Columnist Janet E. Aalfs: Ignite us, exquisite truth

  • Signs brought to the Women Standing Our Ground Rally on the Greenfield town common Jan. 21. MATT BURKHARTT/RECORDER STAFF

Published: 1/31/2017 8:55:58 PM

Wake up, elaborate dreams. Liberty, the woman, the citizen of every ilk, is listening, is speaking, is here to stay. In streets and at crossroads, on bridges and from doorways, her voice echoes daily on every continent around the globe.

The worldwide Women’s Marches of Jan. 21 have provided ample evidence, for anyone who has ever doubted, that collective women’s leadership continues to wield the power of peace and positive transformation.

Rise up more fiercely kind. Courage, the woman, the 13 indigenous grandmothers, are teaching all the children of the world about global peace. To the swastikas, Confederate flags, border walls, deportations, sexual assaults, discrimination, to every form of hate we raise our voices –peace is what we want. We are here to grow.

The laser focus of anger is able to meet danger with solar-powered unstoppable love, which is not the opposite of hate, but is wholeness, and has no opposite. One determined step through fear, and then the next, builds everyday courage. Though the work may seem daunting on all fronts, we have what it takes.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes asserts, “We were made for these times.” In joining with others, we organize the work for good as we advocate, educate, calm the tumult so clarity may shine, and generate hope.

In calling us to further action during her riveting talk at Smith College on Jan. 23, Rachel Maddow quoted W.B. Yeats, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” She spoke from a variety of angles about political groundlessness. Like a sunset gone bad, blaring hideously as it goes down, forces working against the common good have become even more blatant.

I am not alone in having been taught as a girl that if someone was being mean to me, I better do nothing so as not to make things worse. What a lie! Whenever a feeling of doom sets in, imagine this, a true story from years ago. A woman alone on a West Coast beach enjoying the simple landscape. Then out of nowhere the sound of growling engines as several men on motorcycles zoom toward her. They encircle her, taunting, threatening, trapping. At the center of that vicious circle she takes a stance and yells and yells the names of every woman she knows. Next thing she knows, those men are riding away.

Ignite us, exquisite truth. Liberty, the woman, the citizen of every ilk, is organizing for freedom. May we not underestimate ourselves or each other. The power of voice, imagination, motion — one deeper breath in any moment is the beginning of what it takes to release oneself from the vicious circle of despair into the vital spiral of change.

Energy naturally moves us. And we each have the potential, the human capacity, to keep drawing on sparks from within and beyond as we learn more ways to move that contribute to collective health, safety and equity of every kind.

On any given day, and especially in this highly charged climate, personal choices are political, and each one makes a difference. Connections we create with positive intention are, by definition, healing. (Healing from holos meaning whole: integrity.) More options, more hope.

On the world-shifting day of Jan. 21, 2017, as I offered him a poem card down the street from where the Greenfield Women’s March that I spoke at was dispersing, a white man spat these words in my face: “Lesbians, gays, transvestites, disgusting, deserve to be killed, executed, like they do in other countries.” In the calm center of an open heart-mind, I was well aware that this highly disturbed individual was breathing the same hope-drenched air and standing on the same deeply nourishing ground as I and everyone else.

It takes absolutely no skill to hurt someone, including physically, no matter how mean, huge, muscled, outrageous they are. Careless and dangerous words do hurt, and they do cause harmful actions and outcomes. So I reported the incident.

And I continue to appreciate how much work it takes to make peace-building choices every single day. Ignite us, exquisite truth, your fruit abundant, your fearless seeds we spread.

Simple, though not easy, a deeper breath, a kinder thought, a more generous hand. With each other’s help, expertise, and support, we can become more aware of what is true, and therefore more rooted, confident, and compassionate in whatever we must do.

Janet E. Aalfs, of Northampton, is a poet, martial artist, dancer and community educator who shares integrative arts programs under the name Lotus Peace Arts in collaboration with Valley Women’s Martial Arts, a local nonprofit in its 40th year.

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