Announcing the new “The BeZine” Arts and Humanities Group page; details on our well-established 100TPC FB Group

“Creativity is the most supreme form of love. When it flows from any heart flooded by truth and light, it can change all those who encounter its seductive vibrations.” Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem



The BeZine now sponsors two Facebook Groups.  The first, established years ago, is The BeZine 100TPC 100,000 Poets (and friends) for Change. It was established to share best practices for facilitating change, to share good news and initiatives that might easily be implemented anywhere. It’s not a place to simply regurgitate the horror stories playing out around the world. It is a place to encourage positive action.

The new Facebook Group:  The BeZine Arts and Humanities discussion group is also unique. It’s place to share all your arts activities and accomplishments, not just poetry, in the hope of inspiring one another and encouraging collaborations among the arts. Within this group you may announce publications, showings, events and so forth. You are encouraged to share your videos: music, poetry readings, photography, art, film and so forth. No selling please … And . . . please keep it kind and supportive. Thank you!



Artwork by team member Corina Ravenscraft

Guidelines for the Facebook The BeZine 10OTPC, 2019 Group:

2019 NEWS & GUIDELINES FOR POSTING: We’re especially interested in filling a gap here by collecting info on practical initiatives – ideas for taking action – from anywhere in the world, “best practices” so to speak that foster peace, sustainability and social justice, especially those that might be picked up and implemented elsewhere. Examples from the past include a variety of initiatives taking place around the world to mitigate pollution and climate change, the churches that open their parking lots at night to the homeless, the restaurant owner who serves meals to the homeless; and, the barber who uses his days off to give homeless people haircuts and the group that put out clothing for people to take if needed. PLEASE DO NOT POST POETRY ON THE BeZINE 100TPC, 2019 discussion page. There are plenty of poetry groups for you on FB, now including the new Facebook is The BeZine Arts and Humanities Group.

We also offer other opportunities to share your poetry and creative work.

FOR WRITE-UPS ON SPIRITUAL PRACTICE for Beguine Again message Terri Stewart. Note: We have a FB page – The Bardo Group Beguines – where we provide Zine info, inspiration, notice of spiritual events of interest to seekers and links to work posted on beguineagain.com founded and managed by Terri.

SUBMISSIONS to The BeZine of poetry, essays, short stories, creative nonfiction, music videos, and artwork for – journal or blog – are considered via email only: bardogroup@gmail.com. Facebook message questions to G Jamie Dedes. Please don’t use FB for submissions.

The BeZine is published quarterly. Here are the schedule, themes, submission deadlines and publication dates for this year:

  • March 2019 issue, Deadline February 10th. Theme: Peace.
  • June 2019 issue, Deadline May 10th. Theme: Sustainability
  • September 2019 issue, Deadline August 10th, Theme: Human Rights/Social Justice
  • December 2019 issue, Deadline November 10th, Theme: A Life of the Spirit

SAVE THE DATE: SEPTEMBER 28, 2019, 100,000 POETS FOR CHANGE, GLOBAL, 2019 and THE BeZINE 100,000 POETS FOR CHANGE VIRTUAL EVENT

OTHER OPPORTUNITIES: Email me (thepoetbyday@gmail.com) if you have poetry news or essays on poetry to be considered for The Poet by Day jamiededes.com. For submissions (poetry and short fiction or creative nonfiction) for consideration by Michael Dickel for Meta/Phor(e)/Play https://michaeldickel.info message Michael.

The Bardo Group Begines is a twelve-member core team of poets and writers, artists and musicians, philosophers and clerics providing comfort, inspiration and information via The BeZine and Bequine Again. The BeZine is an entirely volunteer effort, a mission. It is not a paying market but neither does it charge submission or subscription fees.

– Jamie Dedes

Final Call for Submissions to the March 2019 issue of “The BeZine”, themed Waging Peace

THE BeZINEBe Inspired. Be Creative. Be Peace. Be.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

Opportunity Knocks

Submissions deadlinefor the March issue – themed Waging Peace – is March 10  at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard.

Please send text in the body of the email not as an attachment.Send photographs or illustrations as attachments. No google docs or Dropbox or other such. No rich text.

Send submissions to bardogroup@gmail.com.

Publication is March 15th. Poetry, essays, fiction and creative nonfiction, art and photography, music (videos or essays), and whatever lends itself to online presentation is welcome for consideration.

No demographic restrictions.

Please read at least one issue.

We DO NOT publish anything that promotes hate, divisiveness or violence or that is scornful or in any way dismissive of “other” peoples. No just-war pieces please.

The BeZine i s an entirely volunteer effort, a mission. It is not a paying market but neither does it charge submission or subscription fees.

Previously published work may be submitted IF you hold the copyright. Submissions from beginning and emerging artists as well as pro are encouraged and we have a special interest in getting more submissions of short stores, feature articles, music videos and art for consideration.

THE BeZINE, Vol. 4, Issue 2: Hunger, Poverty and The Working Class as Slave Labor

November 15, 2017


In the four-year history of The BeZine, this is the most significant edition. All of our concerns – peace, environmental sustainability, human rights, freedom of expression – depend on a more equal distribution of wealth, on making sure no one goes hungry and on breaking-down barriers to employment, healthcare, education and racial and gender equity.

This pyramid (courtesy of Wikipedia) reveals that:

  • half of the world’s wealth belongs to the top 1%,
  • top 10% of adults hold 85%, while the bottom 90% hold the remaining 15% of the world’s total wealth,
  • top 30% of adults hold 97% of the total wealth.

We’re all cognizant of that profile, but if you feel you’re sitting pretty and you’re not at risk, you’re employed, educated and middle class after all, you’d be well-advised to reconsider. The middle class is now – and has been for some time – dramatically challenged to find work, to acquire jobs that are fairly paid, offer stability and reasonable hours, and in the U.S., enable them to send their children to college.

The implications of a concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, the oligarchs and mega-corporations, are horrendous. Not the least is the undermining of democracy. Those who vote for and support the oligarchs because they think that’s where their security lies are victims of propaganda and bound for disappointment. The shadow of catastrophe (not too strong a word) that hangs over us is not due to the poor or the “other” who doesn’t look like us, worship the same God, or speak the same language, but to the 1%.  Huxley was disconcertingly prescient.


This month our core team and guest contributors create a picture that beckons and behoves us to abandon stereotypes and propaganda about the poor, to recognize slave labor in its most absolute terms (human trafficking and prison labor) and more subtly in the conditions faced by workers at almost all levels of the corporate pyramid. We are called to ethically source the products we buy, to study our history, to bravely speak out against injustice and stupidity and, by implication, to shine a light on best-practices, those programs, services and unofficial efforts in your city/town, region or country that are helping and that can easily be implemented anywhere in the world. (You can share these with everyone via our Facebook discussion group.)

Beginning with Juli’s impassioned editorial, The Exponential Demise of Our Well-being, and moving to our BeAttitudes: John Anstie’s powerful Dictators and Desperadoes … Delegation and Democracy; Corina Ravenscraft’s and Trace Lara Hentz’ thoughtful invitations to awareness; Phillip T. Stephens on prison injustice; Sue Dreamwalker’s encouragement to see the homeless as fully human (and she connects us with homeless poets and artists in England); and Joe Hesch’s honest exploration of self, we are called to responsibly participate in history.

We present a memoir from Renee Espriu and a short story from Joe Hesch this month. These are followed by yet another stellar poetry collection from poets around the world, including work by core-team members: Charles W. Martin and John Anstie.

New to our pages, a warm welcome to: Juli [Juxtaposed], Sue Dreamwalker, Michael Odiah, Evelyn Augusto, Michele Riedele, Irene Emmanuel and bogpan. We welcome work from among our previous and regular contributors: Paul Brookes, Trace Lara Hentz, Renee Espriu, Sonja Benskin Mescher, Denise Fletcher, Phillip T. Stephens, R.S. Chappell, Rob Cullen and Mark Heathcote.

In the spirit of peace, love (respect) and community
and on behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines,
Jamie Dedes, Founding and Managing Editor, The BeZine


HUNGER, POVERTY and THE WORKING CLASS AS SLAVE LABOR

How to read this issue of THE BeZINE:

Click HERE to read the entire magazine by scrolling, or
You can read each piece individually by clicking the links in the Table of Contents.
To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.
To learn more about our core team members, please link HERE.


EDITORIAL

The Exponential Demise of Our Wellbeing, Juli [Juxtaposed]

BeATTITUDES

Dictators and Desperadoes … Delegation and Democracy, John Anstie
Change Your View and Your View Changes, Corina Ravenscraft
‘Til the Jails Are Empty, Phillip T. Stephens
Blessed Be, Lara Trace Hentz
Homeless, Sue Dreamwalker
Ramble Tramble, Joseph Hesch

MEMOIR

Meeting Poverty, Renee Espriu

SHORT SHORT STORY

And Crown Thy Good, Joseph Hesch

POETRY

As if …, John Anstie

Carolina Oriole, Evelyn Augusto

Ecomium, bogpan

Crow Share, Paul Brookes
Means Tester, Paul Brookes
A Hunger, Paul Brookes
The Good Employer’s Manifesto, Paul Brookes

Bitter limp fruit, Rob Cullen
Life in complicated times, Rob Cullen

Empty Pocket, R.S. Chappell
War Over Hunger, R.S. Chappell

proud at unjustified margins, Jamie Dedes
an accounting, Jamie Dedes

A Thread of Hope, Denise Fletcher

Dustbowl, Mark Heathcote
Humanitarian help worker, Mark Heathcote

Togetherness, Irene Immanuel

a slave’s mentality, Charles W. Martin

#ice&mud, Sonja Benskin Mesher

Nautilus, Michele Riedel

Life, Michael Odiah

EXCEPT WHERE OTHERWISE NOTED,
ALL WORKS IN “THE BeZINE” ©2017 BY THE AUTHOR / CREATOR


CONNECT WITH US

The BeZine: Be Inspired, Be Creative, Be Peace, Be (the subscription feature is below and to your left.)

Daily Spiritual Practice: Beguine Again, a community of Like-Minded People

Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines

SUBMISSIONS:

Read Info/Missions StatementSubmission Guidelines, and at least one issue before you submit. Updates on Calls for Submissions and other activities are posted every Sunday in Sunday Announcements on The Poet by Day.

The BeZine, May 2017, Honesty & Transparency, The Post-truth (Post-factual Politices) Era

May 15, 2017

Due to technical problems, this issue didn’t get distributed to those who subscribe by email. J.D.


“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
—George Orwell

This is an extraordinary time; a time when post-truth culture is thriving in Russia, China, America, Australia, Britian, India, Japan and Turkey. This political climate is founded and furthered by appeals to emotion and on conclusions based on ignorance of and resistance to hard science and well-documented history. A perhaps unprecedented level of bombast replaces common sense, honesty and sincere promise creating a climate that rests on disinformation, intimidation and divide-and-conquer as its primary weapons of control. This all combines to undermine rule of law, free speech and free media. We have administrations evolving in the spirit of Orwell’s 1984 where diplomacy and statesmanship have devolved into manipulative spins calculated to influence the gullible and solidify the power of would-be autharitarians.

With the mixed blessing of social networking citizens seem unable – or perhaps unwilling – to distinguish lies from truth and fact from fallacy. President Obama is described as “obsessed” with this problem (hyperreality) and the mixed ecosystem of professional journalism and social network reportage in which “everything is true and nothing is true.”

“In an age where there’s so much active misinformation, and it’s packaged very well, and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television, where some over-zealousness on the part of a US official is equated with constant and severe repression elsewhere, if everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect…If we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”
—Barak Obama

We’ve decided this month to address the challenges that face our countries and the world. We’ve addressed these in essay and poetry, sometimes head-on and sometimes by a thread. Though perspectives and solutions may differ to some degree, there is clear agreement that the concerns are real as is the need to “resist.”

A last note: Thanks to Michael Dickel for further technical refinements to make this zine more accessible and readily readable. Thanks also to the members of our core team, to our guest contributors and to our readers for continued support, encouragement and the pleasures of our shared values.

In the spirit of peace, love and community
and on behalf of The Bardo Group Bequines,
—Jamie Dedes, Founding and Managing Editor

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ”
― George Orwell

For this issue of The BeZine

  • Click HERE to read the entire magazine by scrolling (includes the intro above) and
  • To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.

The BeZine, Vol. 3, Issue 5, February 2017, Overcoming Hate

think how wonderful when all the registries are
…..thrown out with the trash
so that the children of the poor come out ahead
some half-pint future president
on the street the man who stopped you with his
…..pockets inside out
is loading you with fruits & sweets is kissing you
a hero who can send a message into every little head
…..the thought of some enchanted evening
the reciprocal tyranny of fathers & of sons is over
& the need or love grows always stronger makes the
…..master builder stretch the promenades into the
…..farthest outskirts
which is freedom yes & which is love

excerpt from Tyranny or Love by Vítêzlav Nezval in Atilyrik & Other Poems

Love can be a kind of tyranny but hate tyrannizes the hated and the hateful and everyone around them. My godmother used to say that it is harder to hold onto hate than to let go in love.  How do we overcome the hate in ourselves?

Michael Dickel comes to the subject by exploring the biblical story of Yaakov (Jacob) wrestling with himself and God.

“To overcome hate, we must wrestle with our own soul (tendencies toward harsh judgments, anger, hate—that is, wrestle with our own fears and demons) and with God …” Michael Dickel

Naomi explores all the “H” words, some positive and some not so much, including hate and arriving at like-Hearted. She gives us balance. Corina Ravenscraft explores how hate manifests and Priscilla Galasso comes to it from the position of personal growth. She says:

“The more I work with my own feelings and come to understand myself, the more I can begin to understand others. When I see someone who is angry and hateful, I understand that he is suffering.”

The times are challenging us to explore our emotions and how we react to the encroachment by some elements into the domain of compassion, freedom and justice. We see this expressed in Mark Heathcote’s poem, which reminds us that strong emotion needs fuel, and in Michael Dickel’s Hate Is Not the Opposite of Love and my own Time for the Temple Whores To Sleep With Insanity.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”  Elie Wiesel

The core issues it turns out are indifference and fear. George Orwell reminds us of what we have to fear if we are not vigilant and proactive. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King reminds us that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out fear: only love can do that.”  Love is freedom, the absence of tyranny, and the more we love, the more we are able to love.

In the spirit of Peace, Love and Community
and on behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines,
Jamie Dedes
Managing Editor


To read this issue of TheBeZine

  • Click HERE to scroll through and read the entire magazine.
  • Or, you can read each piece individually by clicking the links in the Table of Contents below.  Enjoy!

Table of Contents

BeAttitude

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” George Orwell, 1984

The Animals Are Running the Farm, Jamie Dedes

Overcoming Hate

Lead Features

Your Attention, Please, Corina Ravenscraft
The “H” Word, Naomi Baltuck
Transcending Anger, Power and Fear, Priscilla Galasso
Hate Is Not the Opposite of Love, Michael Dickel

Poetry

Silencing the Lambs, John Anstie
Time for the Temple Whores to Sleep with Insanity, Jamie Dedes
Wrestling with God, two poems, Michael Dickel
Five Glosses from Imaginary Exegesis, Michael Dickel
Deconstruction, Michael Dickel
Flying without dice, Michael Dickel
I remember dreaming, Michael Dickel
Hate, it is a termite mound, Mark Heathcote

– End – 

CONNECT WITH US
Daily Spiritual Practice: Beguine Again, a community of Like-Minded People

Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines

AN INVITATION

14463159_558672104322694_2211120892025752443_nWe’ve almost put a wrap on 100TPC 2016 and we’re nearing the end of the year. It’s time to start thinking about possible themes:
* for 100TPC 2017 and
* for the monthly themes used for The BeZine.
You are invited to suggest themes of global significance and having to do with sustainability, social justice and peace. Leave your suggestions in comments below. The core team will review them and make final decisions. Thank you for your participation, support and interest in making this a kinder world through the connections, information and concerns shared here. This is an interfaith multicultural and multinational effort. We are sisters and brothers and citizens of the world. May peace prevail.

July 2016, Vol.2/Issue 10; Faith in Things Seen and Unseen

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake

Faith! In the discussions here you won’t find consistent perspective or theology. You will find faith explored in its many manifestations, religious and otherwise. You’ll find it both shaken and unshakable and in things of the spirit, in nature and humanity, in intuition and in self and family. Unity here is not in things creedal but in the shared values of peace, sustainability and social justice and for many of us – implicitly – in ultimate salvation through artistic expression.

Unitarian Universalist Minister, Rev. Ben Meyers, starts us with an appeal to religions to give their prayers and vigils legs, to befriend one another into the groundswell of local social justice initiatives that ultimately help to inform and bolster global efforts toward equity, justice and peace.This couldn’t be more appropriate as The BeZine “went to press” amid news reports of yet more violence.

You will find our usual diversity represented: skepticism and atheism, the three Abrahamic traditions, shamanism, and the mystical perspectives of Buddhism, Hinduism and Sufism.

Our special selection of lead features and poems are by: shamanic practitioner and psychotherapist, Michael Watson; resident skeptic, James R. Cowles; the always engaging and level-headed analyst, Priscilla Galasso; the fallen altar boy, poet Joe Hesch; professional story-teller and photographer, Naomi Baltuck; our renaissance man in Sheffield, John Anstie; and university librarian, poet and artist, Corina Ravenscraft, on the ultimate triumph of the Universe.

Speaking from positions of their unshakable religious faith are: Algerian poet, Imen Benyoub, on the spiritual joys and family and community connection she finds in the holy tradition of Ramadan; Catholic Theologian, Fr. Daniel S Sormani, theology professor at Ateneo de Manila University, warmly writes about lessons learned from the homely life of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and our gentle Italian literary contributor, Mendes Biondo, tells of inspiration from the Bishop of Hippo Regius (current Annaba, Algeria), St. Augustine. Imen and Mendes are our two student contributors.

Two of our contributors allude to child sexual abuse but a third, Terri Muuss, addresses it head-on and in depth. These are experiences that may strengthen faith in self, though that doesn’t come without pain and work. Terri is featured this month in our popular “Getting to Know You” section.

Our July poetry collection covers matters spiritual, emotional and environmental with excerpts from published collections by Zine regulars: Matt Pasca, Terri Muuss, Myra Schneider, Silva Merjanian and Michael Dickel, contributing editor to The BeZine. With joy we welcome back two lights: German poet, photographer and educator, Dr. Aprilia Zank and English poet, Patricia Leighton.

New to our pages in this issue are:

  • Connie Spearing  who writes of finally “seeing” her Irish grandmother with the accidental discovery of her family’s history during and after World War 1.
  • Sandra Renew’s s poetry expresses her opinions on the state of the world. She wonders who sleeps at night? Who is lucky enough to live in safety and peace?
  • Anca Mihaela Bruma, citizen of world, educated in Rumania, is a poet who writes spiritual autobiography. Anca wanted to incorporate some lovely music and art into her posts. Due to copyrights in one case  (Dorina Costras’ art) and technical incompetence (mine) in the other, we are unable to share Dorina’s paintings or Anca’s soundcloud recordings. However you can view Dorina’s work HERE. You can listen to Anca on soundcloud HERE.

****

One last word: DON’T FORGET TO SAVE THE DATE Saturday, 24 September 2016 is The BeZine’s 100,000 Poets for Change, an event which we host virtually.  This event is part of an  important annual arts initiative for global solidarity and peace, social justice and sustainability. Reader participation is invited and encouraged. This is a good time to share your work in the service of a worthy cause.  As is our tradition, all submissions will be archived here and at Standford University. Instructions for participation will be provided on our blog that day with Michael Dickel serving as Master of Ceremonies.  Between Michael and me, the event will run from morning in Israel to midnight in California. The theme this year is Environment/Environmental Justice. More detail HERE.

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Now, come friends.  Read.  Nourish yourselves at our table …

In the spirit of peace, love and community
and on behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines,
Jamie Dedes
Founding and Managing Editor
The BeZine

EDITORIAL

The World in Vigil, by Rev. Ben Meyers

THEME: FAITH IN ALL THINGS SEEN and UNSEEN

Lead Features

Knowing, Michael Watson
Varieties of Faith – Rational and Religous, James R. Cowles
Faith Means Making Choices, Priscilla Galasso
A Perfect World, Naomi Baltuck
Falling But Willing, Joseph Hesch
The Pine Cone Project, John Anstie
Regarding Faith, Corina Ravenscraft

Essays

A Month of Light, Imen Benyoub
The Blessed Mother: She Reminds Me of Who I Am and Who I Should Be, Fr. Daniel S. Sormani, C.S.Sp.
A Little Story of Faith, Mendes Biondo
NOTIONS OF THE SACRED: Poetry as Spritual Practice, Jamie Dedes
The Grandmother I Didn’t See, Connie Spearing

Speculative Flash Fiction

Moshe’s House in Space, Michael Dickle

Poetry

Rhetoric Introspection, Anca Mihaela Bruma
Our Autumn Spring, Anca Mihaela Bruma
Hindsight, Anca Mihaela Bruma

Unidos en Cristo, a poem in English y en español, Jamie Dedes

Three Poems, Michael Dickel
En Gedi, Michael Dickel
Hybrid: Warm Hunger, Michael Dickel

Lost Behind Clouds in Skies of Blue, Joseph Hesch
Hang in There, Joseph Hesch

And the Village Still Sings for Taha Muhammad Ali, Patricia Leighton

Coverage, Silva Merjanian

Passing, Terri Muuss
What Heals, Terri Muuss

Tanyou (In Search of Quietude), Matt Pasca
Silence, Matt Pasca
Toll, Matt Pasca
When Joy Breaks, Matt Pasca

Bring all those who are led astray out of the desert, Sandra Renew

3 a.m., Myra Schneider

prayer for shadows, Aprilia Zank

GETTING TO KNOW YOU

Terri Muuss, Over Exposed

CONNECT WITH US

IMG_0234Beguine Again, Spiritual Community and Practice

Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines

Access to the biographies of our core team, contributing writers and guest writers is in the blogroll where you can also find links to archived issues of The BeZine (currently in the process of updating), our Mission Statement and Submission Guidelines.

a story of faith, hope and love

IMG_1955I feel almost inclined to start this story with “once upon a time” since it feels that we began our adventure so long ago.  I started The Bardo Group (though it wasn’t titled that way to begin with) in 2011 as a way to encourage a sort of world without borders by having people from different cultures and religions come together to show what’s in their hearts and in doing so to demonstrate that with all our differences we have much in common: our dreams and hopes, our plans for children and grandchildren, our love of family, friends and the spiritual traditions we’ve chosen or into which we were born  . . . not to mention our love of sacred space as it is expressed in the arts and our concerns for peace, social justice and sustainability.

At one point I decided that it would be nice to have a sort of virtual Sunday service and invited Terri Stewart, a Methodist Minister, to be our “Sunday Chaplain.”  In 2008 she founded Beguine Again, an interfaith platform for clerics and spiritual teachers to offer daily solace and inspiration. I felt comfortable inviting Terri in because she didn’t want to convert anyone and seemed to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of traditions other than her own. She even incorporated the wisdom of other traditions in her rituals and writings. Terri supported our mission. She didn’t appear threatened by different opinions or beliefs.

A little over a year ago, I suggested we might throw our two efforts together, Beguine Again and The Bardo Group. I hoped that would ensure the continuation of the The Bardo Group and the wise, beautiful and valued work and ideals of our core team and guests, a group of earnest and talented poets, writers, story-tellers, essayists, artists, photographers and musicians.  Each is a strong advocate for a better – fair, peaceful and sustainable – world. Together they are a powerhouse.

Okay, yes!  I’m a bit biased.  I’ve only met one of our group in person and only talked by phone with Terri,  but I’ve read everyone’s work – their emails, messages, books, blogs and FB posts for years now.  We’ve been through deaths in families, births and birthdays, graduations, illness and recovery, major relocations, wars and gunfire, triumphs and failures. Two of our original contributors have died. I feel that our core team and our guests might be my next-door neighbors instead of residing in  Romania, England, Algeria, the Philippines, Israel, India, Greece, Bulgaria, the United States and other countries I’ve probably forgotten. We’ve featured work by people ranging in age – as near as I can guess – from 19 to nearly 90. They’ve been Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and agnostics. The growth of our readership is slow but steady, loyal and just as diverse as our core team and guests.

So what did we do to facilitate this merger: At Beguine Again daily posts continued. That team joined The Bardo Group. We stopped posting daily on The Bardo Group site and started The BeZine, a monthly online publication with a fresh theme for each issue. Terri got a grant to establish a community website from the Pacific Northwest United Methodist Church. The website has been over a year in the works. Today, we unveil it.

footer-logo

The site is designed to be a spiritual networking community.  Though it is an extended ministry of the Lake Washington United Methodist Church, this effort remains both interfaith and a labor of love.

The site is supported by donations, membership (paid membership is optional) and a generous grant from Pacific Northwest United Methodist Church, which funded the design and development of the site. The grant from the church ends on December 31, 2015. Donations and membership fees will support the cost of technical assistance, web hosting and so forth. Should there be any excess funds they will go to the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition, a Seattle nonprofit (also interfaith) founded by Terri under the aegis of the church. Coalition members provide assistance to incarcerated youth. No income is earned by anyone associated with Beguine Again, The Bardo Group, The BeZine or the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition.  All are labors of love.

The BeZine can still be easily and conviently accessed directly either here at this site or through Beguine Again if you choose to become a member of the community.

Please check out the site. Any questions? Let us know … and do let us know what you think. Please be patient too.  The tech gremlins are still working behind the scenes.

A note on the name: Beguine Again.  The original Beguine community was a Christian lay order in Europe that was active between the 13th and 16th century.  Terri chose the name “Because they worked outside the religious structure and were a safe place for vulnerable people.”

© 2015, article and photograph, Jamie Dedes; Beguine Again logo, copyright Beguine Again

Climate Care as Spiritual Practice

Editorial Note:  With this piece by Terri Stewart (Cloaked Monk) we announce our focus for 100,000 Poets (and others) for Change 2016, environment and environmental justice. We continue our Facebook group discussion page. Let us know if you would like to be included in that.

Terri is also the lead for the upcoming November issue of The BeZine. The theme for that zine issue, which will publish on the 15th of November, is at-risk youth. 

******

Caring for all that is can be an overwhelming job! If I think of the things within my control and trying to do the best I can, maybe I can do it in bite-size chunks. After all, I will never be able to invent some magical thing that converts pollution to life-giving energy. But I can compost!

Call on the animals to teach you; the birds that sail through the air are not afraid to tell you the truth. Engage the earth in conversation; it’s happy to share what it knows. Even the fish of the sea are wise enough to explain it to you. In fact, which part of creation isn’t aware, which doesn’t know the Eternal’s hand has done this? His hand cradles the life of every creature on the face of the earth; His breath fills the nostrils of humans everywhere. Job 12:7-10, The Voice-A Storyteller’s Bible

.
Climate-care, earth-care, creation-care, creature-care, caring is a deeply spiritual practice. How we approach the other starts with our interior orientation. If we practice expansive spirituality, we will be filled with gratitude, mindfulness, and joy. If not, we will be led to a diminished experience.

I wonder how we could reconnect, simply, through ritual, to creation? Perhaps a mini-ritual?

1. Set your sacred space

What are you trying to connect to? Earth? Cosmos? Stars? Bunnies? Create an easy environment where you can let your gaze gently rest on a photo, object, or even the real thing!

2. Set your intention

What do you need at this moment? For example, “I am here to connect to the earth in a way that honors the createdness of us all.”

3. The body of the ritual

Combining your intention with a ritualized act. For example, if you were sitting outside on a lawn chair, offering honor to the cosmos during the day, you could gradually look around honoring each creation you see. “Blades of grass, I honor you. Cedar trees, I honor you. Beloved cat, I honor you!”

4. Closing ritual

A signifier that it is finished. Perhaps, if you were outside in the grass, you could bring a handful of grass seeds to add to the growth. Then you could sprinkle the grass seeds in all directions, offering life. 

Be creative! This framework for ritual was created by my friend, Deborah Globus. Her avatar is LaPadre. She’s awesome!

Shalom and Amen!

Terri Stewart

by Terri Stewart

© 2014, words and illustration, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

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LET’S FACE IT! Peace, Sustainability and Justice … on 26 Sept. 2015, 100 Thousand Poets (et al) for Change

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Editor’s Note: Priscilla Galasso (scillagrace, try to live gracefully) wrote this last year just before the 2014 event. (We’ve adapted it here with current links and dates.) It seemed a good piece to share with you today to welcome and encourage you to join with us this year on 26 September for 100TPC, which is not just for poets but includes artists, photographers, musicians and friends of the arts.  100TPC is about Peace, Sustainability and Justice.  We chose “poverty” for our theme this year and have devoted the entire September issue of “The BeZine” to that subject.

On the 26th, a blog post will go up on this site with instructions on how you can share your work and view that of others.  We look forward to your participation and to your works.  J.D.

As a core team member of The Bardo Group, I am invited, encouraged, challenged to participate in the The BeZine’s 100 Thousand Poets for Change event to be celebrated virtually at this blog. For more information about this event, and to be stirred and prodded in you own artistic lethargy, click here

I yearn to be a poet, an artist, a musician.  I often find a piece that seems so right, so seemingly effortless, so fitting that I think it can’t be hard to craft a work like that…it simply lays over its theme like a glove.  Not so.  Listening to music on my way to work yesterday, I heard a poet’s frustration: “I don’t know why I spend my time / Writing songs I can’t believe / With words that tear and strain to rhyme.” (Paul Simon: Kathy’s Song.)

I feel these core values of Peace, Sustainability and Justice coursing through my life, my thoughts, my work, my hopes, and I wonder how hard it would be to write a poem about it.  I talked to a young man half my age who has studied forensic justice and just interviewed for a position as a mentor, a parole partner, someone who will help perpetrators and victims get together and talk, face to face.  I thought it was a great idea, for both parties, for all parties.  Here’s my attempt to let that idea percolate:

Let’s Face It

Behind the veil, the dirty shroud, the black burka, the white Klan sheet,

the knit ski mask, the heavy gas mask, the transparent oxygen mask, the impenetrable death mask,

the dense fur, the redwood bark, the shiny scales, the matted feathers,

the protective shield, the official badge, the repeated slogan,

the coarse beard, the perfect make-up,

the injections, the implants,

the scars, the screen

There is a face, a viable being.

When eyes recognize

kin and skin, then peace begins.

Face to face is the starting place.

– Priscilla Galasso

©  2014, notes and poem, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

The Poet as Witness: “War Surrounds Us,” an interview with American-Israeli Poet, Michael Dickel

Editors note: The theme for our September issue is poverty. It is part of our 100,000 Poets (and other artists and friends) for Change event (change being peace and sustainability) to be held here as a virtual event on 26 September 2015. Michael Dickel takes the lead on this project and the September issue. Here’s an opportunity to get to know him better. Michael’s vision: “… hope must/ still remain with those who cross/ borders, ignore false lines and divisions/” is consistent with the mission of Bequine Again and The Bardo Group, publishers of The BeZine.  The September issue will post on the 15th. J.D.

5182N5cYeEL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_“That some of those labelled as enemies
have crossed the lines to offer condolences
at the mourning tents; that the mourning
families spoke to each other as parents
and cried on each others’ shoulders;
that we cried for the children who died
on both sides of the divide; that the
war began anyway; that hope must
still remain with those who cross
borders, ignore false lines and divisions;
that children should be allowed to live;
that we must cry for all children who die”

– Michael Dickel, (Mosquitos) War Surrounds Us

Jerusalem, Summer 2014: Michael Dickel and his family including Moshe (3 years) and Naomi (1 year) hear the air raid sirens, find safety in shelters, and don’t find relief during vacation travels.  In a country smaller than New Jersey, there is no escaping the grumbling wars that encircle. So Michael did what writers and poets do. He bore witness. He picked up his pen and recorded thoughts, feelings, sounds, fears, colors, events and concerns in poetry. The result is his third collection of poems, a chapbook, War Surrounds Us.

While some use poetry to galvanize war, Michael’s poetry is a cry for peace. He watched the provocations between Israel and Hamas that resulted in war in 2014 and he illustrates the insanity.

            And the retaliation
Continues, reptilian and cold,
retaliation the perpetrator
of all massacres.

Though the poems change their pacing and structure, they present a cohesive logical and emotional flow, one that takes you blood and bone into the heart of Michael’s experience as a human being, a poet, a Jew, a father and husband. He touches the humanity in all of us with his record of the tension between summer outings and death tolls, life as usual and the omnipresence of war.  Both thumbs up on this one. Bravo, Michael.

– Jamie Dedes

Poems from War Surrounds Us:
Again
Musical Meditations
The Roses

TLV1 Interview and Poetry Reading

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MY INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL DICKEL:

Jamie: Putting together a poetry collection and ordering the work in a way that enhances the meaning and clarity of poems included is not easy. One of the first things to strike me about the collection as a whole is how it flows, so well in fact that it reads almost like one long poem. I found that quality contributed to the work’s readability. How did you work out the order? Was it consciously ordered or did it arise organically out of the experience of the war?

Michael: I’m very gratified that you noticed this about my book. I hadn’t thought of it quite in that sense, of being one poem, but I like that it reads that way. The sense of a book holding together, a collection of poems having some coherence, is important to me. I don’t think my first book achieved this very well, although it has some flow poem to poem. The whole is not focused, though. My second book has a sense of motion and narrative, from the Midwest where I grew up to arriving and living in Israel, and now being part of the Mid-East. However, War Surrounds Us, my third book, finally has a sense of focus that the other two did not.

Unfortunately, I probably can’t take too much credit for that coherence. Even more unfortunate, a real war raged in Gaza, with rockets also hitting the Jerusalem area, not that far from where I live. As we know now, thousands died, most apparently civilians, many children. Just across the border to the Northeast, diagonally opposite of Gaza, a much larger scale conflict burned and still burns through Syria—with even larger death tolls and even more atrocities over a longer time. These wars had, and still have, a huge impact on me and my family.

During last summer, the summer of 2014, this reality of war surrounding us had all of my attention. And it came out in my writing as obsession with the war, my family, the dissonance between living everyday life and the reality of death and destruction a missile’s throw away. So the topic filled my poems those months, as it did my thoughts. And the poems emerged as events unfolded over time, so a sort of narrative wove into them—not a plot, mind you, not exactly, anyway.

This gives a chronological structure to the book. However, not all of the poems appear in the order I wrote them. I did move some around, seeing connections in a theme or image—if it did not jar the sense of the underlying chronology of the war. Some of the events in our life could move around, and I did move some poems to places where I thought they fit better. I also revised the poems, reading from beginning to end several times, trying to smooth out the flow. A few of the poems I actually wrote or started before this phase of the ongoing conflict broke out—but where they also fit into a pattern, I included them. In the end, I moved and revised intuitively, following my own sense of flow and connection. I’m glad that it seems to have worked for you, as a reader, too.

Jamie: What is the place of the poet and poetry in war? Can poetry, art and literature move us to peace? How and why?

Michael: This is a difficult question. Historically, one place of poets was to call the soldiers to war, to rile them up and denounce the enemy. There is a famous poem from the Hebrew Scriptures. Balaam is called by Balak to curse Jacob and his army. The story sets a talking donkey who sees an angel with a sword and other obstacles in his way, but long story short, he arrives and raises his voice. He is the poet who is supposed to curse the enemy. Instead, he begins, “How beautiful your tents, O Jacob…” and recites a poem that is now part of the Jewish liturgy. This is not necessarily a peace poem, but it shows words and their power to curse of bless. I think the place of the poet is to bless and, rather than curse, to witness with clear sight.

There is a long history of poet as witness and observer. Czeslaw Milosz in The Witness of Poetry and Carolyn Forché, following him, in her books Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness and Poetry of Witness, which goes back to the 16th Century, argue that the poet’s role is to observe and bear witness to the world—to the darkness, the atrocities, genocide, war… Forché quotes Bertolt Brecht: “In these dark times, will there also be singing? / Yes, there will be singing. / About the dark times.” I think that is what we do as poets. That’s what I hope that War Surrounds Us does at its best, albeit as much a witnessing of my own family and context as of the Other. Then, as feminist theory has taught me, the personal is political, the political personal.

A1oKsOxRrJL._UY200_Can art and literature move us to peace? I don’t know. I hope it can move us to see more clearly, to feel more acutely, and to embrace our humanity and the humanity of others. Perhaps that will move us toward peace. There is so much to do, and it is as the rabbinic wisdom says about healing creation: it may not be ours to see the work completed, but that does not free us from the responsibility to do the work. As poets, we make a contribution. I hope the songs about the dark times will also be blessings for us all.

Jamie: Tell us about your life as a poet. When did you start and how did you pursue the path? How do you carve out time for it in a life that includes work, children and community responsibilities. You live on a kibbutz, I think.

Michael: Well, starting at the end, no, I don’t live on a kibbutz, I live in Jerusalem (the pre-1967 side of the Green Line). I do teach English at a college that was started by the Kibbutz Movement as a teacher’s college in the 1960s, now Kibbutzim College of Education, Arts and Technology. That appears in my email signature and confuses some people outside of Israel, who think I teach as part of living at a kibbutz. I’m actually more like adjunct faculty, but no one at the college works directly for a kibbutz as far as I know, and the college is open to anybody who qualifies.

While I only have a short day, from when the kids of my current family go to pre-school until I pick them up, I also usually only teach part-time. Some semesters I teach full-time or even more, but usually not. And, many of my courses in the past couple of years have been online, meeting only a few times during the semester. This helps.

My wife works full-time in high tech, which allows us to survive on my irregular, adjunct pay. She also has some flexibility, which allows her to usually be free to pick up the kids as needed around my teaching schedule, and we have on occasion hired someone to help with the kids so I could teach, not so much for my writing. But that has allowed writing time on other days.

Mostly, I write during those few hours when the kids are at pre-school, after the kids have gone to bed, or even later, after my wife has also gone to bed. If I’m working on a deadline or a large project, such as some of the freelance work I do for film production companies, I write after my wife gets home from work even if the kids are still awake. Usually, though, I write when I find time, and I find time when I don’t have other obligations.

Perhaps of relevance to this book, the writing took over. I was late in getting papers back to students and delayed other obligations and deadlines, even canceling a couple of other projects—although it was not just the writing, but the whole experience of the war, dealing with it and wanting to be very present with my children. As the poems relate, we went to the Galilee, in the North, for a month, a vacation we have taken before. Last summer, though, it had extra urgency because of the war. Unfortunately, during an outing picking apples in the Golan Heights, we heard artillery across the border in Syria, and that’s when I wrote the title poem of the book, “War Surrounds Us.”

The summer before, on that same month-long getaway, I wrote a lot of flash fiction, which makes up most of my next book, which should come out by the end of the year. I wrote during both summers when the kids were napping or after their bedtime, mostly. The place we stay in, a friend’s house (he travels every summer), has a lovely courtyard, and after the children went to bed, Aviva and I would sit out in it, usually with a glass of wine. She would read or work online and I would write on my laptop into the night. It was lovely and romantic.

I have to say that I almost don’t remember a time when I didn’t write poetry or stories. I recall trying to stop on a few occasions, either to work in some other aspect of my life, or when I did a different kind of writing, such as for my dissertation (which devolved into creative writing for more than half of it). But really, going back into my early years, I wrote stories or poems of some sort—influenced I suppose by A. A. Milne, Sol Silverstein, Kenneth Grahame and, later, Mark Twain and even Shakespeare. I had books of Roman and Greek myths, the Lambs’ bowdlerized Shakespeare for children, and some Arthurian tales as a child, not to mention shelves of Golden Books. Later, I read Madeleine L’Engle and a lot of science fiction. And everything I read made me also want to write.

I owe the earliest of my poems that I can remember to exercises from grade school teachers, one in 3rd grade, maybe 4th, the other in 6th grade. However, I’m sure that I wrote stories and possibly “poems” earlier. My first sense that I could become a poet arrived via a junior high school teacher, who encouraged me to submit some poetry to a school contest. I tied for first place.

So, I started writing forever ago. By the time of the junior high contest, I had read e e cummings, Emily Dickinson, some Whitman. By 9th grade, I discovered the Beats through a recording of Ginsberg reading “Kaddish” and other poems. Hearing him read the poems, then reading them myself, changed everything.

Alongside this development, one of my brothers brought Dylan records home that I listened to. All three of my brothers, with my parents’ tacit approval, played folk music and protest music in the form of songs of Woody Guthrie; The Weavers; Joan Baez; Peter, Paul and Mary; in addition to Dylan. These influenced both my writing and my world view. The same year that I came across Ginsberg’s work, I was involved in anti-war activity in my high school. That spring, four students were shot at Kent State. In another way, that changed everything, too.

Writing, activism, and politics, for me have always been interwoven. I also heard that year about “The Woman’s Movement,” which today we call Feminism. Later, much later, I would read and take to heart the idea of the personal being political, the body being political. I think my poems, even the most personal, always have a political and theoretical lens. And the most philosophical or political or theoretical, also have a personal lens. I don’t think that we can help but do that, but I try to be aware of the various lenses, of using their different foci deliberately as part of my craft. I’m not sure that is the current trend, and much of my work doesn’t fit well in spoken word or slam settings (some of it fits). However, this is my poetry and poetics—and they arise from a specific cultural context, the complexity of which I could not begin to convey in less than a lifetime of writing.

My development from those awakening moments looked like this: I read. I wrote. I shared my work with other people who wrote. Sometimes I talked with others about writing. My first degree in college was in psychology, not English, because I naively thought that psych would help me understand the human condition and that English would “ruin” – suppress – my writing voice. However, I took a lot of literature courses and my study abroad term focused entirely on literature.

After college, I had a career as a counselor working with runaways, with street teens, with children undergoing in-patient psych evaluations, and in a crisis intervention and suicide prevention center—a career that taught me a lot about politics, gender, race, and justice. I continued to write, often about some of the most disturbing realities that I encountered, but not well.

I had been out of college nearly a decade when I took some courses in creative writing at the University of Minnesota, at the suggestion of some friends in a writing group who had also taken some. One of the professors encouraged me to apply to the Creative Writing Program, where I was accepted. The acceptance was a poignant moment—I was out of state at my father’s burial. My now ex-wife remained back with our then 2 year-old daughter. She saw the letter in the mail, so called and read it to me. It was also my 32nd birthday. So many emotions all at the same time. Mostly, I remember wishing I could have told my father—from when he first heard that I’d applied, every phone call we had included his asking if I had heard yet if I had been accepted. It was the most direct way he had of saying he was proud.

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Jamie: Tell us a little about 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC) in Israel and how people can get in touch with you if they want to participate this year. Are you able to manage a mix of Arabs and Jews?

Michael: The thing about 100TPC is that it’s pretty loose, as an organization, and very anarchic in governance. Which is to say, I’m not sure there is something I could call 100TPC in Israel. There’s a wonderful poet in Haifa who does some events, I don’t think every year. She is very active in peace activism and poetry. There’s an Israeli mentor of mine, Karen Alkalay-Gut, who has organized 100TPC events in Tel Aviv since the first year. For the past two years, I organized a poetry reading in Jerusalem. The first one was small, a few people I knew and cajoled into reading. The second one was much larger, over 25 poets. We had one Arab writer, who writes in English, at the second reading. Her poetry is powerful and personal, written as an Arab woman, a mother, and an Israeli. An Arab musician was going to join us, but he had a conflict arise with a paying gig. It is difficult to manage the practical, political, and social barriers, but people do it here. I am just learning a bit how to do this now.

For this year, I am working with two other organizations—the Lindberg Peace Foundation, which has held annual Poetry for Peace events. This year will be the 40th anniversary (yartzheit, in Hebrew) of Miriam Lindberg’s tragic death at the age of 18. She wrote poetry, was a peace activist, and also an environmental activist. Her mother was a poet and professor, and passed away a few years ago. Joining us in planning the Jerusalem event will be the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development. Their mission as I understand it is to develop interfaith leadership for common goals related to eco-justice that would also provide a model for solving the Middle East conflicts.

The Jerusalem events won’t be the same date as the national event (26 September)—our dates will be 15–16 October, to honor the 40th anniversary of Miriam Lindberg’s death. Dorit Weissman, a Hebrew-language poet and playwright, also has become part of 100TPC this year, and she and I are having a smaller reading on 8 October with other poets.

We are just setting up a Facebook page for organizing with the three groups, 100TPC, the foundation, and the center. People could look for me on FB and send me a chat message there to be in touch. I hope that we will have the events posted on FB in the next few weeks, but we are still working on the details. The devil is always in the details, as the saying goes.

Michael will host The BeZine‘s virtual 100TPC this 26 September 2015.

Be the peace.

© 2015, book review, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; words, poetry, photographs of Michael, Michael Dickel, All rights reserved; cover illustration, The Evolution of Music, by Jerry Ingeman, All rights reserved

100 TPC … poets, writers, artists, photographers, musicians and friends in solidarity for positive change … POVERTY

IMG_1250POVERTY: Discussion on Bequine Again/The Bardo Group Facebook page (let me know in the comments section if you want to be included there) has made it evident that some definition – some framework – might be needed. As we stand in solidarity and share our art, essays, poetry, music and photography on Facebook and our blogs on September 26th, I think I can safely say on behalf of the leadership at 100TPC (stated core value: peace and sustainability) and Bequine Again/The Bardo Group, publishers of The Be Zine (stated core value: nonviolence), that we are not primarily focused on spiritual malaise, ennui, or existential angst, the kind of indulgences that might characterize those of us who don’t live with bombs dropping and who so fortunately have three meals a day, clean and plentiful water, housing, health care and education. We are not primarily concerned with the psychological/spiritual insecurity that results in the need to over accumulate. These are real, important and relevant issues that do have a place in discussion. However …

… our key objective is to shed a light on the often invisible MATERIAL POVERTY that results in the death of 22,000 children each day (UNICEF) and in the nearly one billion people who entered the 21st century with no education, no reading skills. We are talking about the ever-widening distance between the haves and the have-nots even within the developed countries, with the increasing numbers of homeless, “food insecure,” and the marginalized and disaffected.

We want to shed some light on the decreasing number of the world’s richest countries v the growing number of the world’s poorest countries. In 1820 the number of poor countries to wealthy was three-to-one. In 1992 it was seventy-two to one (1999 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme – see also the Center for Economic and Policy Research). What do you think are the implications for all of us in that?

In short, our concerns are primarily centered on those issues that could be mitigated and perhaps resolved by deflecting investment in war to investment in people, by responsible consumerism, responsible corporate ethic and policy, and responsible national and global human development policy. We are of the same mind as Simone Weil (The Need for Roots, 1949)when she wrote that feeding the hungry is the most basic of human obligations and that “human progress” is defined by “ a transition to a state of human society in which people will not suffer from hunger.”

– Jamie Dedes

The Month of Light

Wishing peace and happiness to our Muslim friends and contributors during this holy month of Ramadan. This feature article is by guest contributor Imen Benyoub (Algeria). It is from the February issue (theme: abundance/lack of abundance) of The BeZine. The first illustration is courtesy of American multimedia journalist and novelist (Bagdad Fixer), Ilene Presher. She found it online and shared it on her Facebook page. Ilene hosts a weekly radio show, TLV1Radio, Weekend Edition. The second illustration is courtesy of Russian photographer, Petr Kratochvil, Public Domain Pictures.net. J.D.

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Ramadan is the month of light, the month of reflection, blessings, generosity, devotion, change and sacrifice and a pillar of Islam as Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said: “Islam is built upon five pillars: testifying that there is no God except Allah and that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah, performing prayer, paying the Zakah (charity), making the pilgrimage to the sacred house and fasting the month of Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.  It is called the sacred month because it is observed worldwide by all Muslims as the month of fasting.  It’s twenty-nine or thirty days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.

Fasting in Islam means “to abstain.”  When you fast, you completely abstain from food, drinks, smoking and sexual intercourse from the break of dawn until sunset with an intention. This is not, however, all of it.  Real accomplished fasting is when you abstain from every behavior that is considered bad behavior in general.  It is something we share with Christianity and Judaism but with a lot of difference in details.

Who must fast? In general it is obligatory upon every Muslim, male or female, who is adult, sane, not sick or in a journey (traveling more than eighty kilometers). The exceptions to this are women who are in period or post-natal bleeding days, pregnant women and mothers who are beast-feeding.  These women are expected to make up the fast when they are in a condition to do so.  Those who are terribly sick, need constant medications, and those whose illness may be exacerbated by fasting.

When you fast, you will have two essential meals, sahur ( a pre-dawn meal). The Prophet Mohammad talked a lot about the reward and blessing of this meal, preferably left ’till the last half hour before dawn.  This meal will help you resist during the long hours of fasting during the day.  The second meal is iftar or break-fast, you take it immediately after sunset.

Along with exceptions mentioned above, there are a lot of permissible things a person can do that will not invalidate his or her fasting, like swimming in the sea when it’s too hot, with caution of not swallowing water, taking injections, doing blood tests, using toothpaste and eating or drinking unintentionally when someone forgets.

Fasting is a school of wisdom.  It has great spiritual and moral meaning too long to be listed in a few lines.  Beside its health benefits, it teaches patience and utility. It makes us closer to Allah because we are doing it out of love and seeking spiritual reward. It cleanses the soul from grudge and hatred. It teaches self-control and maturity.  Through fasting we learn to be selfless because we feel the pain of the poor and the hungry.

There is a beautiful sense of solidarity and community in Ramadan when everyone is helping, when mosques are filled, when relatives visit each other, when people forgive and start a new page, when a person vows to be good to others and when people stand in one line to pray.

Fasting can truly change a person’s heart when done with utter sincerity. It fills the heart with satisfaction, happiness and light because you’ll be rewarded double fo revery deed of goodness, every charity, every nice word you say, every verse of the Quran you read. When you realize that Allah gave hose who fast a special door in Heaven because of its holiness and significance.

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Every country celebrates Ramadan differently.  Traditions and customs change. The only thing that connects us all together is that magic that everyone feels during the month. The one I truly love is when the family celebrates the fasting of a child, encouraging him and helping him to understand what fasting truly is.  It is like a recharge for the year, a self-nourishing experience and one of the most exquisite a person can have.

Some sayings about Ramadan: on Prophet Mohammad (PBUH):

“When Ramadan enters, the gates of paradise are opened, the gates of hellfire are closed and all the devils are chained.”

“Every action a son of Adam does shall be multiplied; good action is by ten times its value up to 700 times.  Allah says: with the exception of Fasting, which belongs to me, and I reward it accordingly for, one abandons his desire and food or my sake.”

“Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.”

– Imen Benyoub

© 2015, feature article, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved; 2015