On this day in 1941, Virginia Woolf committed suicide by drowning in the river behind her house. She was feeling the return of massive depression. She wrote a love letter/suicide note to her husband. Her writing was often controversial and, so it might be expected, that even her suicide note would be misquoted, misinterpreted and misjudged.
Today’s senryu: Those vs. These Terrible Times
life can be cruel
inside and outside our mind
stop judging – be kind
There’s an excellent piece by Maria Popova on The Marginalian website that provides an explanation of how “self-righteousness is the enemy of compassion.” And, as might be expected, the “self-righteous” ones include so called “Christians” and “journalists.” This piece also recommends the book, Afterwords – Letters on the Death of Virginia Woolf, edited by Sybil Oldfield, (c) 2005, Rutgers University Press
In her book When Society Becomes an Addict (c) 1987, author Anne Wilson Schaef, writes, “any addictive system is contagious, and those who live within it become infected with the disease sooner or later. The dynamics and patterns are the same for those infected as they are for the alcoholic.” p.12
Schaef continues, “it is rare for a person to have only one addiction. Instead, the addictive person, or the individual operating within the addictive system, usually has multiple addictions. These work to trap the person in the Addictive System. … I am talking about a whole system that has such elements as confused, alcoholic thinking (‘stinkin’ thinkin’), dishonesty, self-centeredness, dependency, and the need for control at its core. Individuals functioning within an addictive system exhibit these characteristics even when they are not personally abusing drink or drugs. … the primary addictions in the Addictive System are the addictions to powerlessness and nonliving, and that all secondary addictions lead to these two primary addictions” p.13 – 16
With thanks to Sister Joan Chittister, I am reminded of the life and legacy of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948).
January 30:Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian teacher of nonviolence, died on this day in 1948. One of the greatest pacifists of all time, in 1948 Gandhi was himself assassinated by religious conservatives who promoted the political division he sought to overcome. It would seem that Gandhi failed. Yet, multitudes around the world, including Martin Luther King, Jr., have followed his tenets. To allow your own life to seed another’s, is fruit enough to last a lifetime. —from A Monastery Almanac by Joan Chittister
Sister Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB November 29, 1941 ─ January 6, 2023
“Sister Mary Lou published several books of poetry as well as chapbooks of prayers and poems. Her writing appeared in National Catholic Reporter, Sojourners, Commonweal, and others. She compiled and edited numerous books during her time at Pax Christi and later for other publishers including Orbis Books … Her book Between Two Souls: Conversations with Ryokan (Eerdmans) won a first place Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) in 2005.” https://eriebenedictines.org/story/memoriam-sister-mary-lou-kownacki-osb
“Of the hundreds of poems that Sister Mary Lou wrote, this one, published in her 2004 book, Between Two Souls, seems especially relevant now.
A Friend’s Funeral
She never gave in to weakness The eulogist said. And I prayed my mourners Would hear a friend who preached: She gave in to every weakness, All commandments broken with abandon, All vows stretched to the altar rail and Pushed through the pews. In this way She immersed herself in the human condition. Weakness was her strongest virtue. —Mary Lou Kownacki“
from this week’s Vision and Viewpoint e-newsletter from Joan Chittister.
Here is my humble senryu in response: I Wish We’d Met Sooner
Change is difficult, for us and for the collective. Unfortunately, when we make progress, it’s easy to assume that it will continue without our continued effort. No, we must not give up. Our efforts to sustain the progress is needed today and everyday going forward. It takes all of us to make a Beloved Community.
Today’s senryu: Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Richard Rohr describes how speaking truth to power is an essential part of the prophet’s mission:
One of the gifts of the prophets is that they evoke a crisis where one did not appear to exist before their truth-telling. In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr.was blamed for creating violence—but those who had eyes to see and were ready to hear recognized, “My God, the violence was already there!” Structural violence was inherent in the system, but it was denied and disguised. No one was willing to talk about it. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and others said, “We’re going to talk about it.”
Prophets always talk about the untalkable and open a huge new area of “talkability.” For those who are willing to go there, it helps us see what we didn’t know how to see until they helped us to see it. That’s how we begin to recognize a prophet—there is this widening of seeing, this deepening of a truth that was always there.
Prophets generate a crisis, so it’s almost understandable why they’re usually called troublemakers and so often killed. They generate the crisis because while everybody else is saying the emperor is beautifully clothed, they are willing to say, “No, he’s naked.” We’re not supposed to say that the emperor has no clothes!
It’s the nature of culture to have its agreed-upon lies. Culture holds itself together by projecting its shadow side elsewhere. That’s called the “scapegoat mechanism.” René Girard, Gil Bailie, and others have pointed out that the scapegoat mechanism is the subtext of the entire biblical revelation. It’s the tendency to export our evil elsewhere and to hate it there, and therefore to remain in splendid delusion. If there isn’t a willingness to be critical of our country, our institution, and ourselves, we certainly can’t be prophets. 
When the prophet is missing from the story, the shadow side of things is always out of control, as in much of the world today, where we do not honor wisdom or truth.
It seems the prophet’s job is first to deconstruct current illusions, which is the status quo, and then reconstruct on a new and honest foundation. That is why the prophet is never popular with the comfortable or with those in power. Only a holy few have any patience with the deconstruction of egos and institutions.
The prophets are “radical” teachers in the truest sense of the word. The Latin radix means root, and the prophets go to the root causes and root vices and “root” them out! Their educational method is to expose and accuse with no holds barred. Ministers and religion in general tend to concentrate on effects and symptoms, usually a mopping up exercise after the fact. As someone once put it, we throw life preservers to people drowning in the swollen stream, which is all well and good—but prophets work far upstream to find out why the stream is swollen in the first place. 
 Adapted from Joan Chittister and Richard Rohr, Prophets Then, Prophets Now (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2006). Available as MP3 download.
Thirty-three years ago today, Irish playwright, novelist and poet, Samuel Beckett died. He was 83.
“One of the most influential and widely-discussed avant-garde writers of the 20th century. His most famous plays, “Waiting for Godot”, “Endgame” and “Happy Days”, display his absurdist, anti-realist traditions. https://www.onthisday.com/people/samuel-beckett
“NATIONAL JOY DAY is marked on December 7 every year as a day to appreciate all the people named Joy around the world. Joy is a popular name that means ‘happiness’ or ‘joyful.’
Joy is the English word that is used to describe extreme happiness or elevated pleasure. It is a synonym of words such as ‘delight,’ ‘elation,’ and ‘bliss.’ In the Middle Ages, English took the word from the Norman-French word ‘joie,’ meaning ‘delight’ or ‘gladness.’
Joy is considered a sweet name that conveys the emotions and values of the child’s parents. It is a virtue name, just like Grace, Faith, and Hope. Joy has an obviously positive meaning. Many people prefer it as a middle name instead of a first name because Joy is such a simple, obvious, one-syllable name. With the name Joy, a child is believed to be destined for happiness.” https://nationaltoday.com/national-joy-day/
Sometimes we have to speak a word before we feel it. Sometimes we have to ease into a smile before it takes full form. Sometimes we have to give joy before we can receive it.
“Our loved ones are in us and we are in them. When a loved one dies, a part of us also dies.” p.2
“We are in the habit of identifying ourselves with our bodies. The idea that we are this body is deeply entrenched in us. But your loved one is not just their body; they are much more than that …. The idea that “This body is me and I am this body” is a belief we must let go of. If we do not, we will suffer a great deal. We are life, and life is far vaster than this body, this concept, this mind …. We are not limited to our physical body, even when we are alive. We inter-are with our ancestors, our descendants, and the whole of the cosmos. We do not have a separate self; we are interconnected with all of life, and we, and everything, are always in transformation.” p.100-101
I miss Lexie.
I’m grateful for the reminders Thich Nhat Hanh offers us.