Sunday, August 22, 2010

Enemies? Invite Them To Tea

Here's a photo of me building a little gate for some wee folk who make their home up on Mt Erskine. All manner of offering have been left by their door so I couldn't just walk by without making some contribution. Let's say I built them a peace arch. This is an offering so that they may live in harmony with all the little folk in their lives and all the creatures they encounter.

In fact this is an auspicious wish for any of us, large or small. Last week when I was in Victoria I had the great pleasure of having coffee with a group of folks who are part of a little Sangha I belong to. It's not a traditional Sangha but a delightful one. We have a fearless organizer and over the years we have attended all manner of Buddhist events together, gathered for potlucks and watched Buddhist movies. Conversation ranges all over the planet in an enthusiastic, harmonious sort of way.

Just before we flew off on our various errands the topic of politics came up. My answer was, "I don't do that anymore." We went back and forth a bit with someone pointing out that politics brings social change. My feelings were that it's too divisive, it's not where I choose to put my energy anymore. It creates us and other and somehow that never seems helpful. If our intention as we go out into the world is "to do no harm" , to be helpful, working from a place of opposition doesn't seem helpful to me. Go ahead, call me Pollyanna but I think that true change comes from people "walking a mile in someone's shoes (even if the fit isn't so great)", from getting to know the "other, from the "other" getting to know us and somehow over time, change can happen. Without that softening of positions and stories, it is hard to make any real headway, whatever your cause. If you win the battle and leave field full of bodies behind you, what have you won?

Someone in the group commented that they'd heard Buffy Ste. Marie at a rally and after someone gave a rather fierce political entreaty. She came on stage and said something like, "after all these years, I think the best idea is to invite them to dinner." It's not unlike Gandhi's comment about the British when told of some action they were about to engage in. "I would like to invite them for tea and biscuits," (and he did, offering them several rounds of biscuits).

It seems important to me that we follow through on our intentions to be compassionate and helpful. And yes it is difficult but I look to people like the Dalai Lama and his position toward China when I think of difficult situations. What better role model could we ask for?


  1. >>If you win the battle and leave field full of bodies behind you, what have you won?<<

    That's how Buddhism got a leg up in India... Ashoka looked across the carnage he had created in a battlefield and asked himself: What have I done! Or so the story goes.

    I prefer the tea and cookies part myself. Triple ginger-chocolate chip with green tea.

    I also learned today (which is likely why I'm still on Mountain Standard Time) that the simmering war within has to stop or it doesn't take much for a spark to set off a full scale conflagration.

  2. "I think that true change comes from people 'walking a mile in someone's shoes (even if the fit isn't so great)', from getting to know the 'other,' from the 'other' getting to know us and somehow over time, change can happen..."

    We should all be so "Pollyannish"! :)

    Or maybe if we were all "wee folk" we'd all be able to get along :)

  3. Genju - I love the story of Ashoka and those cookies sound fabulous. I think cookies and tea with the self, yes that seems good. And perhaps I could pop in for a little visit. I promise not to be too greedy with those cookies!

    MeANderi - Okay, let's get out the big bows for our hair and the dirndl skirts and do a little Zen Pollyanna thing! And yes, no signs of carnage at the wee folks house.

  4. Love the wee folk habitat. We had one for the mice on the side of an old barn at J.Campbell Folk School in NC.
    I vote for my party, but even with that I don't trust either party.
    Thanks for commenting on my blog!

  5. "What better role model could we ask for?" Oh, that is so rich, says it all doesn't it?

  6. You are right-- our country has become very divisive and ugly- the politics has for sure. I always try to remember quotes by MLKing and Gandhi- and your post has reinforced their teachings and wisdom.

  7. Eva - the wee folk houses just appear on public trails. It is so much fun! And I think somehow it is indicative of modern politics, doesn't feel like there's a lot of integrity involved.

    Blue Sky Dreaming - Yes, he's a pretty amazing character, just to be in the same room with him is an amazing gift, you get to see the human potential.

    Layers - It is inspiring and breeds hope to remember the words of these great human beings as you point out. Here's hoping we can go there again soon!

  8. beautiful and insightful wisdom here. it is hard to sit down to tea with "the other" and yet, clearly essential...perhaps a first step would be to greet each other in the center of the bridge, coming across the "divide"... and gaze into each others eyes...once we see ourselves staring back (each of us mirroring each other in our being), tea will be a natural next long as there is no argument about whose home to have the tea in! I feel hopeful. I trust the goodness that is stitched into the fibers of our hearts.

    I love that you created that arch...a bridge for the winged inhabitants should they choose to land. When my girls were little we spent hours creating fairy houses in the woods behind our house...I miss those days.

  9. Hello Laura, good to see you here! And yes wonderful point, sometimes we need to advance slowly in these "bridge building" efforts. Like approaching a deer or a bird too, we move slowly and pause, showing that we mean no harm, letting the other get a sense of us. Thank-you for that insight.

    ah yes for a little magic play! we all need more of that in our lives, I think.

  10. I love that. "I don't do that anymore." I feel exactly the same way. And the thing is, I feel that way about philosophy, too, which is my area, and the department I teach in. I only teach the eastern stuff now! The rest of it is built on argument and has just become so unbearable.