from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

political extremism and acts of hatred

Like most of us, I assume, I find it hard to shake off the world's horrors; and there are so many I find I can't usually even start to go there in this blog. I'm fumbling to find what I want to express here, but it's something to do with trying to offset global horrors; paying attention to the world; seeing it in as clear-eyed a way as possible ('this is how it is right here right now'); seeking ways of being that go beyond knee-jerk reactivity and blatant materialism; and honouring more soul-filled ways of living.

There's something too about trying to take into account the whole picture. This has to include having the imagination to be empathic, to walk a mile in another's shoes, etc.

Because much of my thinking is influenced by Zen, there's a wish to explore the enduring as mirrored in the transient; or that might take us in that direction, anyway.

Yes, there is a 'but'. My approach above doesn't mean, though, that one has to be quietist. We also have to engage with the political issues of our time, and question what a 'right response' might be. I don't pretend that poetry is enough, or observing the natural world is enough – in themselves; though it is also necessary to find generous, cultural, heartful, creative and/or spiritual activities that speak to and of the soul, in my view, to offset the sum of human atrocities and destructiveness. But when there's a case of injustice, it needs to be spoken of. I admire hugely the people who will stick their heads above the parapet in the name of political, social and environmental justice without worrying about personal cost.

Right now, I'm thinking about Friday's Norwegian atrocity, and about how the first speculation that appeared in various news channels immediately blamed Islam. Increasingly, and fairly swiftly, the evidence was that it was not a Muslim extremist cell; and yet the media still ran with that view. Saturday's Sun newspaper was blaming Al Qaeda and likening the massacre to 9/11. How can this do anything other than continue to feed the Western anti-Muslim paranoia; and how can that do anything other than increase the divide, the hostilities, between the West and Islam?

And how much more so if, despite all the evidence that has shown conclusively that in fact the gunman was a far-right anti-Muslim extremist, a sector of the public still holds on tight to the fact that somehow, somehow, Islam must be behind, and to blame for, this?

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