DISMANTLING BRICK BY BRICK

Yesterday I cleaned out and cleaned out and cleaned out. I must have gone through some 50-70 Pentaflex files, all summarizing projects Bernie and I worked on over time.

The tabs contained names: Rwanda, Zipaqueria (in Colombia), Amman, Palestine, Jerusalem Project (with Richard Gere), Chiapas, Mexico City, Greyston, Marshall Rosenberg, Sociocracy. Shambhala Book Contracts, Street Retreats (Boston, New York some 8 of them at least, Springfield, Germany).

Some were less colorful: Computer Fixing, with detailed instructions on how to manage the calendar program. Bernie was my go-to person when something went wrong with my computer. Telephone lists (yes, there was a time when we had those). And Acronyms. So many acronyms: ZP (Zen Peacemakers), ZPO (Zen Peacemaker Order), ZPC (Zen Peacemaker Circles), PC (Peacemaker Community), PCI (Peacemaker Community International), and even hyphenated ones like ZPO-ITC, whose meaning has disappeared from memory.

I remember Sr. Pia Gyger, who headed the St. Katharina-Werk order of nuns, saying to Bernie one day: “You know, Roshi, every time you start a new organization you must stay with it till it gets strong and can stand on its own. You can’t just leave after a year or two to do something else.”

Bernie didn’t listen. He was a little like Picasso, creating something new every morning, convening meetings and enrolling the enthusiasm of others, but then . . . “Once it goes I lose interest,” he admitted. He liked the giving birth part, but not raising the new child.

A big file: Tantur, right in no-man’s land between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in Palestine. We held a big international conference there with a beautiful published report. Where did we get the money for that, I wonder, and then I remember the Italian funder who helped us start affiliates in different European and Middle Eastern countries.

Ecclesiastes comes to mind: Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. And yet, when I was in Israel over the New Year, Gabriel Meyer said that it was at that Tantur conference that he first envisaged his Sulha celebration, a ceremony of reconciliation which he held year after year between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs.

What a dreamer you were, Bernie, I tell him as I work. You circled the globe with your dreams, and now, years later, I feel like I’m throwing it all out:  the papers, the booklets, the summaries of meetings and budgets, the new organizational charts (you loved organizational charts!).

And why am I even doing this now? I could wait, nobody’s rushing me. One friend of mine didn’t do this till 7 years after her husband’s death; someone else lost his wife more than 5 years ago and her clothes still hang in the closet. So why am I doing all this hard work now?

Because I want to get to the bottom of things. Because I want to run my fingers through all that life once again—Greyston, Zen Peacemakers, the Order, the million different projects—and see what’s left. If I want to start from scratch I have to dismantle everything, brick by brick.

“Yes, but do you have to do that now?” a friend asked this afternoon.

Probably not, but I can be fierce in some ways. I’m ruthless about throwing things out. I have to be to get to the very bottom of things. If I don’t do it, how will I know what’s left?

Maybe that’s what I’m most afraid of, that I won’t find anything left.