“Good words cool more than cold water.” ~ John Ray.
In high school my classmates and I were lucky enough to have the same ‘form teacher’ (I guess in the US he would be called our home-room teacher) for five years. I say lucky, because he was one of those rare teachers, a man who commanded respect by his quiet approach, he treated us with respect and made it clear he expected the same. He was young, probably under thirty when we met him, but to eleven-year-old kids he was ‘big man’ to us. As we grew older our conversations became deeper, more philosophical, and he entertained our probing questions and challenges with equanimity, always giving us something to think about.
Tragically, he died not long after we graduated from high school. We heard it was Multiple Sclerosis that was the culprit, although it was shrouded in secrecy for some unknown reason. In my adult life I have learned that we often only know a small amount of a person, that which they choose to show us. At funerals I have been quite surprised to learn from the eulogies, heard stories that showed the many facets of a person’s life. So when I met up with my form teacher’s brother many years later, I made sure to let him know what an impact his younger brother had had on our lives. I believe it is a gift to share memories of those, especially those who departed early, it is a way to keep their presence vibrant and alive.
We were curious teenagers, my classmates and I, challenging our teachers with our persistent questions. There were a couple of ‘brains’ in our class who could be relied upon to push the teachers to the edges of their academic prowess. In those days (and maybe still) the girls mostly let the boys take the lead. At home my father allowed and encouraged philosophical explorations, but he was the expert, I was naïve, hopeful, sure of what the world could offer. At times when he shut me down with a harsh statement I would accuse him of being a cynic. Ah no, he would respond, I am a realist.
In a world of actions, it is amazing how much power words have. A friend recently posted a warning that words have energy, and we must be careful of what we are unleashing upon the world. As children we are taught the rhyme: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me’. Ironically we are taught to chant them at the schoolyard bullies whose words are taunting us, so perhaps the rhyme is actually a reassuring lie!
Desmond Tutu, in eulogizing the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, described him as having a ‘…deep well of grace, humility, and calm energy’. At first when I read the term calm energy I was perplexed, the words seem to be an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Yet we talk about positive and negative energy, so why not calm energy? I have been around people whose energy is so frenetic, so chaotic that it takes a supreme effort on my part to balance that, by being deliberately calm around them. After a while of being exposed to that level of drama I often find myself exhausted, neck muscles twisted in knots, usually followed by a dull headache.
But there is a need in our present high drama, inflammatory rhetoric world for people of peace to use whatever it takes to keep striving for a calm energy, one which cools down the temperature, which holds firm to the belief that the arc of the universe is long, but bends towards justice. The great leaders of our time like Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela exuded a reassuring quality that helped us to believe in a better world. There is a need for activism, for protest and for bringing attention to the lies and injustice that seem to be so pervasive, but there is also a need to draw back from the divisiveness and remain centered.
In working with energy medicine (such as Reiki, and Therapeutic touch) the practitioner is taught the importance of being a vessel, of being almost passive in the process, allowing the energy to do the work. To be able to help another, the practitioner must be clear, focused, and centered, coming without an agenda to the work at hand. Those who meditate understand that it is the stillness and mindfulness that calms the soul, and allows you to tap into that calm energy which promotes health. There have been studies that show the effectiveness of focused group meditation on reducing crime rates, we have no idea how powerful we can be when we harness our collective energy for the good of all.
Each week seems to bring some new shock, some atrocity that we cannot comprehend. We feel helpless as we see the consequences of loose words and careless, heartless provocations. But there is also evidence of the greater outpouring of love than hate. We can update the poem of Martin Niemoller: First they came for black men, but I was not a black man, so I said nothing. Then they came for the women, but I could not say ‘me too’, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Muslims, the brown people, the families struggling to escape murderous gangs, but I said nothing, for I was not brown or Muslim. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I said nothing. Hopefully through this time we can recognize that we are all ‘them’, we are all one in our wondrous diversity; I am black and brown and man and woman and Jew and Muslim and gay and straight. We are, the US is, us.
This Friday morning, as I find myself awake too early, I am drawing on the calm energy of those wiser persons who have gone before me. I am celebrating the examples they show us of how to be better than the least common denominator. I am calling on all people of peace and positivity to remain focused and centered, to reach out to each of these my brethren with love and forgiveness. And make sure you vote! We need to start the healing.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!