Travel

“Open your heart,” he said, at the same time using both hands to pull from the center of his chest – as if pulling ribs to expose – to “open” his heart. I watch unmoved by the words and gesticulated reminder of Hanuman – mythological Hindu deity who rips his chest open to reveal Lord Krishna seated in the mystical heart.

Smiling now, he does it again while repeating his words. Hands posed as if gripping, pulling. Ribs parting, tearing flesh, bending bones. Intention without reservation. “Just open your heart!”

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New York City, the intersection of Greenwich and Liberty. We’d just walked through the Twin Tower Memorial. The recessed fountains, rimmed as they are with brass – engraved with the names of the dead. Water, ever flowing. Down and down again.

Years have passed. That bitter ache no longer rises. Something of a milestone. Here of all places, I thought. Yes, time had done that thing that time does – making hard things easier. I felt it, yes – body memory moved things inside. But the intensity has faded. I wasn’t there… could count, with just a few fingers, the times I’d been in the city. I knew no one who had died. Still, there was all that emotion – we all felt it, all had things to say, and we said them – repeated them again and again. Like most of us, I was nowhere near when the towers fell. Still, like so many others, I took it personally.

Then I turned it off. I was tired of feeling it. All I might think I had to say was foolish and shallow by any comparison to the experience of others.

Yes, national pride, national sorrow. Shared anger – all that stuff. Still, not long after, I was making an effort to avoid any mention of the event. There was nothing I could do, and it felt horrible. I shut it down, turned it all off. Whether from some weakness or self-protective stance in the face of overwhelming feelings, I allowed myself to think only so far – as far as it took to wonder how long. “How long until these ugly emotions begin to fade?”

I guess it took about fourteen years. This was the first time I’d come to see and remember. Max, Karen and I walked around all of it, looking at the new building and the memorial to the old ones. Sure I felt something, an ache welled up, as if looking for a way out of me. But it was so contained, minimal by comparison. So, fourteen years. I guess that’s about how long it took.

We were walking away when I saw Fire Station No. 10. It’s location, the proximity. The implications snagged the edges of…

“Oh shit.”
“So close.”
“Too close!”

I tried to walk past, actually made it another thirty steps before stopping to look back. Two fire guys stood talking where the big bay doors met the sidewalk. Cutting across the street, they watched as I approached. Another out-of-town’er. Sorry, I thought, but here I come. No telling – no way to count how many times they’d had to talk with people like me.

“Was this station here then?” My first words – hoping they would say no.

“Ya, right here. Always have been,” The implication unmistakeable. “Have been.” As in, “We.”

Just like that – just those few words were all that were necessary. The whole story. End of story.

I felt, saw my hand rise involuntarily – an attempt to shield my mind from horror, our eyes meeting for only a moment before my head bowed. It all came back. But through their eyes, their memories and emotions. I turned almost immediately and walked away. A dozen questions had flashed to mind, but I wasn’t going to ask them. “I’m sorry,” rose in my throat but never made it past my lips.

Was I sorry? As sorry as they were? Not a chance. Feeling like a fool, I turned and walked away.

“Thanks.” Just a few steps into my retreat I heard one of them say it. “Thanks,” or, “Thank you.”

Thanking me for what? I’ll never know for sure. Maybe it was rhetorical. “Thank you, you ass-hole, for not caring enough to ask after our dead friends!” No, that was just my projection – me feeling so small in the face of the facts.

“Thank you,” one of them had said. I think what he really meant was, “Thank you for not asking those questions. The ones we have to answer a hundred times every day. The ones we have to hide our hearts from because the answers stare us in the face. Right there. Right across the street.”

Ya… it was a national tragedy. Yes, what we felt in every town, in every state – what we felt was genuine.

But there at the corner of Greenwich and Liberty streets in lower Manhattan, it was personal.

“Hey, you two, I’m – I really am sorry!”

I can say it this way – write it here. I didn’t feel like I had the right to say it to their faces. By comparison, I had no idea what sorry really meant.

 

#911 #WorldTradeCenter #NewYorkCity #FireStationNo.10

HERITAGE – An Award Winning, Cinematic Short – Written and Directed by Davy McCall
A Review and Commentary.

It’ short – short like a knife. Yet, seventeen minutes tell the story of countless generations. The story of a family divided by their misdeeds. One family – now two distinct cultures, and still together – bound to each other by conflict. In seventeen minutes, Heritage tells the story of two men – each driven to violence by acts of violence. McCall uses a mixture of his characters individual experience and collective, cultural history of loss to bring two men and the audience to a startling realization – one that changes everything. It’s an understanding that could reconcile bitter enemies. However, this realization is fragile, easily subverted by anyone with anything to gain from violence – those who hide themselves and silence their enemies with guns and knives. Continue Reading

( #TheOracle March 18, 2015 ) – Among the selections, many who attended this years Sedona, International Film Festival sat in on multiple screening of Rooted In Peace. In this award winning, energetic quest for answers, filmmaker Greg Reitman takes viewers on a journey, crisscrossing the world and into the presence of notables, Deepak Chopra, and Desmond Tutu. Viewers hear the words and music of, Pete Seeger, Donovan, and Beach Boy, singer, songwriter, Mike Love. These and more share the experience of their lives as it applies to the central question: Peace – why is it so illusive? What will bring peace to our increasingly un-peaceful world? Also introduced to viewers is Britta, woman of personal interest to Greg. Soon the two are married and life goes on. Continue Reading

I posted a video  on Facebook yesterday – As a defense of Israel, it was satisfying in its clarity – explaining the current situation in a way that made it impossible to misunderstand Israels actions this past two weeks – these most current hostilities as they relate to recent history and serve as predictors of the future. However complicated the ultimate solution may be – however long that region of the world may have to wait for a durable peace – Israel holds the moral high ground and with it, justification for whatever may need to be done to preserve sovereignty and protect it’s citizens. Good guys and bad guys. Black and white. At a time when so little is clear, I found satisfaction in this video’s and my own conclusion that Israel was fighting the good fight. However many Palestinians might die that night, the Israeli army are the good guys. They were my team! I slept well. Continue Reading

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day. Couples, hopeful suitors, friends and family members are professing and accepting expressions of love. In each case love means something different.

There is so much packed into the word, the practice and the concept of love that we’ll never begin to see anything close to its meaning if we don’t take it out beyond our everyday, human sized understanding. In a previous article posted here and titled “Loves Got a Hold on You!, Love was seen to be, not just universal. Possibly much more startling, the idea was introduced that it is a Universe pervading, fifth force like gravity, responsible for self organization of the material and living worlds. So let’s look from a place approximating that altitude again.

Love most often shows up in one of two ways. Comparing them will help us see both what is confusing as well as the best of love as our heart and understanding matures. Continue Reading

“I told the witch doctor, I was in love with you. The Witch Doctor told me – he told me what to do. Ooh eeh, ooh ah, ah.

David Seville. Witch Doctor. “Ting tang, walla walla, bing bang? Takes you right back, doesn’t it! But that’s just a pop song.

Then there’s Malidome Patrice Some’, a West African man, kidnapped by French missionaries as a child and later returned to his family where he is re-initiated into tribal society. In his book, Malidome tells the story of being catapulted into another world – like the other side of Alice’s looking glass. One moment he’s dancing with the other men on hard ground. Next, it’s his turn to jump through a hole between two animal skins held by the village Shaman and wham! He’s falling through space. It’s completely dark except for a lattice work of light beams. Without being told anything, Malidome knows that he must grab and hold onto a strand of light or continue falling – forever lost to the “real world”. Ding, dang! Major, “bing bang!” Jumping through an inter-dimensional portal? Latticework’s of light where just a moment ago his pals were standing? Continue Reading

A recent trip to Israel generated the following account of a day in the Holy Land – not so unlike any other land. Not unlike most other days filled with random acts of chaos.

… Just reaching out from warm, sunny Israel with all its blooming flowers. I drove down to the Dead Sea yesterday afternoon. Down in that lowest spot on earth I thought to myself… “The Dead Sea might really be dead and you’d never know for sure because it’s preserved by all that salt. ” I never thought of it quite like that before!

After driving south a few more miles I took a right turn up over the mountains into the Negev Desert, following signs to Dimona. That’s the secret place where they do secret things like making and storing atom bombs. Guess it’s not a secret anymore. But the multiple, “DO NOT STOP,” signs suggest that they don’t want you to see anything. That would make something secret – right? As requested, I did not stop and as the signs also commanded, I did not take pictures – no camera with me anyway. But I think some lenses may have been focused in my direction. Keeping this in mind, I was careful not to touch my nose in a potentially embarrassing way. Continue Reading

Wales is a country – an independent jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. The Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea wash its Western border, with England as it’s neighbor to the East. No. 4 Cefn, Gethynog, Talybont on Usk, Brecon, Powys, Wales. This was the address of friends I had come to visit. Having driven from London that morning and crossed the wide channel at Bristol, I followed signs for the town of Brecon. With each mile I was weaving my way deeper into the heart of an ancient land. “Ancient,” is a flexible word. Some places were the location of significant historical events – ancient history. Wales has a history so ancient that it has outstripped our ability to remember. The roads I drove and towns I passed through were rooted in  this prehistory. In spite of mankind’s inability to preserve a record, there is a memory in the land that still speaks – still influences the land and Welshmen of today. Continue Reading

Late afternoon, early evening. Daylight is fading. Lights that illuminate the Wailing Wall push back the growing dark. The Wall, though emmence, is only a one hundred eighty-seven-foot section of the western side of the ancient wall that rings the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount, center of attention in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Old City roughly centered in modern Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the heart center of Israel. Centers within centers. Chambers of the heart of Judaism. A priceless jewel in the eye of Muslims. A touchstone to Christianity and an often, irritating mystery to the rest of the world.

The Temple Mount – site of three temples – the first, built by Jewish, King Solomon. The second by the Roman appointee, Herod. And a third temple, so far existing only in the minds of Jews, Christians, and fearful hearts of Muslims.

Walking here from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Jane and I had descended a long series of stairs, passing through a security check point as we reached the plaza below. The plaza, a stone paved expanse built to accommodate crowds exceeding one hundred thousand – the immense crowds that gather on holidays – holy days. It stretches out and away from the Wall at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. At its North West corner, a waist-high retainer of stone blocks bisects the edge of the plaza preventing falls to the prayer floor, two meters below. The prayer floor, paved with white marble, stretches the full length and thirty meters back from the actual Wall. Capped with an angle cut stone lip, the retaining wall is comfortable to lean against as many do, content to watch the ever-shifting spectacle. Wherever you were in the world that night, if you’re Jewish your attention was on this place – this gathering. Attention and intention are key words. I was about to learn something but not nearly all there is to understand of their significance. Arriving early, Jane and I had this front row view as the spectacle unfolded around us – perfect for events that would mark the evening and set a further progression of events in motion.

The year was 2000 – Y2K. The lights hadn’t gone out. Even so – the world was a darker place. These first High Holy Days of the new millennium had already been stained, just the day before, when PM candidate, Ariel Sharon had walked up and into the Temple Mount. A thousand or more Muslims went crazy, claiming Sharon’s presence as justification for more riots – the second intifada. After Sharon’s visit, unsuspecting worshipers standing at the prayer wall below had been showered with fist size stones thrown by Muslims gathered on the temple grounds, above. Large numbers of police and military units had been brought in to discourage further attacks. Still, there was no guarantee of safety. The blood of those injured the day before – lots of blood – was visible where it had run and pooled, drying between the paving stones. Despite these tensions, Jerusalem’s largest gathering of the year swirled around us, growing as night fell. What had happened could not keep the faithful from gathering to pray.

Jane and I were there to witness the Jewish world’s most important day of the year at its epicenter. Having done a little research, it was not by chance that we’d come early enough to be standing at the front. From here we had an unobstructed view of a thousand or more men as they milled about, raising a din as the talked and prayed. Behind us, tens of thousands more had already streamed into the large plaza. A relative few, going directly to the prayer floor fronting the wall, while others were content stand back, to carry on their own conversations or quietly honor the occasion as suited them.

According to Jewish tradition each new day begins at sundown, making that evening the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is the one day in the Jewish calendar given over to confession and forgiveness of sins, to enter the new year absolved of guilt for the previous year’s mistakes.

I had drifted. Moving farther to the left, away from my friend, alternately standing and leaning, watching the activity in front of me. More than just watching I was thinking how unfortunate it was, all these men so anxiously pleading, pledging repentance and praying again. Each one, earnestly attempting to ensure that he had brought everything to account. I was thinking that Christians had a better way. One died for the sins of all, and if these guys could just see this they could all walk away free. The Christian alternative, as I saw it, was tidier – much more economical. All my Christian understanding stood with me, leaning comfortably against the retaining wall – a wall of stone and one of belief separated me from all those sincere but misguided Jewish men.

Without warning, a loud voice broke through my thought – the voice seeming to come from a very big, very tall man standing directly behind of me. With no warning, no preceding twinge of conscience, these hard words, were spoken, sharp with disapproval and delivered with absolute authority.

“STOP! STOP JUDGING! YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT THIS IS ABOUT!

The voice cut through the noise of the crowd, several hundred people standing so close that movement was difficult. Turning, I looked behind, expecting to see a massive man scowling down at me. There was no one out of the ordinary. As loud as the commands had been, apparently, I was the only one who had heard them. Hearing voices is schizophrenia territory, but I knew what I’d heard, knew that they had been directed at me. Validated beyond logic, a I knew that a powerful, unseen individual was aware of not pleased by my thoughts. Reacting in a way I would have never expected, in the moments after the initial shock I felt a kind of thrill, call it the gratification of infamy. From experience I can tell you that a message from a divine source, even a harsh rebuke such as this can make you feel really good if you take it the right way. Or maybe I just in shock.

Below, the action was intense as larger numbers crowded onto the prayer floor. Men stood everywhere, all with their heads covered. Some wearing wide brimmed streimals and fedoras – others, a simple knitted kippa or their complimentary, paper equivalent for tourists. Many had gleaming white prayer shawls around their shoulders which could be pulled up over their heads to form a tent under which they met privately with God. Alone or in small groups men prayed, leaning against the wall or back some distance around tables full of prayer books, all bowing from the waist rhythmically, repeatedly, the style unique to Jewish prayer.

Shaken but excited by what had happened, I jostled my way back. Jane was standing where I’d left her, watching the sea of people. Having just managed to make it to where she stood, there was no time to say anything before the Divine hand reached out to grab me one more time. Standing below and at least twenty feet away, one among many rabbis stood surrounded by a dozen men that he was leading. Without explanation this man turned and looked up, searching faces and pointing his finger as if to sort one from another until his attention fixed on me. Shouting over the din, he looked me in the eye and asked, “Do you know what we are doing?”

It was a freeze frame moment. Feeling completely hollow and exposed, I was still literally vibrating from the power of the voice that had just shouted me down, foretelling the answer to this Rabbi’s question.

“No, I… I guess I don’t,” I stammered.

In response, his arm still raised and finger pointing for emphasis, he began to explain the activities and significance of that night. I tried to listen but was not catching it all. By my clothing and answers to his questions I was clearly not Jewish. So, forget the disembodied voice that had just scalded my ears, the Rabbi’s behavior made no sense. That on this of all nights he would turn from the men he was leading, turn and pick me from a group of thousands for an impromptu lecture? It got even stranger.

Seeing that I was not tracking, he said, “Wait a minute, I’ll come up there.” It took full five minutes for him to push his way through all the people. First, back toward the wall, then over to the exit ramp, circling up and around, he edged his way through to where we stood and continued speaking.

“As we pray here tonight, he said, we are opening a hole in the heavens – a channel, connecting earth and heaven, a connection for all people, people all around the world.” He said. There was more, much more. After a few minutes another man in an expensive black suit and wide flat brimmed hat had joined him. One on one side, one on the other, they tag teamed – each picking up the narrative if the other so much as paused. I was too overwhelmed to pay attention; I remember little of what was said.

What was is that I had been spoken to by a disembodied voice telling me that I did not know what I thought I knew – telling me that I was wrong to imagine that my views were correct or that they encompassed the whole of spiritual truth. And I was most wrong to have held a condescending attitude from which I looked down on these men. Their love of God, even more, their single-minded devotion overrode any difference of doctrine.

Their words tiring and I soon heard the limitation of the ideas they expressed. Condescension for other faiths leaked through – an indication that they were making the same mistake as I. Realizing that they were the tool of the “Voice,” I listened respectfully, but was really just waiting for them to finish. What they said was not as important as the fact that they had been placed in front of me to reinforce the evenings real message. I had been told to suspend my judgements. The Voice had implied that what any of us thought we knew was partial; at best, only a small part of what was happening around us, and probably beyond the understanding of us all.

What happened that night drove home the point I now see – the fact that we all fell short when confronted by divine authority. At the end of the day, none of us were being transported beyond mortality like Enoch or leading with the authority and miraculous power entrusted to Moses. Individuals who, following instructions, had truly put on the mind of Christ should stand out as clearly as night fire on a hilltop. Scanning the horizon, I saw no one.