GNL number 11


A report of doings at meeting #11, Sunday, June 8, 2008
including liturgical notes, major themes, and odds and ends


A butterfly comes and stays on a leaf—
a leaf much warmed by the sun—
and shuts his wings.
In a minute he opens them, shuts them again,
half wheels round, and by and by—
just when he chooses and not before—floats away.
The flowers open, and remain open for hours, to the sun.
Hastelessness is the only word one can make up to describe it:
there is much rest, but no haste.
Each moment is so full of life
that it seems so long
and so sufficient in itself.
—Richard Jeffries


  1. Anna opened this discussion of WORDS that need a closer look, with the word “war” and she brought several different quotes from a wide range of speakers—George W. Bush, Joseph Heller, WH Auden, and Pablo Casals, so the content also ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime. These all appeared in the current issue of The Sun magazine, and we reprint them on page 2, along with a few others too strong to leave behind. (Anna also showed us from the same issue, a striking full-page photo of hers that the magazine had published!)
  2. Ann brought the word “righteous” and its relatives right and self-righteous, and this had us trying to figure out if or when righteous crossed into rigid or ought to be allowed to mean honest, upstanding, straightarrow, or maybe singing brothers from the southland. Ann also told us about another word idea she’d found on the BBC website—a 6-word autobiography, which she illustrated with one that had come to her: “Dad and i talked over coffee.” Which led to many of us remembering time with our dads (and naturally, also to our choice of topic for next time.) And at the end of the proceedings, she repeated a self-made poem called Life Garden, and this was a perfect benediction.
  3. Sue’s word was “peace”; she read a passage from a book by Rabbi Marcia Prager that pointed out the Latin root word, “pax”, means absence of war, while the Hebrew word for peace, “shalom”, refers more to completion, the perfection of God, and is often used as a blessing in greeting and farewell. And while we all wanted the absence of war, there was strong feeling among us that the peace we’re looking for is more like shalom. (The Prager reading appears on page 2.) Sue’s word also led us to recall the way the Old Testament pictured the whole human drama—the agonies and foibles as well as glories.
  4. And this led nicely into the next word. Nancy had brought a list that had been cooking for months, but the one that stepped up was “amen”, which seemed to her not just an endnote to prayers, but a way to recognize and witness something beautiful or holy, like a blooming, a kindness, or a completion,as in finding a little animal dead. Amen, Let it be so. Just so. Yes. And she thought maybe “shalom” might be even better. In this spirit, she read the poem YES by Gary Rosenthal, which follows below.
    Her other word was “respect”, which she wanted to enlarge to mean not just respect for other people, and not just for other beings, but also for things and processes, so it becomes the openness and curiosity and will to understand how something works in its context, and then cooperation with that. An example of this, the “soft hands” of any mindful act, she said, was when several of her family many years ago learned to pick wild blackberries without getting caught by those thorns.
  5. Jack responded to the words already brought , putting forward the idea of “lovingkindness” as description of peace, and antidote to war. He also raised a sharp question when we talked of amen and saying Yes, as the poem suggested, to all of life: “Should we say yes to war?”
    And we concluded our “yes” was not passive, resigned acceptance, but more the kind of recognition that truly faces a reality. Ann’s 6-word autobio touched a memory for him too, of long talking-walks with his thoughtful and learned dad (who, as Jack was later to do, also wrote about African Americans) and his father’s strong influence on him. And our conversational branch into the Old Testament also brought the grateful memory of Cynthia and Nancy for the gift from Jack in difficult times years ago, of beautiful cards in his calligraphy quoting from Psalms, which they both still cherish.
  6. Cynthia”s word was “tolerance”, and she read from a book, the #1 Ladies Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith (an African educated in Scotland) the lines: “I love all the people whom God made, but especially KNOW HOW TO LOVE the people who live in this place—they are my people, my brothers and sisters…” saying that it could be understood to imply inequality as an acceptable, workable concept. We also saw “tolerance” carried the burden of seeming to set up the tolerant as superior to the tolerated—I’m ok and right, and I’ll try to put up with you. We noted that Teaching Tolerance magazine was just about the most admirable enterprise going (and had probably chosen the name as an intermediate step that recognized where our culture was). And Cynthia showed us a beautiful poster by local artist Michael Whaling, with the message “Tolerate Dandelions”. Our consensus seemed to see tolerance in terms of remembering our kinship with all life on earth. Concluding, Cynthia reminded us next time would be CoS’s first year birthday, and she read aloud the original introduction to this wild and wonderful experiment.

Before we adjourned for the fabulous lunch, we noted that Ann’s 6 words had prompted in all of us memories with dads or grandparents, and we agreed not only to do the 6 word autobio as next topic, but to revisit at a future meeting today’s very fertile one (Son of WordImperfect?).


Life Garden:
Plant love,
Cultivate justice,
Nurture the earth,
Harvest peace.
—Ann Adams


NEXT TIME: Sunday, July 13 (1030am), at Jack Daniels’ place. Please bring a 6-word autobiography, and as always, something brunchy to share.


from Anna:

“When we’re tallking about war, we’re really talking about peace.”
—George W. Bush

“You’re immature. You’ve been unable to adjust to the idea of war,”
“Yes, sir.”
“You have a morbid aversion to dying. You probably resent the fact that you’re at war and might get your head blown off any second.”
“I more than resent it, sir. I”m absolutely incensed.”
“…Misery depresses you. Ignorance depresses you. Persecution depresses you. Violence depresses you…You know, it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re a manic depressive.”
—Joseph Heller, in Catch 22

To save your world you asked this man to die.
—WH Auden

The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?
—Pablo Casals

(and a few more from The Sun)

War, at first, is the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn’t any better off; and finally, the surprise at everyone’s beiing worse off.
—Karl Kraus

Everything in war is barbaric….But the worst barbarity of war is that it forces men collectively to commit acts against which individually they would revolt with their whole being.
—Ellen Key

If it’s natural to killl, why do men have to go into training to learn how?
—Joan Baez

Everyone knew grunts who’d gone crazy in the middle of a firefight, gone crazy on patrol, gone crazy back at camp, gone crazy on R&R, gone crazy during their first month home. Going crazy was built into the tour; the best you could hope for was that it didn’t happen around you, the kind of crazy that made men empty clips into strangers or fix grenades on latrine doors. That was really crazy; anything less was almost standard, as standard as the vague prolonged stares and involuntary smiles, common as ponchos or 16s or any other piece of war issue.

—Michael Herr

from Ann: (Excerpt from the BBC website)

Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in just 6 words and this is what he came up with:
for sale baby shoes never worn.

The BBC program, the Word, issued a similar challenge to its listeners, but for 6-word autobiographies, and here are just a few of the entries:

  • Stormy past steady changes coming out, by Akintayo Ogunsanya, Nigeria
  • Still meet kind strangers thank god, by Bharat Khiani, India
  • Born blind radio eyes see world, by Robert Flood, Texas
  • Alone love it and hate it, by Joe Goss, Boston
  • Sad childhood an optimist for life, by Ann Mallinson, New Zealand

from Sue:

The word “peace” enters English through the Lain pax. This “pax” was a much-touted goal of the Roman Empire: the Pax Romana, the “Roman Peace.” But this was a peace achieved through conquest. When all the “barbarian” rebel peoples who resisted being conquered and all the fit-only-to-be-colonized peoples were subdued, the Roman victory brought “peace.” Pax means the extinguishing of conflict, the absence of hostility. This military derivation of the word “peace” is demonstrated by our agreement that the opposite of “peace” is war.

The Hebrew word shalom bears astonishingly little resemblance to this “peace.” As we have seen, in order to understand a Hebrew word we must look at the letters of its root, the three-letter core of consonants that is the word’s source. In ShaLoM they are SH-L-M or the Hebrew letters Shin Lamed Mem. This root conveys the meanings of wholeness, completeness, fulfillment and perfection.

The word shalom expresses the profound contentment we experience as inner peace. when I greet you with “shalom” I am not merely saying “hello’ or “goodbye.” I am offering you my hope and desire that you should experience the bliss of wholeness, fulfillment, completeness, and perfection, that you should know true inner peace.

~Rabbi Marcia Prager, The Path of Blessing—Experiencing the Energy and Abundance of the Divine, Jewish Lights Publishing, 2003, 72-3

from Nancy:


Like a vast and gracious Host, welcome
and say “yes” to this,
“yes” to this and “yes”
to every this.
Your true life arrives constantly
when you’ve set up your little shop
at the intersection of Now and Yes.
Reognize all things as Emissaries
and Manifestations of a greater and mysterious Will
and all that is as a form of support
(though what is being supported may not be your ego).
When you welcome each present moment
unendingly, time ceases, and you yourself
become part of It, the Divine Presence.
This Presence is subtle and buoyant,
and supports your awareness effortlessly,
the way water holds up a boat.
So let your awareness be vast and inclusive
as if the whole world is taking place
inside your mind. Hear everything,
see everything, feel everything
with this simple greeting on your lips–
—Gary Rosenthal


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