VISIONS AND MYTHS

The other day I wrote about a fantasy I had: 10,000 people and more carrying food and water, walking through the border with Gaza and meeting up with hungry men, women and children on the other side.

I also wrote that immediately, practical voices spoke up: Do you know how much killing can take place, how much violence? Do you understand that Hamas will immediately take over all that food and water and store it for its own fighters (videos have been taken of tons and tons of food and unbelievable quantities of water being found in tunnels, all part of the aid that has flowed into Gaza since October 7).

Yes, I say, yes, I understand all that. So, what am I looking for?

I look for the mythic. I look for the magical, the gesture that stuns and amazes, that grabs us and restores faith, satisfies longing, the yearning to make peace among ourselves. I look for the equivalent of Gandhi’s 24-day salt march to the sea, for Mandela inviting his jailer to his inauguration, for King’s walk on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Sometimes these events didn’t yield much practical result, as historians love to remind us, but it’s not the point (much of the time, we don’t even know what the point is or will be). It’s about manifesting something that boggles the mind, trips up the dualistic, a revolutionary act of the imagination showing that we and them, our truth vs. their truth, isn’t at the essence of our existence. It’s the nondual, the not-knowing, or the Tree of Life rather than the Tree of Knowledge, in my brother’s words. We need both, but all too often the former is ignored in favor of the latter.

Which brings me to my next point, something my sister has repeated often to me.

What’s missing in the Middle East is a strong moral voice that will speak to the basic ethical code most humans subscribe to, such as refraining from bloodshed as much as possible, safeguarding the safety and health of civilians, and especially women and children, eliminating hunger, illness, torture or abuse, and all other roots of suffering. Reminding people of the ideals that once guided their lives, what we have in common, the values and principles we care about, reflecting not just what we want for ourselves but what all people, including our opponents, want, too.

That strong moral leader can come from anywhere: from Islam, from Judaism or Christianity, from the secular world. I wonder if it’s any coincidence that the people we think of as great moral voices were religious, e.g.: HH the Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu, Gandhi, King. Even Malala Yousafzai, the woman who, as a girl, led the fight for women’s education and still wears a hijab.

Religious they may have been, but in some way, they transcended the language and strictures of their own traditions to speak to a much bigger audience, people looking to follow a vision that has little to do with sectarian choices and tribal rules (though many choose to live privately within them) and everything to do with meeting the challenge of being human.

Bernie’s articulation of the Three Tenets, Not-knowing, Bearing Witness, and Loving Action, was his way of sharing a Zen Buddhist vision of compassionate action in non-Buddhist words, and over the years so many people have related to this who have no connection with Buddhism at all.

“Be the change,” Gandhi implored. We want to. Over and over again I hear, what can I do? And do I must, one way or another. But I miss the visionary voice and the trek down to Gaza, bringing food and drink, creating new myths and stories that point to timeless truths you won’t find in today’s newspapers.

Even as I let myself imagine all this, I’m called to different practicalities. My housemate, Lori, was involved in a bad accident last night and will need time to recover. I spent much of today in the hospital and I see the same ahead for me this weekend. Henry misses her, I comfort him as best as I am able. He’s now wearing a fully blue collar that lights up in the dark–how did you know, oh illegal chihuahua?

At bottom, we must take care of each other. There is no other way.

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