Yom Ha Shoah: Holocaust Day of Remembrance

 

YomHaShoah SIX CANDLES

  Yom HaShoah

 

“You just keep living until your are alive again,” said a character in last Sunday’s BBC episode of “Call the Midwife.”  The words stir me to write on this eve of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Survivors, their families, indeed, the whole Jewish community endure, and even thrive, with a resilience I can hardly even dream of mustering.  I repent and grieve for the evil perpetrated against Jews and others in the Holocaust.  I celebrate their resilience, born from a deep well of faith.

Inaugurated in Israel in 1953, Holocaust Remembrance Day is ritualized differently throughout the world.  Common threads are the lighting of six memorial candles to represent the approximately six million victims.  The Mourners’ Kaddish is often recited to show that despite their loss, Jews still praise G-d.  At the memorial ritual in Auschwitz, school children participate in “The March of the Living,” which is a profound defiance of the Death Marches to the crematoriums.  I am reminded of the work of theologian Walter Brueggemann, who calls for a “prophetic imagination” which re-appropriates acts of injustice as positive acts of life- a way of living until we are alive again.

One Sunday I came to Hebrew class at Temple Beth El- always the only Christian student- this day, the only student.  My teacher, whose relatives did not survive the holocaust, took the opportunity to teach me some of the more obscure facts about anti-Semitism.  She said with searing pain, that in the Spanish Inquisition Jews were denied the right to recite Kaddish.  The refrain that G-d will “uproot foreign worship from the earth,” threatened the power of Christianity, I presume.

As I imagine the youth reciting Kaddish on their March of Life today at Auschwitz, I rejoice in the hope their action evokes.  In them, their ancestors live on.  Paul Celan’s poem, “Death Fugue,” draws us inside life in a death camp.  The images are shattering, but we must look.  We must remember.  After embracing the horrifying reality, I return to celebration of the resilience of a people who still chooses life.  L’Chaim!

 

Death Fugue
by Paul Celan

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown
we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night
we drink it and drink it
we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents
he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden
hair Margarete
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are
flashing he whistles his pack out
he whistles his Jews out in earth has them dig for a
grave
he commands us strike up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you in the morning at noon we drink you at
sundown
we drink and we drink you
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents
he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair
Margarete
your ashen hair Sulamith we dig a grave in the breezes
there one lies unconfined

He calls out jab deeper into the earth you lot you
others sing now and play
he grabs at the iron in his belt he waves it his
eyes are blue
jab deeper you lot with your spades you others play
on for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at at noon in the morning we drink you
at sundown
we drink and we drink you
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Sulamith he plays with the serpents
He calls out more sweetly play death death is a master
from Germany
he calls out more darkly now stroke your strings then
as smoke you will rise into air
then a grave you will have in the clouds there one
lies unconfined

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon death is a master from Germany
we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink
and we drink you
death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue
he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
he sets his pack on to us he grants us a grave in
the air
He plays with the serpents and daydreams death is
a master from Germany

your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith

Translated by Michael Hamburger

Clip Art Credits:  http://free-bitsela.com/

Death, The Great Midwife

Meadowdale Beach County Park Eckart Tolle on Death

 

 

As we move through the rituals of Holy Week this meditation from Eckhart Tolle in Stillness Speaks is a rich companion.

“When you walk into a forest that has not been tamed and interfered with by humans, you will not only see abundant life all around you, but you will also encounter fallen trees and decaying trunks, rotting leaves and decomposing matter at every step.  Wherever you look, you will find death as well as life.

Upon closer scrutiny, however, you will discover that the decomposing tree trunk and rotting leaves not only give birth to new life, but are full of life themselves.  Microorganisms are at work.  Molecules are rearranging themselves.  So death isn’t to be found anywhere.  There is only the metamorphosis of life forms.  What can you learn from this…?

If you can learn to accept and even welcome the endings in your life, you may find that the feeling of emptiness that initially felt uncomfortable turns into a sense of spaciousness that is deeply peaceful.

By learning to die daily in this way, you open yourself to Life….

Whenever death occurs, whenever a life form dissolves, God, the formless and unmanifested, shines through the opening left by the dissolving form.  That is why the most sacred thing in life is death.  That is why the peace of God can come to you through the contemplation and acceptance of death.”

 

Photo:  Meadowlake Beach County Park, Lynnwood WA USA

 

 

“Blessing For Artists At The Start Of The Day” From John O’Donohue

Good Morning Writers

May morning be astir with
the harvest of night;
Your mind quickening to the
eros of a new question,
Your eyes seduced by some
unintended glimpse
That cut right through the
surface to a source.

May this be a morning of
innocent beginning,
When the gift within you
slips clear
Of the sticky web of the
personal
With its hurt and its
hauntings,
And fixed fortress corners,

A morning when you become
a pure vessel
For what wants to ascend
from silence,

May your imagination know
The grace of perfect danger,

To reach beyond imitation,
And the wheel of repetition,

Deep into the call of all
The unfinished and unsolved.

Until the veil of the unknown
yields
And something original
begins

To stir toward your senses
And grow stronger in your
heart

In order to come to birth
In a clean line of form,
That claims from time
A rhythm not yet heard,
That calls space to
A different shape.

May it be its own force field
And dwell uniquely
Between the heart and the
light

To surprise the hungry eye
By how deftly it fits
About its secret loss.

♣ John O’Donohue in To Bless The Space Between Us

What You See Is What You Get

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Miss Rosealima knows what she wants and how to get it.  It starts with a low, expectant hummmm, followed by a subtle tilt of the head, revealing a not so subtle bullseye tattoo accompanied by the message, “Scratch here.”  If I fail to heed the signs I am bombarded by one shrill Ragdoll meow rivaled only by the opening notes of the bassoon solo in Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.”  I succumb to the task at hand.

This little beauty teaches me every day how to peel away the veneer to get to the reality of my experience.  With Rosie, what you see is what you get.  As I practice emulating her, Jesus’ words echo from the recesses of my spiritual formation:  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and those who seek find, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”  (Matthew 7:7)  The same promise is proffered by the other evangelists and throughout the Hebrew Scriptures in the Psalms, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. *  It’s just that simple.  Ask.

Contemporary cosmology and New Age thought hint at the same promise.  Everything in the universe is connected.  Our thoughts are energy.  If we manifest an authentic need and trust that it can be fulfilled, it will be fulfilled  not always how and when we want it, but it will come back to us.  We can throw in a bombastic meow now and then while we wait, beat the door down if we have to.  Some things just call for “holy audacity.”  Meanwhile, we can hold God’s promise to Julian of Norwich close to our hearts, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” (Showings)

*http://biblehub.com/matthew/7-7.htm    (This link shows all the cross references to Jesus’ words.)

March 21, 1960 Sharpeville Massacre: REMEMBER

blog post on sparkeville massacre

Nelson Mandela
Winnie Mandela
Steve Biko
Desmond Tutu
Robert Sobukwe
Chief Albert Luthuli
Walter Sisulu
Albertina Sisulu
Ruth First
Joe Slovo
Helen Suzman

Hundreds of others…

Amandla!

On March 21, 1960 in the township of Sharpeville five to seven thousand Africans gathered in front of the police headquarters to protest the carrying of mandatory pass books.  Their intention was to leave their passbooks at home and fill the jails until there was no more room, thus costing the government financially, and depriving white employers of workers.  Police threw tear gas into the crowd without warning and some protesters reacted by throwing rocks at them.  A police officer opened fire with live ammunition, and a reported 70 people were killed, among them eight women and ten children.  One Hundred Eighty were injured.  The BBC reported on this day that, ” Police Commander D H Pienaar said: “It started when hordes of natives surrounded the police station….He said that,  “If they do these things, they must learn their lessons the hard way.”

“Hordes,”  “Natives,” “Lessons,” Africans with rocks, police with loaded guns.  Unbelievable, I say.  I, the one whose country brutally colonized American Indians and enslaved Africans, while perpetrating deplorable crimes against them.  I who am still financially complicit in their inequality, and unconsciously complicit in my ignorance.  We all are called to look within on the anniversary of this terrible massacre.

Helen Suzman, Ruth First, and Joe Slovo were South African Jews.  They knew that Shoah can happen again if we stop remembering.  It happened again in South Africa in Sowetto Township on June 16 1976.  More than 176 and up to 700 people were killed by police who fired into a gathering of school children simply demanding to study in their own language rather than in mandatory Afrikaans. The BBC on that terrible day quoted South African Prime Minister Vorster as saying, “We are dealing here not with a spontaneous outburst but with a deliberate attempt to bring about polarisation between whites and blacks.  “This government will not be intimidated and instructions have been given to maintain law and order at all costs.” [emphasis mine].”  Denial purports to cover a multitude of sins.

As spiritual persons we are called to remember.  It makes us human.  Today let us hold our own truth and reconciliation hearings in our own hearts, to one another, and to the world beyond.

Albert Einstein: Happy Birthday

converted PNM file

The World As I See It

“….The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”

Albert Einstein (signature)

Einstein at his home in Princeton, New Jersey

Einstein photo and quotation credit: www.aip.org/history/einstein/essay.htm
N
ASA Royalty- Free Photographs

Geek Spirituality: Happy Twenty Fifth Anniversary, Internet!

internet cloud

On this twenty-fifth anniversary of the birth of the internet, it is so tempting to write a scathing assessment of how it has left us spiritually bankrupt, but I won’t.  Instead, because I am a geek decked out in pseudo-holy garb, I’ll say this:

Thank you…

– for the opportunity to realize and monitor a tendency toward addiction.

– for the realization that looking a Dell laptop in the eye is not the same as intimacy with real people.

– for the brilliance of Saint Google who tells me how to fix OS 8.1 before I abandon my vow of nonviolence.

-for connecting me to amazing souls throughout the world who dance the dance of the Universe with me, and return me to myself.

– for awakening us to our duty toward the common good, and connecting us in acts of justice.

– for offering our children the opportunity to learn compassion through their research.

– for those who work toward universal access to the internet, toward a level playing field for all.

– for the availability of the spiritual masters and the great scriptures of humankind available in the public domain.

– for the gift of intelligence and creativity that gave us this gift.

Happy Anniversary….

May we use you consciously and with right conscience.

Shadows From My Past

Vietnam War Memorial

On a startling sunny day in April, 1984, I stood before the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. overwhelmed by the experience of thousands of lives reduced to letters chiseled out of stark black granite.  As if shadows of children cast upon the wall as they lay mementos of their loved one wasn’t enough to bear, four fresh young men came to vigil, their uniforms creating a macabre dance of shadows both real and anticipated.   I wept then and I weep now.

On this day, March 7, 1965, the first U.S. combat troops were sent to Vietnam.  My spiritual practice today will be to take inventory of my commitment to nonviolence, and to make reparation by revisiting the Wall.  I will call those men by name and ask forgiveness.  I will call to mind all who lost their lives in that war.  I will ask for God’s gracious mercy toward all of us who had the need to wage that war.  Most of all, I will hold dear the broken lives of my peers who returned from that war hopeless and who still need us.

The Wall of Faces:  http://www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces/