Cumulative Days Riding: 168 Cumulative Days Blogging: 153
Today’s Mileage: 4 Total Trip Mileage: 1124
I dictated this blog earlier in the day, as I walked along a river at a spot I have visited a dozen of times in the past. I’ve conversed with nature, walked on the rocks, watched the geese and strolled past the other park visitors. It is a beautiful spring day and I decided to enjoy it. As a Taoist all I need is natural surroundings, the sounds of nature, open air, waters is always nice, whether its rain, a rushing river, or a calm pool. This place has often inspired poetic words, and today was no different, but I will save those for a later day.
I had not planned on stopping here as I headed to the University this morning. We are heading into that last sprint to the end of the semester. In my Psychology of Religion class I spent too long on the Eastern Faiths so I will have to compress monotheism into a single lecture. But then I prefer for my students to explore new territories and discover new ideas rather than review that which they already know.
Earlier I had a break from my class and sat in the commons area. On a rack next to one of the history professors door was a stack of magazines and journals. I opened one to an article entitled “Contested Histories.” The author spoke of the challenge of understanding historical events that have different meaning for the opposite sides of the event. Northerners (Yankees) have a very different take on the American Civil War than Southerners (Rebels). Even in the south there are two “contested histories!” If your distant relatives were slaves the war can be seen as a war of liberation and freedom, if your distant relatives fought for the confederacy it is often portrayed as a war for state’s rights or a war against northern aggression! The historian in his article mentioned the date of 1915 and events that took place in eastern Turkey as the Ottoman Empire was engaged in a desperate struggle for its survival during World War 1. A large proportion of the Armenian population died or was displaced from their homes. The Turkish perspective says this was the result of a civil war in which the Armenians were active participants; the Armenians perspective sees active government sponsored “genocide” to remove their culture and communities from eastern Anatolia. Who is right and who is wrong? Does one view win out over another? Will both sides simply cling to their position, as “the truth” might represent a “blow” to their national identity or necessitate embracing a shared sense of guilt?
When I listen to talk radio or watch Tea Party activities on TV I wonder if it matters whether their positions hold any historical truth. Wasn’t the original Tea party about taxations without representation? Don’t we have representation? Is the “real issue” the fact that some people just don’t agree with the votes and the laws that follow. While they like to call themselves “true patriots” some might just call them “sour losers!”
The author of the article on “Contested Histories” concluded by quoting another historian, Milan Kundera, that: “The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy and repaint it.” I could not disagree more! I believe the old proverb: The past is history, the future a mystery, the present is a gift!
We need to face what is right in front of us at this moment! We need to face forward into a future of possibilities. If we focus entirely to the “baggage” which humanity continues to drag along, arguing over “contested histories” our future will slip by and we will likely repeat the same old mistakes. The future will hold only ugly surprises and sadness at missed opportunities!As therapists we know of the importance of the past in understanding the forces that shaped us, we know the power of the past when a patient (or community) carries it into the present. However, the challenge of changing to meet current and present demands must be faced in the “here-and-now.” It must be faced not by people long dead and gone, who fought old wars, but from those of us who draw breaths and look for meaning in the present. The challenge is to find common ground and move forward, not to rehash “conflicting histories,” not to find that which divides us but that which brings us together.
I challenge believers of all faiths to look to your sacred scriptures not for words of division and self-righteousness, but for words of healing and compassion. Focusing on the past (e.g., old wars, old battle flags, old slogans) is more a part of our problem than part of our solution. I suggest that after you search your sacred scriptures you look into the faces of children whose skin is not the color of your own. Look into the eyes of the elderly who do not speak your language. Look to the sky, the earth, and the waters at the tortured landscapes we have created. In each of these four places look for that which connects us to one another instead of that which divides us.
Don’t close your fists tightly about your possessions, open your hands and share with others. Don’t draw some barrier line around your “place,” invite others into your space to stand at your side. As President Obama has shown us, do not be afraid to make eye contact, to extend a hand, and speak in whispers to friend and foe alike. For only then will we take the risk and step up to move forward toward the possibilities of the future!
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