The second week of that Summer Program at Maryknoll, Mev made an announcement after one of the morning sessions that she was going to present some of her photographs in a slideshow/meditation on a night when there was no scheduled speaker. Curious about what made this self-promoting impresario tick, I wanted to attend. Her slideshow, with taped instrumental music to establish a contemplative mood, was a welcome relief from the intense, sometimes strangely cerebral presentations during the day about global liberation theology, the suffering of the poor, and the consequent responsibility of U.S. citizens. She presented a series of her photos from her travels in Brazil, Mexico, Haiti and Russia, and, as I confronted the faces of Mev’s subjects, I was reminded of one of my favorite poems, Thich Nhat Hahn’s “Please Call Me by My True Names,” especially the concluding lines:
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion.
Her meditation lasted about 15 minutes, leading the group of 20 into an awareness that our discussions during the day ultimately were about flesh and blood people, with names, faces, histories, heartaches, resilience and desires. Afterwards, feeling hesitant to speak directly to Mev, I went up to my room and began to write out Nhat Hanh’s poem, since I had learned it by heart years before and often used it for a morning meditation. I also wrote a note of thanks to her for the presentation, and I pinned the note and poem for her on the community bulletin board. This was safe, spiritual flirting.