It isn’t the noise in the streets
that keep us from resting, my friend,
nor is it the shouts of the young people
coming out drunk from “St Paul’s” bar…
This comes from the first stanza of Julia Esquivel’s poem “They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection”. I came across this poem today whilst reading “The Active Life” by Parker J. Palmer (highly recommended).
My first reaction to this stanza was to disagree and laugh. Four nights in a row some teenagers in a house with parents on holiday have been partying away as late (or should I say as early) as 4am. One night I could understand. But four nights in a row is a little excessive! Therefore I have not been sleeping very well as I have been disturbed. I have been kept from resting because of the drunk and shouting young people.
But then I moved onto the second stanza…
There is something here within us
which doesn’t let us sleep,
which doesn’t let us rest,
which doesn’t stop pounding
it is the silent, warm weeping
of Indian women without their husbands,
it is the sad gaze of the children
fixed there beyond memory,
in the very pupil of our eyes
which during sleep,
though closed, keep watch
with each contraction
of the heart,
in every awakening.
And I came to understand as I read on what Julia Esquivel was really getting at. And again I am reminded of how blessed I am.
To throw some numbers at you for a minute, did you know that America makes up just 6% of the world’s population, yet has a third of the world’s resources to itself? I don’t expect England (where I live) to be an awful lot better.
Palmer, an American Quaker, writes:
The quality of our active lives depends heavily on whether we assume a world of scarcity or a world of abundance… many of us, and our institutions, have chosen the scarcity assumption… How else can you explain the fact that our country so fearfully clings to its habit of overcoming the world’s resources, as if letting other people have a fair share would mean national suicide? At every level of our lives the assumption of scarcity, not abundance, threatens to deform our attitudes and our actions.
Palmer speaks of the assumptions of scarcity or abundance of food, and reminds us that we have more than enough to feed one another and need to persuade ourselves and one another to face that we can save lives if only we are willing to work together and let go of a few luxuries.
For many of us, the life we need to lose is life lived in the image of the autonomous self, and the life we shall then find is that of the self embedded in community – a community that connects us not only to other people but to the natural world as well.
Dear reader – brother, sister – we are one community. May we live the ‘Active Life’? May the world find rest?
I have no answers to give. I cannot say what it is that I or anyone should do to bring peace to our broken world. But perhaps, in spreading this vision of hope, of love for the wider community, I, we, can make a difference.
Now, the noise outside my house has been a pretty big nuisance. And yet…