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The Journey of the Magi
A cold coming we had of it
Just the worst time of year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
'The ways deep, and the weather sharp'
The very dead of winter.'
The camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on the slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women.
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters.
And the cities hostile, and the towns unfriendly,
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snowline, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness.
And three trees on a low sky,
and an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel.
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down,
This set down,
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a birth certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and
But had thought they were different; this birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death. Our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
One Spiritual Journey
you formed me in the image of your creativity
inflated my lungs with your love
made my ears turn to the human voice
my eyes focus on faces, my body respond to touch
you wrapped me in acceptance at my baptism
but as i grew, fear surrounded me and blurred my vision
shame blunted my senses and crippled my walk
i could not find you there leading me
walking beside me, pushing me from behind
instead of looking outward, trusting good
fully inhabiting my body, i moved into the
isolation of my mind, turned my back on possibility
fear became a swirling fog
and i could not find my way
its thick darkness the companion that left me lonely
frozen ground upon which i stumbled
fell, and curled my arms around myself
losing hope, caving in, giving up
you fed me with bits of bread and wine
word—words of love, of safety, of enough
though i could only hear
the inner voices saying otherwise
you waited while i wandered in my wilderness
frozen, unable to think, to move, to want
except in lightning flashes of relief, kind faces
and one strong hand holding on, saying
i will stay, i will not leave, will not give up on you
bits of bread dropped in the dark led me back
eaten on my knees, salted with my tears
seasoned by my own sweat until day
slowly dawned in that bright white
intensity holding all possible colours
black earth aromatic, warming in the sun
welcoming my bare feet into a sacred dance
imprinted in my very DNA, my heart knowing
that all shall be well, all shall be well indeed
© Rebecca Garber
HEALING FROM INTERNALIZED OPPRESSION
Submitted by Eileen Garcia
I watched the Black Lives Matter Movement with mixed feelings.
After all, I came to Canada to embrace "white privilege". It is not fun to be part of a hated minority, to have your kin murdered or otherwise assaulted by an empowered black majority, even if you do understand the roots of their hatred and have supported their cause. Hatred may live on, even when the power structures change.
Living in a prejudiced environment and being the target of prejudice because of race, gender, handicap, sexual orientation, culture etc. is demoralizing at best and, at worst, it may completely destroy a person's capacity to love. Social rejection, and even hatred, may be part of the formative years. Reactive anger may become an imbedded part of the victim’s personality. Living with hatred damages the brain and the capacity to trust.
People who do not understand may say, "Why can't you just get over it?" The answer is that the assault on your person continues, imbedded in the social structures. It does not go away, even if you try to live exclusively in your minority's world. Unconscious insult is there whenever you pick up a book, turn on the T.V. or go for a walk. Even if hostility is absent, the victim’s necessary state of hyper-vigilance may trigger hostility as a passerby senses the anxious energy.
Yet letting down your guard can mean losing your life. Hyper-vigilance is exhausting. Suicide is common among hated minorities. Those who are strong in love may have to make the first move towards friendship and seek to understand the social walls that oppress. This can be hard work and requires patience. Even when there is no threat, it is hard to change a lifetime of habits.
The oppressed person may be perceived as "over-reactive". The “oppressor” may move or speak in a way which is natural to those in power and trigger fear. People become tired of having to reassure, they move on to easier company, thus reenforcing the victim’s identity as outcaste. Most people prefer the comfort of the very familiar, nothing changes.
In order to become part of changing prejudices, well-meaning individuals have to become aware of their own patterns and how patterns inter-lock. Fear of rejection may trigger rejection. Hidden anger may trigger revulsion. Recognizing and accepting these feelings and staying through uncomfortable situations may be difficult, but it is the only road to growth. Is there anything to be gained beyond greater justice and peace?
People who have been members of hated minorities can bring numerous gifts to a receptive community. The hypersensitivity which assured their survival may mean sensitivity to your unspoken need. They may be unusually creative or spiritual or tough. Once trust is built one is free to enjoy the gifts and limitations that come in any loving, reciprocal relationship. How do I as an outcaste help myself?
I sit daily with an image of Jesus and meditate on the word "Beloved". I rehearse in my mind beautiful memories. I sing Hymns and love songs to myself, write poetry and do some art. Nature heals me, loving friends help. Yet even now a small act of hostility or prejudice may trigger old tapes. I must work very hard to calm my old survival brain. I may need time out, but it does get easier.
I am also a victimizer by my own prejudices. How do I help to bring greater justice to others? I work to be aware of the beliefs and practices which automatically support me but which keep others in places of inferiority and injustice and I seek to change these. I will experience loss, but I believe Love is worth the effort. Recognizing and embracing my own places of powerlessness and fatigue can bring me into solidarity with those held less by society.
Old age can be an invitation to greater solidarity with, and compassion towards, those who endure a lifetime of rejection and disempowerment. If victims of racism and other forms of oppression united we would likely find ourselves in the majority. If we who are prejudiced against others would gather, I think we would find we had collected every human being and perhaps many animals. May we learn to love one another, one day at a time.