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Donna Henes

by Donna Henes

You know, there really is still a chance for peace — and that chance will definitely increase if we each do our piece. It is ultimately up to us, each one of us, all of us, individually and together, to create the kind of world in which we want to live — starting right here, right now. Within the context of our immediate lives, within the concentric circles of our ordinary interactions.

I once gave a presentation in Washington, D.C. about creating peace in our world and in our lives. During the question and answer period, a woman commented that she wished that she could drop her job and just devote herself to working for peace." "What do you do?" I asked her. "I’m a therapist," she replied.

"Do the thing you believe in. Do the best you
can in the place where you are and be kind.

--Scott Nearing

Myself, I have been on a Walk Your Talk Pilgrimage since the threat of this terrible war became real. One by one, I engage the people whose paths I cross: friends, the UPS man, the guard at the bank, the waitress at the coffee shop, the washing machine repairman. We engage in these amazingly intimate, inspiring, sweetly profound and empowering conversations that inevitably end in a hug or an extra-firm handshake.

It is the individual human face in these terrible and divisive times that I choose to focus on. I do not want to lose track of the myriad emotional and spiritual interconnections that people are capable of making — with each other, with their own best selves and with the greater universal good of all. This is, after all, how peace is made.

This is actually my second pilgrimage for peace. I did the same thing 18 months ago after 9-11. I took to the streets to make face-to-face contact with people — first, to see if I could be of any help, then to hear what they had to say, and finally, to inject my own views on the possibility for peace in a world gone mad.

On the one-week anniversary of the conflagration, I went to visit the 2nd Fire Precinct in my neighborhood to pay my respects for the 11 mortalities that they had suffered. The neighboring community had blanketed the sidewalk up and down the street with offerings of flowers, candles, cakes, tears and messages — one written on World Trade Center stationery and sent as a thank you for saving his life on that fateful day of reckoning.

I shook the hands of one traumatized but sturdy young fire fighter and thanked him. I engaged his misting eyes with my own and told him that I prayed that their dedication and sacrifice would be the foundation of a new way to live together in peace as a world community. He locked my eyes and squeezed my hand and bit his quivering lip. He had seen quite enough of war, thank you very much.

Honoring the brave firefighters (and those
working alongside them) means dampening
the fires they were fighting, not adding fuel.

—Zot Lynn Szurgot

Living in New York City makes these interpersonal pro-peace encounters somewhat easier, I think. Unlike most people in this country, we have seen and felt first hand the disastrous effects of terror and violence. Though we did manage to live through it, its terrible consequences — physical, emotional, social and financial have remained. We have tasted war and it is still bitter on our tongues. We have seen the putrid smoke of hatred and destruction and most of us never want to see it again. Nor do we wish to inflict it upon anyone else

At the bank I greeted the lobby guard as usual. I asked him if he was ok. "Not really," he told me as his eyes filled with tears. His stepfather had been in the World Trade Center on that frightful day. He escaped, but was shaken to the core. The guard (who I talk to practically every day and whose name I am ashamed to admit I do not know) said that he felt that his step dad would never be the same, like some Vietnam Vets whom he has known who will never be the same.

Then he confessed to me something remarkable. Actually, it was the most profound thing that I have heard anyone anywhere say on the subject of peace. "I hate my uncle" he told me. "And I have hated my uncle for so long that now I hate anyone who looks like my uncle. ‘Why for you got to go look like my uncle?" he quoted himself in his West Indian lilt. "Now I have to hate you." He looked me right in the eyes and said that he realizes now how wrong that is. That he can no longer hate all uncle look-alikes. That he is now even working on trying not to hate his uncle.

Instead of loving what you think is peace,
love other men and women and love God
above all else. Instead of hating all the people
you think are warmongers, hate the appetites
and disorders in your own soul which are the
causes of war.

—Thomas Merton

I recently received a call from a friend who was feeling particularly despondent. Though she had attended peace rallies, written letters, signed petitions, she was frustrated at not having done enough to stop the war. "What more can I do?" she lamented. "I wish there was something that I could do." Like so many others right now, she was desperate to move out of this place of feeling helpless.

"You could call Linda," I suggested, knowing that she had had a recent painful falling out with a good friend of hers. She confessed that she had known deep down all along that in light of everything that has been happening in the world, that she should, she wanted to call. But she couldn’t. "Just do it, honey. Make peace." And she did! And they did.

It is good and fine to oppose a horrific war, to meditate upon the glory of Peace on Earth and to pray for it’s fulfillment, to march for miles to promote our convictions, to light millions of candles to ignite the purity of our intentions for peace. But in the end, we have to actually do something for peace. We have to be peaceful ourselves.

The place to improve the world is first in
one's own heart and head and hands, and
then work outward from there.

—Robert M. Pirsig

One by one and all together we must learn and practice the ways of peace, cooperation, compassion, forgiveness and understanding. We must put our spirit into action and, be the peace we seekin our hearts, in our homes, in our relationships and in our communities. In the words of Gandhi, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." Surely, this is the humble but firm foundation for Peace on Earth. We are the world, after all.

The way I see it, we are at a cross roads in our evolution. Either we will figure out how we can all live together on one planet without violence. Or we won’t. We expect nonviolence it in our families and at our jobs. We demand non-aggressive, tolerant behavior of our kids at school.

We are modern dinosaurs and it is up to us whether this meteor storm that swirls around us creating devastation in its path will drive us to extinction. As Alice Walker says, "War is a backward step for humanity." Glen, the copier machine mechanic remarked, "this war is like a wake-up call." Well it is actually more like an air raid siren going off in the middle of the night. Emergency! 911.

It is no longer a choice between
violence and nonviolence in this world;
it’s nonviolence and nonexistence.

—Martin Luther King

I have just been reading Chang and Eng by Darin Strauss about the original Siamese Twins who were, in fact, from Siam. Here were two men, fraternal twins, a double-boy, physically dissimilar and with radically different and antagonistic personalities who lived for 64 years connected to each other at the chest by a 5 inch long band of muscle and cartilage which housed their single stomach.

They married two sisters and had 21 biracial children between them — this, in the constrained society of the Victorian American South. These twins managed to make an awkward, untenable, sometimes unbearable situation work because they had to. They couldn’t walk away or hurt the other without suffering that same harm themselves. They learned how to live together because they had no choice.

Can we do less? If we don’t do it who will? And if not now, when? The times could not be more crucial. We must make ourselves accountable.

Today more than ever before, life must be
characterized by a sending of universal
responsibility, not only nation to nation
and human to human, but also human to
other forms of life.

— Dalai Lama

Responsibility is at the very center of spirituality. It is the rock-hard indestructible inner core, the backbone, the molten heart of the matter of spirit. I am not referring to responsibility in the deadly, leaden terms of duty or burden or millstone of guilt, blame, fear, shoulds and should nots. This unfortunate reading of responsibility invites evasion and childish rebellion.

A friend who owns a book store has a sign posted in the shop john that says something like, "If you finish the roll of toilet paper, please replace it with a new roll from the shelf below." He tells me that no one ever finishes the complete roll of tissue. They always leave one sheet, one measly square on the cardboard roll. That way, of course, they are not responsible for changing it.

To be spiritual is to be response-able. To be able to encounter each situation, event and emotion with openness and gratitude and to respond to the needs of others and our selves with care and consideration. Born of awareness and attention, response-ability means choosing to be fully conscious and present in life and to participate purposefully, consciously and conscientiously in its unfoldment.

Having a spiritual perspective reminds us that everything is connected and everything matters. We understand that what harms you, harms me. What threatens the planet, weakens me. What goes around, comes around. We accept the effect and consequences wrought by our thoughts and actions, our non-thoughts and non-actions.

So let’s walk our talk and create peace in our own lives, in our own country and in the world. Not out of a misplaced sense of duty, but because it is a joy and an honor to do so. Because we could do no less.

If there is character in the individual,
There will be harmony in the home;
If there is harmony in the home,
There will be honor among the people,
If there is honor among the people,
There will be justice in the community;
If there is justice in the community,
There will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
Then there will be peace in the world!

— Confucius

© Copyright 2003 Donna Henes.  All Rights Reserved. 

Donna Henes
Donna Henes, Urban Shaman, is the editor and publisher of the highly acclaimed quarterly, Always In Season: Living In Sync with the Cycles. She is also the author of Moon Watcher's Companion, Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles and Celebrations and Dressing Our Wounds In Warm Clothes, as well as the CD, Reverence To Her: Mythology, The Matriarchy & Me. In 1982, she composed the first (and to this date, the only) satellite peace message in space: "chants for peace * chance for peace."

Mama Donna, as she is affectionately known, has offered lectures, workshops, circles, and celebrations worldwide for 30 years. She is the director of Mama Donna's Tea Garden & Healing Haven, a ceremonial center, ritual consultancy and spirit shop in Exotic Brooklyn, New York.

For further information, a list of services and publications, a calendar of upcoming events and a complimentary issue of Always in Season: Living in Sync with the Cycles. contact:

PO Box 380403
Exotic Brooklyn, NY 11238-0403 
Phone/Fax 718-857-2247
Email: CityShaman@aol.com




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