It is forbidden to despair

This is a reblog of Anita Diamant‘s beautiful piece.

July 11, 2016 by Anita Diamant

“It is forbidden to despair,” said Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, a 19th century Hasidic teacher who suffered from depression. I imagine him pounding his fist on a table in a dimly lit room, shouting those words to his demons.

Fifty years ago, TV screens flickered with images of policemen unleashing dogs on peaceful civil rights leaders and demonstrators, who were also brutalized, imprisoned and murdered. Forty years ago, Black Power movement leaders posed with guns and spoke of self-defense; white America panicked and had the “justice system” systematically and brutally get rid of them.

People said:
“What is this country coming to?”
“Why can’t we just be civil?”
“There will always be prejudice.”

Then the boys burned their draft cards to protest an unjust war, the girls refused to sit down and let them men take care of (mess up) things, the gays refused to climb into the back of a police van.

People said:
“There is no respect for anything anymore.”
“Our children are lost.”
That chaos turned the world upside down and a lot of things got better. Not easier, but better.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went to jail, his home was bombed and his family was targeted. But he never stopped preaching about his dream. He could not afford despair, which is the thing that paralyzes hope, imprisons the soul, and does not set anyone free.

I am not going kumbaya. I am not naïve. The day after the Dallas shootings, I watched the governor of Texas talk about Texas exceptionalism, its way of life and its values (open carry, anyone?). He waved the state flag and told Dallas, “We’ll get past this.” As if “this” was a hurricane or a flood, for which there is no explanation. As if you could just clean up the blood and pretend not to know that the cause of that unnatural disaster was the wages of despair taken to a toxic extreme.

People say:
“If they keep on killing us, why not kill and be killed for a cause?”
“The NRA will never be defeated.”
There are no “two sides” to this story. Despair can be given no ground.

Listen to the voices of black women and black men telling the truth of their lives on every possible stage — virtual, viral, and face-to-face. Writing, blogging and reporting with passion and intelligence, anger and resolve, black men and black women are also making music and poetry that howls with pain and calls out injustice. White allies (we are legion) are with them, aching, marching and speaking out. We will not stand down, either.

“It is forbidden to despair” are fighting words.

If I were to get a tattoo (and that’s never gonna happen) I would make the message visible, so I would have to explain why despair is the great enemy that must be resisted at every turn.

It is forbidden to sit in the dark, to cluck your tongue and shake your head and say, woe is me.

After every setback and loss, Dr. King rose up. And as he predicted, even after they murdered him (with a gun), the dream did not die. Justice, justice we shall pursue.

Think of Rabbi Nachman, shouting at his demons, “I am forbidden to despair.”

Hope is a muscle. Optimism is a muscle. We’d better get in shape because we have a lot to do and long way to go.

Anita Diamant

anita

The Dancer, the Dead and the Madonna: Part 12 of Rain on a Cloudless Day

Bombed_Out_Church_in_Carpiquet,_near_Caen,_July_12,_1944
Granma’s Madonna scares me. She says it will be ours one day, my sisters and mine; but I don’t want it. I want to want it but I can’t. In my heart I know it has to be my sisters because it can’t ever be mine. There is no explaining the Madonna. No way to understand it but through its history which reaches back further in time than any of us know.

The war brought the Madonna into our lives. Granma nursed hundreds of wounded and dying soldiers in the war. Granma bandaged men as they healed and held their hands as they passed giving what comfort she could. One of her soldiers was a French man. She’d nursed him for months. In gratitude for his life and all the care she had given him he gave her the Madonna, one of two he had found in the rubble of a bombed church.

Granma kept the Madonna with her throughout the war. When the air raid sirens howled she would take the Madonna into the bomb shelters. The Madonna’s hair and robe are shined to a polish with all the hours Granma spent running her hands over the folds of her plaster robe, waiting for the siren that would announce the all clear.

But when I look at the Madonna I don’t see Our Lady, the Queen of Heaven-the Mother Mary. I have been raised to love Our Lady but I don’t see her when I look on Granma’s Madonna. Instead I see the bombs, the wounded, the dying and the dead.

mother mary

Her robe is the yellow of aged plaster with traces of the sacred blue paint she once wore, caught in the folded grooves of her robe. Her gown too is worn of color; its white paint only visible in a few deeply etched places. Once, the rose at her feet was a soft shade of red. I know this because a touch of color sits between the petals. Granma’s Madonna is lined with cracks, broken and repaired, her head repositioned onto its neck, her torso and base re-sculpted with glue and plaster chips. Yet it wasn’t the bombs that smashed her.

My family fought in both the world wars and only lost one man in battle. Yet we lost two women during those wars and both died at home. The first was my Granma’s sister Eva. On hearing of her fiancé’s death at Verdun, France she fell ill and died of a broken heart. The second was my Granma’s sister-in-law, a beautiful American actress who died suddenly of pneumonia during the second war. Her name was Jackie.

Jackie was a movie actress and vaudeville dancer who supported the troops by keeping them entertained. She was healthy and young and beautiful, too filled with life to die. Our family mourned her in the same sitting room where all our dead were mourned. Granma took leave from the Portland Royal Naval Hospital to sit vigil beside her coffin. Flowers filled the sitting room surrounding Jackie’s coffin and the Madonna was placed on a table at Jackie’s head. On the final night before the funeral the room was darkened and the mourners went to bed. (This part is strange to me because the custom of our family is to sit with the lost one until the funeral.) The house was still, everyone was asleep when suddenly… “Smash…”

Granma reached the downstairs sitting room, her brother, Jackie’s grieving husband beside her while all the rest of the family made their way down behind them. Opening the door they saw the Madonna in pieces on the floor, a huge hole in the wall where she had struck it. No one was in the room. No one had flung the statue at the wall. Jackie lay as she had, stilled by death, quiet and cold in her satin lined coffin. So who had smashed the Madonna? No one knows.

No, I do not want Granma’s Madonna. Just to think of it gives me chills. When Granma places it in my sister’s small hands I am filled with an ancient, haunted kind of fear.
fire survival

Attributes of a Magical Grandmother: Part 5 of Rain on a Cloudless Day

grandmothers-hands-todd-fox
Granma is probably my most favorite person in the universe. She dresses up at Halloween, throws banquets at Christmas and takes me bowling on Saturday mornings. My Granma is different from other girl’s Grandmothers. She bakes and cooks and does things other Granma’s do but not for the same reasons. She doesn’t take care of people or baby people. Instead she makes them strong. She teaches them how to navigate the world by being fully and perfectly alive. She is alive. Every day she finds things to do that I find magical.

Magical Granma Attribute one would be her incredible tackle box. Imagine opening a box filled with every fishing lure you can imagine. Note the smell of salmon eggs and other assorted fish bate. Together we cast, reel and become patient while full size rainbow trout circle near by.

Magical Granma Attribute two would be her sewing box. From the contents of that sewing box I have learned to embroider, bead and do needle point. During the war Granma embroidered in air raid shelters while other people counted the seconds between explosions, controlling their fear by trying to predict where the next bomb would hit.

ATS-4

Magical Granma Attribute three are these stories of life and death that haunt my young mind. She begins,

“During the war…” and the room falls silent. Her words are spoken matter of fact but their meaning makes pictures so rich with color and scent that they are a part of me.

“During the war the bombs fell…” thousands of them rained down on her life as they did so many British lives.

There was the time bomb that slipped silently into the wreckage of a bombed out nurses ward. Granma and her fellow nurses had returned to the area to gather what supplies could be salvaged. They worked quickly and efficiently in the wreckage at Portland Bill, until a voice yelled out. “Look up,” the voice called. “You silly girls. Get the hell out.” And there it was, swinging above them on the ropes of its parachute. When I imagine the bomb it always looks like a giant deadly watch, its long arms spinning towards death. Granma says it didn’t tell time that way. It just counted down on its own, never telling anyone when it would go off.

Magical Granma Attribute four is her garden. I love her garden. There I find a purple eggplant the size of a football. Granma says I shouldn’t pet it but its smooth purple skin is too beautiful not to touch. The air in the garden is filled with the scent of roses, huge beautiful carnivorous roses, their thorns gleaming sharp and deadly in the bright Utah sun. They are carnivorous because they scratch me when I get too close and they eat our fish, at least all the bits we don’t eat. I walk behind Granma with my little trowel and help her dig small graves below each bush. This is why her roses are the largest and most beautiful. It’s because of the fish.

Magical Granma Attribute five is time. Time moves slowly around her, it smells of ham and roses, fat lap dogs and long stories. I sit beside her on the steps of her front porch and listen to the birds in her cherry tree. Here there is time to remember, to watch, to notice the butterflies, count the tomatoes and just be together. There is no rush or hurry because there is no one else in this world who can stop time like Granma. A day lasts a week in her garden, so filled with food and story that I don’t grow tired and I never want to go home. Through brightly colored memories, we walk her father’s farm in England and drive her pony and trap down through the fields to bring lunch to the men. Closing my eyes I feel the English sunlight. I see the endless green down lands stretched before us, their curving flanks dotted with sheep. Somewhere over the next rise men plow with draft horses, harvest timber and gather watercress. Just over the next hill our people work the earth and they are hungry for their lunch.

Dorset

Do you wish it wasn’t a girl?

This is a must read that I am proud to add to my blog. Blessings and love to you all. EE Orme

Internationally Unrelated

multicultural_kiddos1Being a girl in the world. This is a controversial topic, so I just want to let you know that I am not here to attack any country’s politics, culture or others.
I’ve always been a strong advocate on women rights. No, I don’t hate men or anything like that, that is absurd. I just want the same rights for both sexes (and yes for good and for bad as well!). We are different psychologically and physically, but we all deserve to be treated equal. However, there are still situations happening to women that need to be addressed and stopped, and they aren’t, unfortunately.

I watched a documentary called “It’s a girl“. For those of you who don’t know it, this a documentary about what it means to be a girl in men-oriented cultures like India and China (in some parts of these countries). So what is it like?…

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The Ice Cream Man Eats Children

ice cream man
I’ve always liked the Ice Cream man. I like the songs he plays and the memories of childhood they evoke. I even like the little white mail van he drives with pictures of ice cream colorfully pasted on the sides. This is why I was a bit confused when, while walking the dog, I found my son hunkered down behind a garbage can. When I asked him why he was hiding he said,

“The Ice Cream Man eats children and he doesn’t wear pants.” At that moment the offending vendor was busy selling ice cream to other unwary kids.

“How do you know he doesn’t wear pants?” I started with the more easily explained question.

“I snuck up on him once. All he was wearing was a wife beater and a pair of blue boxers.”

“Oh dear!” At that moment a little blond girl walked over and asked Duncan why he was hiding.

“I don’t trust the Ice Cream Man!” With that he waved us both away from his hiding place.

My son still wrestles with the suburban rituals he’s been thrown into. He was raised in a tiny cabin on a hill some thirty minutes from the nearest town. In our wild old life there was no such thing as pavement, garbage men, or ice cream vendors. The only people bold enough to visit our rural farm were unwary Mormon missionaries and brave Jehovah’s Witnesses.

We had lots of wild visitors: raccoons, rats, deer, possums, cougars, lynx and even a bear. When a hard winter rolled in we’d invariably lose power. On these days Duncan and I would haul firewood from the barn to the house on a large red sled. He’d walk behind picking up the wood that fell off while I’d drag the sled over the snow towards the house. It wasn’t fun but it built character.

Four years ago we moved to the Wow House (so named because it earned ten wows on Duncan’s home-search scale). It is a large suburban home in a lovely neighborhood. The Wow House came with pavement where Duncan rides his scooter and a garbage man who I appreciate more than I can ever say. Though I miss my horses, the 90 degree view of the Cascade Mountains and the deer I fed in the winter, I am happy. Life at the Wow House has been wonderful. Only one week after we moved in Duncan looked up at me and said,

“Mom? I think we used to have it pretty hard!” I don’t remember saying anything in that moment. What I do remember is smiling at my insightful little boy who’d slept beside the wood stove when it was so cold that the heat from the fire couldn’t reach our bedroom.

We are molded by our experiences. We are made by what life hands us, shaped by the twists and turns that lead us into today. I loved my years on my farm but they were hard, rugged and filled with impossible beauty and never ending solitude. Maybe this is why Duncan is now so suspicious of strangers selling treats. When you’ve had to melt snow to flush you’re toilets then home delivered goodies might seem too good to be true.

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Shunning: Psychological Torture

Unmarried mothers were shunned and left to fend for themselves
Recently I read an article reporting that between 1925 and 1961, 796 children were placed in a mass grave in one of Ireland’s Catholic run, Mothers and Babies Homes. The article stated that the mothers received little care and some women even gave birth unattended. Why were they so mistreated? Because they were seen as “a threat to Ireland’s moral fiber.” These children were the victims of an outdated morality that would rather shun its unwed mothers than support and love them as valued members of their community. The Mother and Baby home closed its doors and sealed its mass grave (a sewage tank buried on the grounds) in 1961.

In 1991, a Catholic girl at my high school had an abortion so her parents would never know she’d had sex. The 90’s were a sophisticated modern decade. We had free choice, free will and the right to make all the mistakes we wanted. Casual sex was the norm and most everyone I knew was going at it like rabbits. And yet, this girl chose to have an abortion because if her parents knew she’d had sex and conceived she would have been shunned, outcast and disowned. Her abortion was not a choice made in free will, it was a decision born of fear, the fear of being outcast, shunned and forsaken by the people who should have loved and supported her no matter what.

Everyone passed the hat to help raise the abortion money. Everyone contributed to the death of this “embryo.” Everyone participated in this act so that a girl could keep her family. No one asked if she wanted the baby? No one asked if she even thought of it as a child growing inside her? I remember how sick the whole event made me. I stood back, watched and wondered what kind of parents raised a child in such fear that she’d rather commit murder then admit to having a sex life, disorganized as it was.
mother and child

Over the millennia, billions of woman have been cast off, incarcerated and killed for moral reasons while their children have been aborted, cast out, hidden away, called basters and abused because no man stepped forward to claim them. Shunning is an atrocity. It’s a manyfold evil that leads to heartbreak, legalized acts of murder and a shame that taints our history and threatens our future.

If all life is sacred and we are the children of an all loving God than why do situations like this ever even occur? I try to forget this memory, this time in my life. I would like to put it on the shelf with all the other outrages and deaths that ran like a red thread through my early existence yet this death refused to stay buried. It welled up inside of me, rattling its cage because of the unconscionable cruelty that created it. Conditional love was the killer and this girl and her unborn child were its victims. Be good or you’ll end up on the streets, be clean or we’ll disown you, remain pure or everything you know and love will be taken from you.

Injustice should never be forgotten and like the mass graves that hold 796 Irish children, this memory will not be buried because conditional love is an evil that has no place in this world. When we practice unconditional love, acts like these don’t exist! Unconditional love does not reject, instead it accepts. It does not shun but gathers its loved ones together because unconditional love creates a community so strong, so entwined in love and acceptance that when the unplanned, or unexpected occurs it reacts with compassion, acceptance and a coming together that reflects what community was meant to be. In a loving and open community there’s room for the unexpected surprises life hands us.

Stories like the mass Irish grave and the girl in my high school remind us why shunning is such a devastating and horrific act. When you practice shame and exile, you abandon both the mother and child to the mercy of the streets or institutional care. We must, as forward thinking people, support the women and children of our community so tragedies like this never happen again. We must gather around new life and love it for coming instead of condemning its existence. After all, if we are all part of a divine plan than surly every life is divinely created, divinely loved and must therefore be unconditionally loved and protected. My prayers go out to all the souls who suffered and died in shame and isolation. Each loss is a failure to teach the beauty of unconditional love and unconditional support in community.
pregnant belly

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Michelle Obama’s Tribute to Maya Angelou

maya

Maya Angelou‘s passing is a huge loss for all of us. No one spoke more eloquently on her life and her passing than our First Lady.
Please click on Maya’s name to listen to the speech.
With joy and grace we move into the light.

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The Dance Between Light and Dark: In Theory

Dance between light and darkThere exists in all of us a potential for light or dark action. All action is energy flowing in reaction to the catalysts that drives us forward in our lives. The question is, do our actions and reactions embrace a light and higher motive or a dark base motive. When a horn honks do we go into rage or do we chose peace, change lanes and avoid the dark hostility that rages behind us. In every moment of everyday we have the opportunity to embrace light and dark choices. Do we confront, argue and fight or do we free, release, and forgive those who would trigger us into likeminded darkness.

Rage, hostility, pain, anger, self-harm and regret are all members of a dark emotional family which feed on one another and anyone who crosses their path. Take one step into anger and you are inches away from pain and regret. Take one step towards forgiveness and you are on your way to healing and joy. As one emotional family sucks you dry another lifts you up and frees you to move forward in life. It’s all a matter of which one you choose.

How do we identify which is the light choice and which is the dark. Light will always feel light in our heart and darkness will always feel heavy like a rock in the stomach. In light action the Ego says little. In dark action the ego says many things. It condemns our failings, our humanity and everything and everyone who crosses our path. When the ego is empowered there is no room for love, friendship and peace because it craves material gain, power and isolation of the individual it haunts.

The ego is darkness in flesh and it prowls around our souls waiting for a bad day, a disappointment, for something to regret. Power is corrupting and the ego loves power, profit is bottomless and the ego will never let you know contentment. Isolation makes you independent of love, of nourishment, of physical touch and the ego loves isolation; for a solitary mind is easily preyed upon. Isolation leads to the end of relationship, the end of love, of communication and of healing. We heal in love, we are understood in communication and we are in love when our energies stream and pour from one heart into another. In love and joy, the ego cannot thrive.

When darkness has won and a soul is lost in self-loathing, addiction and self-harm that soul slips into a darkness so heavy that the light cannot be seen or felt. In reality the light never leaves us. It is all around us asking to be heard, seeking to be seen and loving us whether we know it or not. None of us is ever so lost, fallen or sinful that we cannot be redeemed. Free will has the power to open our eyes to the brightness of a new day, a new life and a new way of living. Every moment of every day we are given the opportunity to forgive, to be forgiven, to be of service, to be of god, to be of hope and light on his earth.

If you’ve fire walked you’ve felt the flames, if you’ve fallen you’ve felt the stones and know how they bruise. We’ve all fallen, we’ve all known pain and we’ve all been given the opportunity and support to rise again and be reborn in a love greater than any we’ve ever known.

Let the white light of the Universe
enfold, protect me
and bathe me in its healing love.
Let this journey be a tool
to bring peace of mind,
love, joy and kindness back to my life.
Cleanse my soul of hurt and bitterness,
resentment, vengeful and judgmental thinking.
Give me balance and serenity
to face each trial with faith,
an open mind, love and kindness.
When I get lost, let the sun shine down
white light to show me the way back
to the path of Love.
Amen.

A Prayer By Susan H.

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The Zing Effect

I never play the odds. My mind won’t lead where my heart cannot follow. The only time I’m all in is when I feel that special zing of excitement flow through me like a pulse of vibrating electric current. When I feel a good zing it doesn’t matter if I’m backing a sure thing or a three legged pony; I’ll anti up just to see where the game takes me. He wasn’t a three legged pony and he was no sure thing but the cut of his suite, the way it fit his shoulders…yum. I didn’t even need him to turn around to know he was for me. The zing was flooding all through me. I felt it in my chest, flooding to the tips of my fingers. My soul whistled a cat call out through my heart yelling, Honey! I’m right here. No sooner did the feeling fill me but that man turned right around and saw me.

It’s funny the way souls attract. I’m very aware of the moment my soul gets all excited about another person’s soul. It’s the zing that gives it away. It’s the zing that shouts out, Hey you! And that’s why I never play the odds. The odds would tell me he’s sophisticate and I’m self-educated and no way-no how is such a pretty bit of man ever going to notice the woman behind the counter in the polyester uniform. Yet he does because souls don’t care about the superficial. Some say fate holds all the cards, yet I know there isn’t an obstacle in the universe that can counterpoint a good zing. My man lifts up his bag and walks to the counter. I stand my ground, my smile offering unlimited serenity in a sea of manmade madness.

“Ma’am?” he starts off real slow, his eyes down cast, his hand resting on the counter over his ticket. “I’m supposed to catch a flight out to Chicago but the schedule over there says the flights been canceled.”

“Let me check that for you.” Taking up the ticket I type a little and look a little and the zing just keeps on keeping on. On my second glance up I catch his eye and smile. He has pretty eyes; the kind that sparkle all kinds of color all at once. A boring person would call them hazel but I know they’re flecked with gold and bits of emerald green and sea foam grey all jumbled up together. He has nice, nice eyes. “Well…” I drawl out the world a little, my eyes fixed on the computer screen. “It would seem that O’Hare’s shut down due to a blizzard. There are no flights scheduled to Chicago for the foreseeable future.”

“So I’m stuck!”

“You could look at it that way. Or you could think of it as a fortuitous extension to your sunny trip to L.A. We have palm trees and movie stars instead of wind-chill and snow drifts.”

“I could look at the upside.” He nods his head with sober resignation.

“Do you have somewhere you can stay?”

“Not as of yet!”

“Well I know a great little place that always has room for a friend. If you like I could give them a call.”

“That sounds nice.” He studies me a bit. “Your voice is familiar.” His smile is slow and hesitant, the kind of smile that seeks truth and spreads gratefully when it finds it. “You’re from Louisiana aren’t you?”

“New Orleans.”

“I’m from Baton Rouge.” Our eyes catch again and hold for a lingering moment.

“Louisiana’s home.” I shrug and smile enjoying the lingering connection like powdered sugar kisses. “I’m off work in 15 minutes.” The words tumble out from my lips as soft and slow as a shared secret. “Why don’t you meet me in the restaurant around the corner and I’ll buy you a lemonade. It’ll be nice to catch-up with someone from back home.”

“I’d like that.”

When he walks away the zing just gets stronger. I feel it in my knees, in my fingers. Even my toes feel ticklish. The zing is why I never back the odds. Logic and the laws of probability won’t allow what just happened. But a good zing? Now that’s physical proof that God’s got you by that hand and he’s leading you to the sweetest part of the cake. I like living a life of possibility, I like dancing in the unpredictable. I like the joy I feel when life offers me a new adventure all wrapped up in sizzling surprise. Best of all, I like the magic that happens when two old souls attract and say hello all over again.

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Malala Addresses the United Nations Youth Assembly

Malala

On October 9th, 2012, 15 year old Malala Yousafzai was shot by Taliban gunman for speaking up for the education of girls. On July 12 of this year she addressed the United Nations Youth Assembly on the rights of all people. Malala is a voice of peace and equality that has not been silenced. Please take a moment to listen to her speech and share her words with your children. Education is a human right that should never be denied to any person. CLICK HERE!

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