Friday, February 16, 2007

Numb Parts Coming Back to Life

I woke up one morning a few weeks ago to find that my left arm was completely numb. I couldn't use it to hoist myself up to a seated position. In fact, I had to use my right arm to bring it around and place it on my lap. The phrase "dead weight" took on a personal meaning that morning. Strangely unafraid, I sat on my bed and waited.

Within seconds I felt the blood begin to flow from my shoulder down my triceps and biceps, down into my forearm, and reach the end of my fingers. Strength was restored. Usefulness was restored. Energy. Life.

Last week, I began a book by Alice Walker entitled, We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For. It is a book of speeches and essays delivered and written in the past five years or so about the state of our world. The horrors of war, poverty, racism, hunger, and the injustice that permeates our society and our world find their way into this volume. She writes about our environment, the animals that walk the earth, and the rich bounty of food that the earth provides to all of us on a daily and yearly basis. She writes of the power of prayer, of meditation, and of action. As I sit at the kitchen table reading it little by little everyday, while eating salad, drinking tea, and enjoying the quiet sunlit afternoons in South Charlotte, I feel the blood flow back into the activist part of me, that part that has become numbed by all the dismal statistics and seemingly endless tales of abuse, murder, war, bombings, shootings, gun rampages in malls and schools.

Alice Walker describes it this way: "There is a pit of loneliness, so widespread in this postmodern world; the pit of violence, in which our children are slowly drowning; the pit of fear, as we realize how trapped we are in our cities, our towns and our streets, and even in the countryside, where men seem now to be almost always armed, and women know in our bones that we are never safe."

Who are we kidding? I wonder. We may not have car bombs or suicide bombers like Iraq and Israel do, but the citizens of this country have easier access to arms than those of nearly any other country on the planet. After all, it is our inalienable right to bear arms. It is our right to purchase them and load them. It is our right to enter public facilities without being inspected for those weapons. It is the right of admittedly violent groups of people to buy guns and "protect themselves" against those who live in our country, clean up after us, build McMansions for us, but are not allowed to become citizens of this nation. It is also our right to die while standing outside the Gap at the mall looking at the mannekins in their tight jeans and bare midriffs.

Why are there signs around Charlotte that inform us that concealed weapons are not permitted in various places? Why do such signs need to exist?

Why are there emails going around the internet warning of the horrific ways in which parking lots, supermarkets, office buildings, and shopping malls are becoming ever more dangerous for women and children? Some of the internet accounts are "hoaxes," but the rapes, robberies, car-jackings and killings that occur in all of those locations are no hoax. Why do such emails need to exist?

Why do I refuse to walk my dog alone at night? Why do I refuse to allow Kristiana and Daniel go anywhere alone after dark, even just up the street to a neighbor's house? Why does my heart skip a beat and I say a quick prayer every time I see a woman jogging alone with her iPod earphones in place? Why is it that I know that when my children are adults, the world will undoubtedly be safer for Daniel to be alone anywhere at anytime than for Kristiana?

Yes, the part of me that used to surge with outrage about violence, about the needlessness of it, the way in which we excuse it and justify it, that part of me is coming back to life. What I wonder is what I will do with this lifeblood, this energy that has found its way back to my fingertips, back to the keyboard, and here to my blog.

Fortunately there is more surging in me at the moment than merely rage about the pit of loneliness, violence, and fear that our world seems to be teetering over at the moment. I offer my thanks to God and to Alice Walker for reminding me that prayer is key to overcoming the rage that comes with anger at injustice. Prayer is not the only response, of course, but it certainly ought to be the first one.

Later in the book, she tells the story of a man born to a slave woman in the South and whose father was also his mother's owner. (Even writing that sentence makes me want to scream.) The slaveowner and some of his violent friends killed the son one night because "his horse and saddle were too fine." Killed his own son.

Certainly that is an awful story. But the best response is not to carry out an act of violence against the father and his friends. Nor is it a good idea to hate them for their cowardly act. The best response is prayer.

Again, Walker's words:
Let us bring our attention to the life of our young brother,
our murdered ancestor, George Slaughter.

May you be free
May you be happy
May you be at peace
May you be at rest
May you know we remember you

Let us bring our attention to George's mother.
She who came, weeping, and picked up the shattered pieces of her child,
as black mothers have done for so long.

May you be free
May you be happy
May you be at peace
May you be at rest
May you know that we remember you

Let us bring our attention to George's father.
He who trails the murder of his lovely boy
throughout what remains of time.

May you be free...

Let us bring our attention to those who rode with the father,
whose silence and whose violence caused so much suffering
that continues in the world today.

May you be free...

I continue that prayer for those who verbally, mentally, physically, sexually, emotionally abuse those that they consider to be weaker than themselves.

For those who themselves are abused, neglected, hated, feared, and belittled.

For those who perpetuate violence, justify it, excuse it, and support it through our action and our inaction.

For those who are forced to carry out acts of violence in the name of someone else, on behalf of someone else, who fear for their own lives daily for the sake of causes, religions, peoples, and government systems they do not know, understand, nor gain any benefit from.

For the countless mothers of every race who pick up the shattered pieces of their murdered children. For the children who pick of the pieces of shattered siblings and parents.

For the fathers and husbands and brothers, often abused and violated as children themselves, who are so often the perpetrators of the shattering.

For hungry, thirsty, ill, pained, fearful, angry, lonely, indebted, obligated, disempowered, disenfranchised, homeless, landlocked, despairing people everywhere.

For the healthy, wealthy, strong, solvent, happy, joy-filled, laughing, satisfied, and contented ones as well.

May you be free
May you be happy
May you be at peace
May you be at rest
May you know that we remember you

May we be forgiven.
May we forgive others.
May we be loved.
May we love.
May we be known.
May we know.
May we be filled.
May we fill others.
May we be spoken to with truth and in love.
May we speak the truth in love.
May we not be silent when we ought to speak up.
May we not silence others - even when they disagree with us.

May you never be numb again.
May I never be numb again.
May none of us ever be numb again.

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