Hold It All

Month: August, 2011


One Zen Master
When asked to explain the wonder of reality
Pointed to a cypress tree and said
“Look at the cypress tree over there.”

–Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation


Poem of the Morning

I came across this poem by Adrienne Rich, and thought of the work you two do at Queen of Peace.

My heart is moved
By all I cannot save
So much has been destroyed.

I have to cast my lot
With those who age after age,
And with no extraordinary power,
Reconstitute the world.

An Exemplar of Gramsci’s “Optimism of the Will”

My optimism rests on my belief in the infinite possibilities of the individual to develop non-violence.  The more you develop it in your own being, the more infectious it becomes till it overwhelms your surroundings and by and by might oversweep the world.

–Mohandas K. Gandhi

Thomas Merton, ed. Gandhi on Nonviolence: Selections from Gandhi’s Non-Violence in Peace and War


Take Your Pick/2

Pascal raised the question: How do you know whether God exists? He said, if I assume that he exists and he does, I’ll make out OK. If he doesn’t, I won’t lose anything. If he does exist and I assume he doesn’t I may be in trouble. That’s  basically the logic.

On this issue of human freedom, if you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, etc., there’s a chance you may contribute to making a better world.

That’s your choice.

Noam Chomsky, in an interview with David Barsamian, in Chronicles of Dissent


Chomsky in MIT office

The Politics of Dispossession

for Sharifa Barakat

“The climax to this campaign  occurred when, in West Beirut, Israeli soldiers carted off Palestinian archives, destroyed the private libraries and homes of prominent Lebanese nationalists and Palestinian personalities, and literally heaped excrement over valuable rugs and cultural artifacts almost at the same moment when, in Sabra and Shatila, a gang of Lebanese Maronite psychopaths — armed, trained, and support by Israel — was slaughtering Palestinian civilians under the light of flares provides by Israeli soldiers.  This was all a concerted, deliberate attempt to roll back the history of the past several years:  Palestinians, in Begin’s rhetoric, were to be treated as terrorists and two-legged beasts, and neither as human beings nor as potential citizens.  This made it easier to bomb them and to pretend that Israel was doing the work on behalf of humanity.”

–Edward Said, “Palestinians in the Aftermath of Beirut:  A Preliminary Stocktaking [1982],” p. 72
The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination 1969-1994 

A Later Exchange …

This book is well worth your time and concentration.

Sharifa Barakat: Dr C, I have added it to my reading list after some Goodreads browsing the other night. It’ll be my next Said read once I’m done with After the Last Sky!


Mark Chmiel: Shaneeka, tell me something you liked about After the Last Sky!

Sharifa Barakat: There are a lot of things I liked! I liked how he wove in his own background, and I felt like he was articulating a lot of the feelings/thoughts/ideas I had floating around in a way that has solidified my understanding of Palestinians. This is a thought that comes back to me often, though it doesn’t apply to my family exactly since we still have our hometowns (but can’t live there even if we wanted to): “The difference between the new generation of Palestinians and that of 1948 is striking. Our parents bore on their faces the marks of disaster uncomprehended. Suddenly their past had been interrupted, their society obliterated, their existence radically impoverished. Refugees, all of them. Our children know no such past” (21). I think of that often because it’s so weird to think of my grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, etc, having lived in Palestine and then having all that they knew change so dramatically and permanently. Even weirder to think of all the families we know that don’t have their original hometowns anymore (or, often, any home in Palestine). When I hear about the origins of a new friend or of some family we’ve always known, it’s usually “So and so is from X village from the ’48 refugees or from the ’67 refugees but then went to Lebanon/Syria/Egypt/America/Amman (and on and on).”

I also learned something really interesting (and infuriating): I always wondered why Westerners would often say Achmed or change the ‘h’ sound to a ‘kh’ sound. “The standard Hebrew method for transliterating Arabic words and names has now completely taken over the American press; this enrages me to an absurd degree. It used to be the case that the Arabic gutteral ‘h’ would be rendered in English as ‘h.’ Ever since 1982 the New York Times, among others, has changed it to ‘kh,’ which corresponds to the nearest Hebrew equivalent” (135). I don’t know if that’s true anymore for the American press, but that explains why I still hear it so often, I think. Another random: “The main dishes of Palestinian cuisine…have become staples of the Israeli diet: Tabooleh appears on some restaurant menus as ‘kibbutz salad'” (135). It always makes me mad when I see recipes or cooking shows that tout “Israeli hummus” or “Israeli falafel”!

Washing the Dishes

While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.

— Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation

One Day

When you are twenty-seven
And at last done Done DONE with medical school
We should do a marathon/festival of words

Reciting poetry to each other
Then writing off of the lines of Neruda, Szymborska
And reading our own with the gusto of our multitudes

Recovering our most treasured letters, emails, postcards
I reading yours to you
You reading mine to me

Resuming those long Bolaño novels we once prudently put aside
Interrupting each other every 14 pages or so
Con cháchara (yo) y profundidad (tú)

Fueled with Ghiradelli Squares
Surrounded by daisies, irises, Scottish broom
For the better part of a day we’re lazy, elastic, laughing