Posted in justice, Peace & Justice, Terri Stewart

Sabbath and Syria

by Terri Stewart (Beguine Again)

“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.”
~Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Trevor Hudson, in his book A Mile in My Shoes, describes living daily life as living daily pilgrimage into the suffering of others. Life as a daily pilgrimage includes:

  • Being present,
  • Listening, and
  • Noticing

I was thinking of this as I was pondering the great tragedy that is taking place in Syria. Bodies are washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean of little children and families fleeing. It is simply horrifying. An excellent explanation of what is happening is here.

About 6 years ago, when I first started working at the juvenile detention center, I was playing cards with some boys in the detention center. As we played games, the boys were sharing their stories. One of the boys happened to be from Syria. He left Syria and moved to the states after seeing his parents murdered in front of him. He came here to live with his auntie. He could barely read or write. He was in detention for violent behavior. Imagine that. He had anger issues. I thought it was horrifying then. It seems it just keeps on getting worse.

Trevor Hudson would have us travel into the suffering as a pilgrim, not as a voyeur or as a consumer, but as a sacred journey. Being present to pain. Listening to their stories without imposing outside values. And noticing. Noticing who they are. Sometimes that is the most sacred gift of all. I think on that day years ago, for that young man from Syria, that is what he longed for. Simply to be noticed.

Maybe this Sabbath day we can take a moment and be present to those who suffer near us. Take a pilgrimage with them–a sacred journey into the heart.

Shalom,

terri

pilgrimage of the heart

Posted in General Interest

All White Then Black

(for the fifty-two who lost their lives on 7th July 2005 and for many more than seven hundred, who live on with their physical and mental scars)

He took a seat and let the blond girl stand,
and thought about his selfishness, but then
he cast aside his worries for a while.
It seems these days that chivalry requires
that men do other things to prove there worth
sitting whilst she stood was no big deal

…until it went all black and white.

Arriving at the platform just in time
she blessed her luck as, late for work, she knew
this was an omen for the day and augured
well. In tune, her vigorous health enhanced
by brand new trainers bought the day before
and which were such good fit and comfortable

…until it went all black and white.

A City Engineer from Derbyshire
who’d built a walk that clung a cliff-side way
was visiting the city on that day;
a day that saw him on a crowded train,
when he would rather stand and walk about
than stare at someone else’s shirt hang out!

…until it went all black and white.

A software engineer, who had a squint,
would be the one without a single thought
against, or for the men who’d wrung the night
from day that left him still and motionless.
He was just numb, devoid of any feeling;
defied the normal human call to blame,

until it went all white, then black…

A blinding flash of incandescent light
so rapidly reduced the day to night
and left them all completely without sight
of anything but stench of soot and blood
no screams, just moaning and a plaintive cry
for help..

please help,

please help,

please help,

please help.

Trembling in the court, his stoney face
belied the trauma and the weight of guilt
that he’d survived and she had not. But then
her brother laid a hand upon his shoulder
“she was full of fun and wanted friends
like you, to carry all her joy through life.”

Vivaciously recounting her experience;
how she was looking up at her new trainer
on the ceiling… that it seemed quite strange
to her, who at the time was lain. Then she,
as they unwrapped her leg from round the handrail,
released a scream that drew her rescuer’s blood.

A fellow passenger closed the lids
of eyes that could no longer see the world,
of which he could not take a further part,
to dignify, in his truncated end.
Alone, that one gesture made a lifetime’s stress
seem like a moment’s insignificance.

The squint came from a shin-splint in his eye,
like shattered lives that shattered bones release
a hell, for which no-one can be prepared.
And where the bomber’s other parts did go,
only forensic analysis will know.
For those who live, the memory lives on.

The painful wait, amid an infinite darkness
Everything was black and white, only
the blood was vivid red. Random limbs
were strewn, and resting on projecting bone
he’d tried to comfort one who needed help.
The girl who sat behind the bomber survived…

…and who wonders with astonishment
at the human body’s resilience
under such extraordinary shock
that blasted minds beyond their comfort zone
and made so many individuals,
in one small shocking instant…

…become just one.

© 2012 John Anstie

First published on 10th July 2012 in ‘My Poetry Library’ and in the anthology, “Petrichor Rising” in July 2013.

For those with a specific interest in poetry, once again, I was drawn to write this poem in Blank Verse, William Shakespeare’s favoured format for speeches. I think it is such a good way to tell a story and I especially dare think, perchance to dream, of any number of great Shakespearean actors reading it… I wish. You can also read the background to this poem at ‘Forty Two‘ ]

*****

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3

JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British writer and poet, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Singer, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer”. He has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union as well as a being a ‘spoken-voice’ participant in Roger Allen Baut’s excellent ‘Blue Sky Highway‘ radio broadcasts. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

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51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has also been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

 

Posted in Culture/History, General Interest, Guest Writer, Imen Benyoub, Music, Peace & Justice

Music, Language of the Soul

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“Music is…a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy”
Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Sarajevo under siege…a city in ruins that wakes up on the sound of shelling and bombing and sleeps on that of mourners. This beautiful city, so rich in history, architecture and art suffered the horrors of a four years siege considered the longest in modern history, and became Europe’s capital of hell since the war broke in 1992, to coincide with another atrocious civil war that broke in my own country and lasted almost ten years, what we Algerians know as “the dark decade”.

At 4 pm on May 27, people were queuing in front of a bakery in Sarajevo for bread; a mortar shell dropped in the middle and killed 22 people instantly. A man witnessed the massacre and was so appalled by the sight of blood and torn bodies so he decided to do something.

This man was Vedran Smailović, a widely recognized and talented cellist who went everyday for 22 days to the bombed site the exact time of the massacre and played cello, in honour of those who died in front of him and all of the victims, all those hiding from snipers’ bullets, the refugees, the hungry, the wounded, the destroyed homes and for his smouldering, exhausted city that struggled to survive.

This man sent a prayer of peace through his music, that the city of his heart might witness a brighter future, and he became the symbol of peace all over Bosnia, playing in graveyards and bombed sites, despite the shelling and fired bullets, Smailović was engulfed by light, the light of hope he was spreading all over the battered city. No crowd applauding to his performance, just Angels protecting him.

It’s been years since the dreadful siege and the civil war in my country ended, but did Sarajevo recover from its dark past? Did my people ever forget? the victims, the mass graves, and the fear they lived in all those years…

We are never entirely healed of our memory.

Al Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus Syria, another Sarajevo, another siege, people dying from a severe lack of food, water and medical supplies, massive destruction of homes and buildings, for weeks the Government forces besieged the camp and starved its people on purpose, the majority of them Palestinians who were exiled from their country in 1948, they found themselves caught against their will in a merciless war that made Damascus, a beautiful and rich city…Middle East’s capital of hell.

History repeats itself, it always strikes me how it does, and not always in the gentlest way, I believed it with all my being when I saw young men with a battered piano in the middle of rubble playing music and singing for peace and freedom, I said: if Vedran Smailović could see those proud and defiant guys whose souls are connected to his, one of them a pianist who started playing since he was six, he used to repair musical instruments with his father and studied music in the university of Homs*, the others, just ordinary people praying for the end of the war, and dreaming of a safe united country again in their own way.

They sang: “Oh displaced people, return; the journey has gone for too long. Yarmouk we are a part of you and that will never change.”

Smailović would have loved what those Palestinians did, because he, of all people will understand the meaning of creating beauty amid destruction, and defying death with the language of the soul…Music

(I would secretly thank that man who set up his piano in front of armed police, a day after protesters in Kiev brought down the statue of Lenin, and played Chopin…he inspired me to write this post)

*Homs: a Syrian city

Editorial note:  A partial translation of the song and apologies for any inaccuracy.
“from among the ruins and under the ashes, the [Palestinian] phoenix sings for life and will rise again for the cause of freedom …”

– Imen Benyoub

© 2014, essay, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved; photo credit ~ Rashid Essa (Almadon News), youth in Al Yarmouk Refugee Camp, ” © electronic cities” under CC A-SA, no modification to photograph is allowed

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pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a multilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist living in Guelma, Algeria. She is a regular contributor to Into the Bardo and to On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page.

Posted in Disability, Essay, Michael Watson

Still Here: Blogging Against Disabilism

Lone-CyprusToday is Blogging Against Disabilism Day. Disabilism is a Gimp term for the ideology and practice of discriminating against people with disabilities. Discriminatory practices of all forms appear to be on the rise in North America. In the U.S., where all programs that protect minorities are under attack, there has been a growing chorus of calls for the dismantling of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Contrary to much of the Disabilist propaganda, life remains very difficult for most people with disabilities. Much architectural infrastructure remains inaccessible, and the unemployment rate for persons with disabilities is double the rate of the non-disabled. It is likely most people with severe disabilities have given up looking for employment and are thus not counted amongst the unemployed.

The 90’s were, throughout the Western World, a time of disability activism. In the U.S., many of the activists were Polio survivors. At the time, the everyday world was, far much of the disabled community, simply inaccessible. If one used a wheelchair, one simply could not get on a bus! (The playwright and disability theorist, Kaite O’Reilly recently discussed both the disability civil rights movement in the U.K. and the workings of Disabilism in a marvelous lecture. I encourage you to watch.)

Until our civil rights movement, people with disabilities were largely invisible. When I am in a wheelchair in a crowded space, say a museum, I remain invisible, as people literally trip over me. When I am in India, I am a very visible anomaly: a professional person navigating the world on crutches. (An Indian colleague recently told me that disability cannot be discussed at the moment in India. It is too hot a topic.) Most disabled people in India stay home.

Back in the early 90’s Bill T. Jones, the MacArthur Award winning choreographer, created a piece entitled, Still Here.  The dance gives expression to the lived experience of persons with life threatening conditions, including disabilities. It created a furor! In 1997, Bill Moyers interviewed Bill T. Jones about Still Here. It is one of my favorite hours of t.v.. Not long ago I wrote a post about Still Here and its continued resonance for Native people and folks with Disability. The sad thing is that there are a great many people in North America who would like us Gimps and Natives to be gone, or to at least stay home and out of the way.

Beyond the idea of Disability as label or stigma, is Disability as lived experience. I have spent much of the past few months addressing Polio related issues. Working with a Polio knowledgeable therapist has helped me revisit the illness and its aftermath, understand some of the new challenges I, and other Polios, face, and acknowledge some of the losses associated with Polio. The therapist has given me information to read and poked sore areas of my psyche with skill and kindness.

I am deeply appreciative of the resources, kindness, and training she, and other Polio clinicians have showered on me. I am also grateful to all those who helped me understand the ways the trauma of Polio, and the able-bodied gaze, have shaped my thinking and life. At times. I find myself both relieved and filled with sadness and grief; there are so many losses.

There was a time when I was able, a before and after Polio, although that was many decades ago. My therapist likes to remind me that those without disabling conditions are temporarily abled; disability is always possible. Perhaps that possibility keeps many anxious and avoidant of persons who are clearly disabled. One may pass but probably one cannot hide from one’s disability or from the losses it brings to life. Nor can one hide from Disability itself; Disability stalks everyone.

Oddly, I have the sense of Polio as present and immediate, even in a world where it is thought, like winter’s snow, to have melted away almost to extinction. Polio is a virus, a piece of RNA that infects cells, reproduces itself in enormous quantities, and leaves the cells weakened or dead. It can present as little more than a stomach upset, or leave a person paralyzed or dead.Whether we acknowledge it or not, Polio remains an active presence in our world, especially in the lives of survivors and their families.

As I write, a flock of geese flies over, headed north, and the radio news announces a polio outbreak in Afghanistan in which at least 25 persons have been made ill. I have been rereading Anne Finger’s Elegy for A Disease, and the book lies open on the sofa. It is both a personal and a social history of the disease, an illness with a long history of influencing human lives. I have the sense Polio is sitting with me as I write and ponder, an alive, thoughtful presence, vibrant and well in spite of our efforts to eradicate it. Polio doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

We Gimps are Still Here as well. We, too, are not going anywhere.

– Michael Watson, Ph.D.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In acknowledging of this day, its importance, and of the challenges disability bring to the lives of the disabled and their families, we are opening Mister Linky for you to share links with us and with readers to your own posts on disability or to a post you’ve read that has moved you to a greater understanding. These do not have to be recent posts. As an alternative, please feel free to leave a link in the comments section.

© 2013, essay (includes the one below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in Culture/History, Disability, First Peoples, General Interest, Mental Health, Michael Watson, Shakti Ghosal

Trauma, Story, and Healing

Evening-Sky

He sat on the sofa, pulled deeply into himself, almost disappearing before my eyes, as he told me about his dad’s violence. I wondered whether he knew I was in the room with him. “I feel terribly fragmented; I don’t know who I am,” he explained. “I can’t remember ever being like everyone else; they seem so at home in themselves.”

One of my teachers, a Psychoanalytically oriented clinician, always said the real problem is the second trauma. Her view was the first trauma one encounters sets the stage for PTSD and related problems; the second trauma triggers the cascade. Repeated traumas in childhood physically alter the function of the developing brain, leaving one more vulnerable to new trauma. Even if only one trauma occurs in early childhood the person may remain susceptible to PTSD via a second trauma as an adult.

Continue reading “Trauma, Story, and Healing”