For me, one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s greatest gifts is the original 14 precepts of the Order of Interbeing (first published by Parallax in 1987). As you know, I include the 4th precept in my novel Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine, where it serves as the catalyst for so much of what takes off in that story. For present purposes, I highlight the sentence, “Find ways to be with those who are suffering by all means, including personal contact and visits, images, sound.” Images, yes, images.
I have memorized an English translation of the Italian writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi’s poem, Shema; he updates the classic Jewish prayer in light of what happened (what was allowed to take place) in the death camps. After describing in spare lines how men and women suffered, he concludes,
“Consider that this has been:
I commend these words to you.
Engrave them on your hearts
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house crumble,
Disease render you powerless,
Your offspring avert their faces from you.”
Thầy and Levi come to mind as I have read the second of photojournalist Philip Jones Griffiths’ awesome trilogy on Viet Nam, Agent Orange: “Collateral Damage” in Viet Nam. Read the rest of this entry »