Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I cannot remember a time when I didn't write. It is as part of me as any body part. From the beginning, my Nana (maternal grandmother) was my mentor, my spiritual guide, my dear friend. She was a writer, although I don't recall her ever teaching me how to write. I believe you can teach people the fundamentals of grammar and the rules of writing, but creativity is part of the soul. Our writing is so different, yet similar at the same time, and I see so much wisdom in her words as I look back at them.

Last Friday, watching the terror unfold in Paris, I was paralyzed with sadness for the victims and their families. On a greater level, I was stricken with almost paranoid fear for the future of our World. Survivors reported hearing terrorists saying "Glory be to God"(in Arabic) as shots were fired at innocent civilians. I find no glory in bloodshed and murder, in killing and hatred. I cannot imagine a god, any god, seeking such horror in its honor. Especially not the God my Nana helped me discover; the God she so often honored in her own writing. It's at times like these that I'm thankful she's no longer living to see these atrocities.

Although it has no name, there is a war going on. It spans the globe, and its rooted in our hearts. Sweethearts, dark hearts, crazy hearts. We all bleed the same blood, but it's the robbery of blood that makes me ill. The lives that were taken so savagely and remorselessly belonged to people who breathed the same air as the killers. Both killers and victims came from a mother and father who came from a mother and father. For what is considered the First World, this is a barbaric display of inhumane disgrace.

When my Nana self-published her book, "A Potpourri of Love", she included several pieces written about the Vietnam War. My uncle, Denny, Nana's oldest child and my mom's big brother, flew helicopter gunships, and while she supported her son, she despised the war. She despised war period. When I was thinking of writing a post about Friday's atrocities, I found myself dialoguing with Nana in spirit. I wondered how she would have expressed her disillusionment with the recent brutality in France. Looking through her book, I found piece that expresses a lot of what's in my heart, so I am sharing it. While it has been almost half a century, her words span the decades.

I have two sons who are precious to me.
They're not at war, but they soon may be.
Would I have them defend this beloved land,
And all those things for which it stands?
Of course I would, there can be no doubt;
But IS 'defense' what war is all about?
I wonder: IS war the answer to our plight?
Does fighting and killing turn wrong to right?
If we've made such a miserable bed,
Must we lie in it 'til we're ALL dead?
Spanking may stop a naughty child,
But why is he naughty; why is he wild?
Aspirin may stop an ache or pain,
But correct the cause, or it comes again.
CAN we end the cause of war,
The harvest of misery we all abhor?
It seems we've been shown a better way
By one whose birthday is Christmas Day.
But whatever we believe about the virgin birth,
Who can deny this great one's worth?
Somehow we've failed to do THY will;
Ignored the command, "Thou shalt NOT kill."
We've been taught much that is surely true;
That we prove our faith by what we do;
That God loves the WORLD, not just a part;
That all walk in darkness who've hate in their heart;
That peace begins within you, and me;
That we choose to fight, or choose to be free;
By seeds we sow each day of our life;
Each moment we add to the peace, or the strife.
Remembering these things, I seem to recall
The times I didn't believe them at all,
Each time I said an unkind thing...
Was I helping the bells of freedom ring?
When I listened to gossip and suspected the worst,
Was I really putting 'Democracy' first?
If I judged a man by his color or creed
Was I serving the cause for which men bleed?
If I reserved smiles or words of praise
For those with status or pleasing ways,
Was I seeing that inner spark Divine
That lives in all men all of the time?
When I was sad, or gave in to despair,
Was I having faith in Our Father's care?
When I refused to swallow my pride
Was I being led by my "Inner Guide"?
When I thought I had done something good,
Was I directing the credit where I should?
All of these things, and so many more,
Challenge my soul, in the face of war!
For in every war-scarred face I see
My own dear sons looking at me.
Could I be failing these trusting young men
By resisting the challenge again and again?
Our money says, "In God we trust"!
But do we really? Can God trust us?
Tho I can't stop this terrible war,
With God's help I need to do more,
Not to keep my sons from going,
Perhaps more 'heart' will do the trick,
For isn't THIS what makes us tick?
This may seem like an abstract answer;
Like a miracle cure for a terminal cancer,
But if God is Love, and Love is of the heart,
Then Heart IS needed to illumine the dark.
Ending the war WITHIN MYSELF,
Taking thoughts of love down off the shelf,
Armed with kindness, instead of a gun
Is the only way 'my' war can be won.
Measuring each deed, each word I say,
With the Golden Rule, every day.
Only then can I feel free
When the face of misery looks at me.
~Mary Anzaletta Robinson Long (Nana)
I learned so much from my Nana. She truly believed that progress and peace began from within, and she led by example.  During the Vietnam War, she was tormented not just as the mother of a soldier, but as a citizen of the World.  But Nana was concerned on an even greater level. It was the cause of war, ANY war, that scared her. To her, hatred and intolerance were as lethal as the weapons that were fired from my uncle's helicopter. And she was absolutely right. Those two things greatly contributed to the attacks in Paris. Nana's been dead over a decade, but I could feel her tears that night. They wet my face as much as my own tears.
The global community is bleeding. There are so many wounds, it's hard to know where to begin. As a woman with chronic pain and illness, I get overwhelmed balancing all the doctors and surgeries, the medication and the appointments. Then I take a step back and look at all that's going on in the news. All the attacks and wars, the victims and attackers, weave a complex and heartbreaking reality that seems hopeless. How does our World heal?
There are no immediate answers. For my own sadness, I turn back and find the unconditional love my Nana left in word and spirit. No matter her emotional or physical pain, she taught me that peace began within. It wasn't something that could happen overnight, but rather it was something that took daily meditation and prayer. I remember many bedtime talks when she'd babysit my brother and I. She used to tell me that peace began with me. Looking back, I think she was brilliant. Peace does begin within each of us. And when you combine the peace within yourself with the peace within another person, and another, and another... then peace MIGHT have a fighting chance amidst all this madness.
I'll leave you with the bedtime prayer she taught me growing up. It's a spin off of a mainstream Christian bedtime prayer many of you probably know.
Now I lay me down to sleep
Into your arms,
Dear God I creep
Thank you for your love and care
And for your power that's everywhere
Make me shine God, just for you
In all I think and say and do