particles” who are also enduring the inconvenience “changes the field.”  Dare we believe, as human energy particles, that the slightest – even random – act of kindness can shift the energy field in which we are entangled as this globe spins? 

The Linns focus on “our social environment and how, despite its toxic aspects, we can stay healthy and open rather than being overwhelmed by fear and despair, so that we are helping create the world of our dreams for ourselves and for our children.”

The “field” in which humankind moves often feels dominated by competition, punishment, and revenge.  In my reflections I wonder if we are getting any closer to the moment when our weariness with it will awaken us to our power to shift the energy field into one of compassion and kindness and generosity and hospitality.

In some ways, it seems so simple.  A smile -  a wry comment – a more sincere and less perfunctory inquiry about the other person’s well-being  - - anything that recognizes the connection  that exists in the “field” - - and allows us to know that we are all in it together.

The line from “Field of Dreams” has become almost cliché in our American idiom – but maybe it really does point us in the right direction - - “If you build it, they will come.” 
With every act of kindness and compassion, with every exertion of energy in the service of justice, with every nonviolent resistance to competition and revenge,  with every intentional shift from hostility to hospitality, there is the possibility of morphing the “field” - - of building humanity’s “Field of Dreams.” 

The season is almost over.  The crowds are beginning to leave.  The island begins its great exhalation and a kind of wistful peacefulness returns.  The rhythm is, itself, a metaphor.  The island “recovers” during the off-season.  We human energy particles do the same.  Always, there is the hope that we will have learned something from our summer labors about how to be more human – less mechanical – perhaps more energetic in the way we relate to the field that is life.   The off-season gives us a glimpse of our “Field of Dreams” – but perhaps we need the summer months to challenge us to the greater energetic work of building and sustaining that field.  In doing so, we create a place where thousands may also catch a glimpse.  We create a possibility for our many summer guests.  Who knows?  They may go home inspired to enhance their own local energy fields to the benefit of all who enter there – and the vast energy field of the planet might become less toxic.

Ahhhhh!  A field of dreams!

Vicky Hanjian

Friday, August 24, 2012

Nonviolence, Chiapas and the EZLN

 I was asked to write something about nonviolence for this blog. It was a challenge to come up with something that would not mention guns or physical force. After a long debate of what was I going to be writing about, I decided that I was going to write about what is happening in my own country. 

First of all, I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico; but I have been here in the United States for more than half of my life. I was so indifferent to how my own people are suffering and struggling to survive. I started looking into how the most vulnerable Mayan Indian from a region in Mexico (to be more precise, Chiapas) were living in such deplorable conditions. Over centuries, the indigenous population of Chiapas slowly started losing control over their territory they cared for, for many generations. Many rebellions have happened and by the late 20th Century, the communities of Chiapas were living in extreme poverty.

People were lacking education, health care and social services. The rebellion started gaining strength and on the signing of the NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) the uprising became a reality on January 1, 1994. The indigenous rose up and took over seven municipalities in Chiapas, Mexico, and declared their desire to become autonomous from the Mexican state. Two armed parties confronted each other, the Mexican Federal government and the Zapatistas, for over 12 days of combat. After a cease- fire, a truce was applied. Implementing the treaty, ink and words of rationalization were their weapons, but unfortunately their truce was broken a few times by the federal government. The Zapatistas only reacted to defend themselves with peaceful civil resistance. All they wanted was equal rights and better living conditions. Meaning, they wanted dignity, land, liberty and the ability to decide their own future. Many of their people had been murdered by the power of the military. Their war has been based in a nonviolent defense against all injustice situations. A number of clever tactics led the Zapatista movement to be an extremely valuable early example of non-violent activism using cyber space.

The organization taking control of the uprisings is called Zapatista or EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional) (The Zapatist Army of National Liberation) a revolutionary leftist. The group is mainly formed from indigenous people, but it’s leader is believed to be a foreigner. He is known as Subcomandante Marcos. The group is formed from many more supporters from different areas. The EZLN’s way of appearing in public is by wearing ski masks. Their training on military strategies is very strong. They are keeping a very strong treaty with the Mexican Government since 1994. As a non-violent group, they are using the Internet as a tool to communicate with the international media and activism groups to provoke external political pressure for the changes that they want. These changes include increasing the presence of the indigenous population of Chiapas in politics.

 In addition, Subcomandante Marcos traveled around the country for indigenous rights. The EZLN also operates a radio station in Chiapas, that broadcasts in Spanish and several local languages. The group is a favorite of anti-globalization activists from around the globe and EZLN group members. Subcomandante Marcos is currently touring Mexico raising awareness and political and ideological support for their cause. Due to its political aspirations and the 1994 truce, the EZLN is not expected to engage in any major attacks in the near future.

Welcome to Zapatist Territory

That for everyone there will always be bread to illuminate the table.
Education to feed the mind.
Health to scare the dead. 
Land to harvest our future.
Roof to cover our hope  
And work to dignify our hands. 

Municipality Autonomy Rebellion Zapatist

Maria Escamilla, Guest Blogger

Friday, August 17, 2012


Nonviolence- how often in the news or everyday life do you hear that word? How often do you hear “another killing in a late night fight” or “person seriously injured over a dispute”? How often can you say you hear about someone doing something nonviolently?

I have tried to answer these questions myself lately, and to be completely honest, out of the three questions, the only one I can answer with a big number is the second one. That is so sad to me. Why is it that our world is so overcome with violence? Why is it that people seem to respond and be so interested in someone killing someone rather than someone having a nonviolent protest for a good cause?

I am taking a Peace and Justice Class this semester and I am so amazed by how many nonviolent movements have been made and have been SUCCESSFUL!! Why can’t we hear about them on the news? Why are we not taught more about them in school? No, we are taught about war, and killing each other. We are taught that violence is the only way to get something done.

Yet I sit here and think back to Martin Luther King Jr. I think back to the Civil Rights Movement, and how so many of those activities were done nonviolently in the African American community; how they never gave up and though it may have taken years to get to where we are today, it was nonviolent and successful!

And yet everyday, people are losing their lives in war. When we hear the word war here in the U.S. I know that most of us think of the war’s our country has fought or is fighting. But to me war is not only that, war is going on in our everyday lives. I believe it is war when we see the hate towards each other, whether it is someone hating a person who chooses to love the same sex or someone hating someone because of how they look; the color of their skin or the religion they are. How is it that we do not see each other as human beings? How is it that we can judge someone without even having the slightest clue who they are or what they are or have gone through in their lives? How is it that when we see two females together or two males together so many people have hate in their heart for them, “they are disgusting” or “they don’t deserve to have the same rights as a man and woman.” “They are a disgrace.” How is it that our hearts are so full of hate we can’t see love for what it is, LOVE.

Is it that we are too afraid of change? Too afraid to open our minds and our hearts? Too afraid of what someone else will think of us?

It is sad to me that in our world today we are much more comfortable with killing, guns, bullying than we are with two people who are in love. To me nonviolence does not just mean not killing or harming another person, it also means not to hate another person, not bullying someone, or judging someone for what makes them happy in their life. It means to love and stick up for what is right in our world that has so much wrong.  As human beings, as a country, we should stick by each other and help one another when we are in need.

I would like to end this with a quote from the man who is my vision of nonviolence “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” Mahatma Gandhi.

Andrea Wicks, Guest Blogger

Monday, August 13, 2012

With Love from Idinthikarai

I am IGNATIUS. I belong to the village Idinthikarai in Thirunelveli district in southern Tamil Nadu. Since a few years my family lives in the Casa Nagar Colony that was built as part of the Tsunami rehabilitation program. From this you would have understood that the Tsunami waves struck my village too. Though not many human lives were taken away, it gave us all a taste of what a natural disaster is. It took us all some time to get over the fear of living so close to the sea which behaved so strangely that day. 

But now the memory of that day is faded out by the new knowledge of a disaster that is looming over us and is going to be there every day 24 * 7 *365 . Our village and region are now famous for the upcoming Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Now 2 events loom loud in my mind. Let me share it with you all. Last year, one quiet peaceful windy night we were woken up by a loud unfamiliar sound that pierced our ears and shocked us out of bed. We ran out in fear and saw that many others had got out of their houses searching for the source of the sound. All eyes turned towards the Plant area which is just 1.5 km from where I stay. The numerous lights that mark that area shone beautifully that night too. We realized that something was happening there. The noise subsided. We later came to know that that was a trial dummy run that was done in the Plant. If the memory of a sound can frighten and bring your life to a stand still then we know what it means because we experienced it. 

The second event is the news we saw last March about the Japan Tsunami and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant explosion. More than how and why it happened, we understand how weak the nuclear power plants are. Any small delay in getting the right amount of water, any human error in turning on or off a switch, a short tremor or shift in the earth, a wave from the nearby ocean that rushes in astray, a valve with a rusted nail in it can all start a disaster. And we realize that we are just 1.5 kms away from a disaster.

Someone who came here to see us asked about how we spend our free time. I thought aloud with my friends Washington, Arnold, Josan, Riyas, Raja, Preston and Donald. It seems strange that for the past 358 days all we do when we have some time is to run to the compound of the Village Church where our mothers, sisters, aunts and grandparents are sitting as part of the struggle to stop the Power Plant. We have lost the urge to play. All we want is to know if the Power plant will be stopped. The other day someone asked me to sing a song. All I could remember were our slogans   “We do not want the Power Plant. We want to live. When there are so many other sources of power generation, why go Nuclear? That too at the cost of our life?”

I love to dance in tune with the beat of drums and good music. But now I dance with all my energy to the tune of songs like “Velkave Velkave Anukulaye ethirku makkal poraattam velkave...” that a brother from Koodankulam village made against the KKNPP. It fills my mind with the determination that on no account should the plant be established here or anywhere in the world. If I can stop the plant with my legs and hands, I will keep on dancing forever so that the world will not see anymore Chernobyls, Fukushimas,  Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think that there is enough knowledge in the world to decide to stop this.

I often think about the reason to start a nuclear power plant. It is for electricity. It is so a nation can prosper with more industries and factories. It is so that every home all over the country will have unlimited power supply. I would like to know if this plant will help light up our dark streets, our houses and our churches, temples and hospitals first and foremost before it goes to other regions. I also think that if I am a city dweller with air-conditioned houses and many electronic equipments in my house and if I come to know that this power is made from nuclear energy for which a whole region has been sacrificed, I would perhaps decide to live in darkness or cut short my power use. 

I wonder about my future- what would I like to be when I grow up. Surely a fisherman. I love to see my brothers Michael and Androo get up early morning and go to the sea. Sometimes I accompany them to the sea shore and watch as they take the boats over the waves. When I return in the evening I see the fruits of their labour in the nice sardine curry and the occasional luxury of the prawn fry. I see my mother and sisters smile on the day there is a good catch and the sales at the local fish market is stable. I know it also in the laughter from neighbouring houses where my mother would have reached a share of the fish. But now, I hear my brothers and their friends talk about the drop in fish catch. They often speak about how the police from the KKNPP shout at them to move away from the fishing zones close to the shore where an abundant catch is assured. They speak about the desalination plants that will spew out hot water into the sea killing all life. I do not want a Plant to come that will take away not only fishes and shells but also a way of living that has been ours for so long.

My mornings are sometimes taken away by being alert for the rumbling sounds of the tractor and its impatient honking. That is our drinking water coming. We have to buy drinking water. The water supply to our villages are saline and cannot be used to cook or drink. Each plastic pot of water costs Rs. 2.50. We have to buy more than 6 pots every day as ours is a huge family. If we miss the vehicle, then we have no drinking water. I see the pain in my mother’s eyes when she hands over the folded ten rupee note and a five rupee coin to me to give the water supplier. The other day I heard her asking someone-“Should not we have more development in the form of good drinking water?”  At least free supply of water and not this highly insecure state? Is the much hated KKNPP the need of this region?

My 12 year old mind fills with such ideas. I know that things are not so simple. I also know now that decisions are taken without considering the life of the people who have to pay a huge price in the form of their livelihood, land, health and future. It shocks me that it does not matter to the decision makers that our life has come to a standstill with their decision to move ahead faster and quicker. The unfair and cruel way in which this is done is what makes me want to dance and shout slogans till the KKNPP is suspended. We should then talk and search how else we can make power that will be clean and not smeared by our tears and blood.

I am Ignatius. 12 year old. Casa Tsunami Rehab Colony also known as Vela Colony. Do come and visit us. If there is a good prawn catch, we can have some prawn fry together.

Thanks to Anitha Sharma

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Repaired and Renewed

I spent a fair bit of time recently repairing a cradle that I had built some thirty years ago for firstborn Noa to sleep in. In the wee hours of morning, I completed it just in time for her arrival. So too, for the first months of their lives, Yossi and Tzvia, each in turn, slept in the cradle. Made of New England fir and oversized oak rockers, to more easily set it in motion, the cradle broke during one of many moves over the years. The curved top at one end cracked and swayed back and forth to the touch like a loose tooth. I knew that in order to repair it properly I would need to break the top off completely. I was unnerved by that thought, and the cradle remained in a forlorn state in the cellar. It is now repaired, as strong as it ever had been, ready for its second generation of occupants. As I had completed its building just in time for the arrival of his mother, I completed its repairs just in time for the arrival in Boston of firstborn grandchild, Leo. 

Marking the week of Leo’s first visit to Boston, the Torah portion Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1), speaks to me in a very personal way. It is the Bas Mitzvah Torah portion of my youngest daughter, Tzvia. The most important verse to me in this portion is the first verse of chapter twenty-seven, And the daughters of Tzelophchad…, of the families of Menashe, the son of Yosef, drew near – and these are the names of his daughters: Machlah, Noa, and Choglah, and Milkah, and Tirtzah. In a single verse is the name of Yossi and Noa. Each is present in the story of the other, their little sister singing the song that joins them all. The story itself is one of triumph and transformation, of an injustice made right. Upon their father’s death, the daughters of Tzelophchad petitioned Moses for the right to inherit. Brought before God, the merit of their claim is acknowledged and the legacy that is passed through the generations is passed for the first time to daughters.

The “daughters of Tzelophchad” represent a tikun, a repair. They courageously drew near, va’tikravna, and stood/va’ta’a’modna before Moses, before Elazar the priest, before the princes and the entire community. They model the nonviolent way of speaking truth to power. They speak from conviction and knowledge, unwavering while honoring the ones they challenge: Now why should the name of our father disappear from the midst of his family just because he did not have a son? Please give us a possession among the brothers of our father. They are regarded as lovers of the Land, cited in some commentary as having represented a much better choice to be sent to scout out the Land rather than the princes who brought evil report. The order of their names varies in different passages, teaching that all were equal in righteousness and standing. Pettiness did not divide them, their message sustained through integrity, neither diluted nor diminished through stirrings of ego and quests for personal power. Only such truth can speak to the power it would transcend and transform, touching the heart, creating common ground. The justice of their claim affirmed, God says to Moses, “The daughters of Tzelophchad speak justly; certainly you shall give them, according to the legal right of males, a hereditary possession among the brothers of their father and you shall cause their father’s inheritance to pass to them.”

However incomplete as it unfolds through time, the repair brought by the daughters of Tzelophchad offers hope in the face of the great violence from which the portion unfolds. They represent the possibility of change and the courage to strive. Juxtaposed with violence, their witness reminds that here too it is for us to claim what is ours, an inheritance of peace. Beyond generations of what has been, there glistens the promise of what can be. Of sisters drawing near and standing together, they remind us all that we each have a place that is our due. Sisters and brothers joined in one verse, Noa and Yosef, the Bas Mitzvah portion of Tzvia, a song of all children, of generations and inheritance, of time unfolding. 

As I placed little Leo into the cradle for the first time, my heart swelled, lifeblood flowing from generation to generation, time held still in a single teardrop. Dreams of long ago infusing the wood, dreams of tomorrow forming, the cradle is my prayer for every child to receive her or his due, to sleep unafraid in a world made whole. Leo smiled up at me as I gently rocked him, the cradle was his now, repaired and renewed.

Rabbi Victor H. Reinstein

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fast for the Earth

Today begins a Fast for the Earth  We are holding a "launch  week" here in Brookings, South Dakota. Some will do a water fast for the seven days. Others will fast for a meal or a day. Some intend to fast from driving. The week will be full of educational and protest activities focused on global warming.

We, like others around the globe, are facing the continuing pillage and destruction of the planet by the fossil fuel industry. They have constructed one pipeline through our state already that has had twelve spills in twelve months. They are planning a second, carrying tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. James Hansen, a leading climatologist has concluded, if those tar sands are developed, it's "game over" for the planet.

We are already experiencing the front end of climate change in the plains states. We are in a record draught, with the heat index regularly in triple digits. Corn is withering. There is nowhere for livestock to graze. The West is literally burning up with wildfires. 

In the meantime, as Bill McKibben has so aptly put it, "As Colorado Burns, Washington Fiddles." It's no wonder! Exxon Mobil is the most profitable corporation in the history of the world. Even after a horrific oil spill, BP is still making profits. The most powerful lobby in human history has plenty of money and influence to spread, in Washington, in Toronto, in the South Dakota legislature and Governor's office. 

Voices for the common good are slowly being raised. Our numbers are increasing. We are global in nature. People have signed on to the fast from several different countries, all concerned about the poisoning of our homes. We will continue to grow and encourage each other, for this fast is perpetual. We intend to have a person or group fasting each and every day, for the healing of the earth and the healing of human beings; till we no longer put profits ahead of people, exploitation over care for the earth.

A renowned activist for the earth, Cesar Chavez, has this to say about fasting.