louder than the explosion of bombs

[for Remembrance Day, this excerpt from a Christmas poem by Maya Angelou seems a fitting way to remember with hope and be reminded to “speak the word aloud”]

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds….

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

– Maya Angelou, from Amazing Peace.

You can read the whole poem here.

communities of memory

Communities, in the sense in which we are using the term, have a history – in an important sense they are constituted by their past – and for this reason we can speak of a real community as a “community of memory,” one that does not forget its past. In order not to forget that past, a community is involved in retelling its story, its constitutive narrative, and in so doing, it offers examples of the men and women who have embodied and exemplified the meaning of the community. These stories of collective history and exemplary individuals are an important part of the tradition that is so central to a community of memory.

The stories that make up a tradition contain conceptions of character, of what a good person is like, and of the virtues that define such character. But the stories are not all exemplary, not all about successes and achievements. A genuine community of memory  will also tell painful stories of shared suffering that sometimes creates deeper identities than success…. And if the community is completely honest, it will remember stories not only of suffering received but of suffering inflicted – dangerous memories, for they call the community to alter ancient evils. The communities of memory that tie us to the past also turn us toward the future as communities of hope. They carry a context of meaning that can allow us to connect our aspirations for ourselves and those closest to us with the aspirations of a larger whole and see our own efforts as being, in part, contributions to a common good.

  • Robert Bellah et al. from  Habits of the Heart (1985)

I came across this passage in Communities class and was struck by the way last year’s Field Notes project fit this description. (And there are still a few copies left of the collector’s edition left! If you’re interested, contact Rosie at [email protected])

SSU Field Notes cover

responding to globalization: small scale on a large scale

There is also a vast and equally important movement toward “going local.” In fact, more and more groups are recognizing that economic localization represents a systemic solution multiplier. At a fundamental level, centralized, top-heavy systems – whether they are capitalist, socialist, or communist – cannot remain democratic. Decentralizing, or localizing economic activity, from finance to industry and farming, can restore participatory democracy while simultaneously renewing the social and ecological fabric. Instead of scaling government up, localization is about scaling business down. Business and banking need to be place-based in order to allow culture and ethics to shape commerce, rather than vice versa.

Localization is not about ending trade, nor is it about acting only locally. For grassroots localization efforts to succeed and grow in the long term, they must be accompanied by policy changes at the national and international levels. Rather than thinking just in terms of isolated, scattered efforts, we must demand government policies that promote small scale on a large scale, allowing space for community-based economies to flourish and spread.

– Helen Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World (2009)

[NOTE – a UN committee agrees: check out this report that deserves much more attention.]

stepping back to see what we’ve created

[the first of three posts suggesting that we need to wake up in order to see that the current path to globalization is neither life-giving nor inevitable]:

The experience of Ladakh convinced me that the primary cause of our crises is neither human nature nor evolution, but rather a relentlessly expanding economic system that is steamrolling both people and the planet. Unfortunately, this system has grown so large that it has become difficult to recognize it as human-made: the tendency is to view it instead as some kind of irresistible evolutionary force. Only by stepping back and looking at the big picture can we discern the links between the global economic system and the problems we face. This broader view makes it clear that what we need to change is policies and human institutions, not the nature of our species or evolution. We can also see that the most effective way to alleviate a whole range of seemingly disparate symptoms – from deforestation to pollution, from poverty to ethnic conflict – is to change the dominant economy. Most important of all, countering the pressures that separate us from one another and the natural world would resonate with our deeper human needs, contributing to our well-being, to our happiness.

– Helen Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures: Lessons from the Ladakh for a Globalizing World (2009)

only the present good is good

[more from Wendell Berry, on giving up on “saving the world” and doing what is good for right now]:

Or maybe we could give up on saving the world and start to live savingly in it. If using less energy would be a good idea for the future, that is because it is a good idea. The government could enforce such a saving by rationing fuels, citing the many good reasons, as it did during World War II. If the government should do something so sensible, I would respect it much more than I do. But to wish for good sense from the government only displaces good sense into the future, where it is of no use to anybody and is soon overcome by prophecies of doom. On the contrary, so few as just one of us can save energy right now by self-control, careful thought, and remembering the lost virtue of frugality. Spending less, burning less, traveling less may be a relief. A cooler, slower life may make us happier, more present to ourselves, and to others who need us to be present. Because of such rewards, a large problem may be effectively addressed by the many small solutions that, after all, are necessary, no matter  what the government might do. The government might even do the right thing at last by imitating the people.

…. Only the present good is good. It is the presence of good – good work,good thoughts, good acts, good places – by which we know that the present does not have to be a nightmare of the future. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” because, if not at hand, it is nowhere.

– Wendell Berry, from “On Being Asked for ‘A Narrative for the Future‘” in Our Only World: Ten Essays