Saturday, June 28, 2008

Nothing Special

I've had a long time away from the keyboard. My wife occasionally complains that I neglect my family responsibilities in favour of my Buddhist interests, and there is a lot of truth in that. Not so long ago I had a thorough telling-off about the hours I spend online. Today I cleared out our garden shed, mowed the grass in the back garden, went shopping for food, cut my son's hair, and helped my wife to clear a border of weeds. A bit of good family karma there, maybe.

My wife and I discussed the situation in Zimbabwe. I am unrepentant about the views I expressed about the situation there, although I don't like the violence. The extent of the violence and intimidation of voters is hard to assess and, having lived in Africa during the "struggles" for independence, I know how the Western media can and do distort news for political ends. I heard a Sky News journalist reporting graphically "live-to-air" in Jo'burg on acts of contemporaneous intimidation of voters by Zanu-PF gangs in Harare, notwithstanding the fact that these two cities are 600 miles apart. But any violence is wrong, and to be condemned, not by me (I am not in a position to throw stones), but as a matter of principle. I should add that my wife agrees with my analysis of the Zimbabwean news, although we tend to disagree about African politics generally.

My posts have also had repercussions for me professionally, in that a few Zimbabweans have taken exception to my views on the situation in their country; moreover, I am charged with racism on the basis of self-disclosures I made some time ago about 'my racist heart', in the context of my marriage, but also - it has to be admitted -more widely. Such is life: I am happy to be judged on my actions, and if it is established that I have acted improperly in any arena out of racist motives I will take the consequences.

Our eldest son, Mwape, has gone to Berlin to visit an East German woman he met in South Africa, with whom he struck up a friendship. I am pleased he has gone to Berlin. As a teenager I had a German pen-friend who lived in that city, close by Unter Den Linden (see image above). We corresponded for a couple of years and eventually arranged for him to visit us in Birmingham. This was about ten years after the end of World War II. Horst, a couple of years my senior, had been a member of the Hitler Jugend, and we had great fun lying in our bedroom in Birmingham, with him teaching me Hitler Jugend songs which we sang together, giggling. Some of them were absolutely awful, I must admit, full of imagery of violence and despair. I have not myself visited Berlin, although I would like to do so.

I've started work on the Trust's newsletter, although I haven't made a lot of progress. The provisional title is Mustard Seed, after the parable of Kisogotami, a moving tale of a girl's enlightenment under the guidance of Gotama, from whom she was directed to seek medicine when her firstborn child died. He directed her to seek a little mustard seed from houses in the town, save that it must be obtained from a house where no-one had died. As she moved from house to house in her quest, it gradually dawned on her that in no house was death a stranger. Her eyes were opened, she buried her child in the forest and returned empty-handed but aware to the Master. A lovely tale, and fitting to our work, I think.

I have not sat in formal meditation for some weeks now. I am too weary, too sad, too...everything, and thoughts of Buddhism 'and all that' are far from me, and me from them. But I feel reassuringly at home with my sadness and weariness. I read a poem my son had fixed on his wall, and I felt a great welling-up of love and admiration for him as I read it. Here it is, by Edgar Allen Poe:


From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were — I have not seen
As others saw — I could not bring
My passions from a common spring
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone
And all I lov'd — I lov'd alone —
Then — in my childhood — in the dawn
Of a most stormy life — was drawn
From ev'ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still
From the torrent, or the fountain
From the red cliff of the mountain
From the sun that 'round me roll'd
In its autumn tint of gold
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd me flying by
From the thunder, and the storm
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view —

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