From "Creed," by Dom Helder Cámara

I want to believe that the whole world

Is my home, the field I sow,

And that all reap what all have sown.

I will not believe that I can combat oppression out there

If I tolerate injustice here.

I want to believe that what is right

Is the same here and there

And that I will not be free

While even one human being is excluded.

Monday, January 5, 2015

On Epiphany: Feckin' Fecundity

Today, in the Christian tradition, we celebrate the last day of Christmas, called Epiphany.
Epiphany (ih-pif-uh-nee)
1. a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi.
2. an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity.
3. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
And now, on to more important things. In Ireland, they say "feckin'." (Example here) I like it very much.
It's me conforming to the stereotype that when people meet someone whose first language is not (North American) English, they feel compelled to share all the swear words they know in that second language. (Example here)
Its North American alternative is a strong word I often hear screamed or punched like a quiet bullet, in anger or jest. I work part-time at a dining hall for people without homes, and that word often precedes the fights I attempt to de-escalate. I say it too, in moments of unforeseen pain and confusion. 
It's a word I let fly when I read articles like this one, predicting the depletion of water to South America's biggest city in Brazil (which will host the Olympic summer Games in 2016) of 20 million people, within two months.
Bad news. Really, bad news.
Some say the news is too dominated by bad news. I say, perhaps, but I also believe that those who experience life as comfortable, from behind bubbles, are more averse to bad news than those who experience it every day and know it is an unavoidable reality.
More than two years ago, when visiting the world's most dangerous city, I wrote a blog entry, viewed by more people than any other blog I've ever written, called "Death and Vacation: My Journey to the Murder Capital of the World." My central focus was the normalcy of death in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where a violent killing takes place every 74 minutes, owing to gang activity (if you had the chance to immigrate, wouldn't you?). Admitting this may sound like I am romanticizing poverty and suffering, and acknowledging the psychological effect of terror upon the citizens of San Pedro Sula, I would like to propose that experiencing suffering regularly can profoundly liberate a part of long as they have the space, support, and strength to chug through it. Hence the Buddha leaving his princely castle for the poor streets. Hence Oprah's happiness study in early 2009, in which a funeral director was named the happiest test subject: 
"Your job just helps you to have a great perspective on life, which is, 'We're just here for a short spell, and it's really important to make the most of it,'" Dr. Holden says.
Jesus, who I think is pretty cool, knew it too:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)
Of course I can't deny that people who don't often deal with pain and death can be very, very happy. But I'd like to propose that those who contemplate and confront such realities more often, are more inclined toward happiness, and more importantly, better able to lead their sisters and brothers through similar times.
I'd like to paraphrase John 12:24 in a different way, by saying that chaos leads to creativity, death and pain lead to life and growth, but not without acknowledgement, acceptance, support (don't remain alone!). Here's the equation:
Chaos/Death/Pain + Acceptance/Support/Reflection = Life/Growth/Creation
How convenient that my favorite words for pain and growth are almost the same:
Fecund (fee-kuhnd); adjective
1. producing or capable of producing offspring, fruit, vegetation, etc., in abundance; prolific; fruitful:
fecund parents; fecund farmland.
2. very productive or creative intellectually:
the fecund years of the Italian Renaissance.
That's right folks; you can say with feeling, "Feckin' Fecundity!" (Ten times fast, preferably, and you'll feel like you're an Irish percussion instrument)
I experienced this percussive punch recently with an inbound Jesuit Volunteer named Yolanda Jones, who is headed for Managua, Nicaragua, the city where I spent two years in the same program. She loves gardening, and her favorite professor in El Salvador, who had a semi-Irish accent, would spew the beauty of being fecund like it were itself a swear word.
As I wished Yolanda well over the phone, I also think I said something like, "Oh girl, these two years are gonna hurt. I'm so excited for you." What I meant, of course, is that it's possible to spell out in words that poverty and oppression exist, and to recognize, as US-born middle-class white citizens, that we both have privileges, but to live alongside Nicaraguans for two years, surrounded by a community of challenge and love, leads to some real tears, realizations, and finally, creation.
It leads me to the light inside, a fire tingling in every pore, that I feel when I write this blog.
I admit this chaos-creation miracle has been understood for centuries, in the universe's birth in a black hole, in the circle of life on our tiny planet, in sex, in childbirth, in Christianity and more ancient religions centered on divine death and resurrection. But I don't think we often notice, or revere, its truth within our personal stories, nor do we see it as especially applicable to our current times on this swiftly changing planet.
You can read my last blog, The Lord's Prayer, for the Planet, if you'd like to know more about how I feel regarding our changing planet, but for the sake of proving my equation, and chanting my double-F mantra more happily, I'll explain a bit here, via a story.
This weekend I took a train north to Centralia, WA. Outside that town, a university friend and her husband, with her mother, have purchased 180 acres of wild Washington woodland, which they plan to turn into a sustainable eco-village, a safe haven from capitalism and climate change, where goods are grown and made and shared, rather than bought. They believe--rather, they can cite the science that maintains--that Sao Paolo is not alone in impending climate crisis. The southern half of our country will run out of water in five-or-so-years, and in our lifetime the United States will understand war, drought, famine, and a fight for resources, something much of the rest of the world has been dealing with for centuries.
Not sure how accurate or immediate that science is. But I can guess how you may be feeling, because I can feel it, too. 
I do not wish suffering upon anyone. I acknowledge my own idealism, bias, privilege, and perhaps self-righteousness. I am open to loving challenges to see things differently. But I do not aim to feel differently.
And I'd like whoever is reading this to entertain the following today. We may be approaching a time when we will be forced to "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life," when our bond with every other living being on this planet is not only named, but felt as our own. When we without-pause question where our goods come from, who made them, and under what conditions. We may be the generations that are privileged to undergo a radical change in consciousness, from individualist to interconnection, from doldrums and death to life and love.
That feels good.
When I came back from Nicaragua, the biggest reason I cried was that I knew I couldn't reach some people's souls here, the way my soul had been reached there, a creative moment spurred by chaos. I couldn't explain my, our, interconnection to Nicaraguans, and to everyone else, because like love, it is something felt, realized, not stated in words.
I look forward to the moment when that epiphany, like a supernova, an explosion giving rise to the birth of many stars, embraces everyone. We're not alone. We're in for good things. But first, we'll have to dig deep into the dark dirt, smelly and fecund.
"Justice will finally come when those of us who are not injured are as indignant as those who are." -a mantra from the beginnings of democracy in ancient Greece