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Tag: Mev Puleo

Disponibilidade

I first learned this Portuguese word from Mev, when she worked in Brazil among so many radical, radiant Christians. Here’s how she defined it in her book, The Struggle Is One: “a disposition of openness in which one is accessible, available and willing to be inconvenienced by the needs or requests of another person or event.”

This came back to mind this morning as I was reading a column by James Mustich, whose recent book, 1000 Books To Read before You Die: A Life-Changing List I browse almost daily. Here’s the pertinent citation he makes from Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Café:

In his essay, “On the Ontological Mystery,” written in 1932 and published in the fateful year of 1933, [Gabriel] Marcel wrote of the human tendency to become stuck in habits, received ideas, and a narrow-minded attachment to possessions and familiar scenes. Instead he urged his readers to develop a capacity for remaining “available” to situations as they arise. Similar ideas of disponibilité or availability had been explored by other writers, notably André Gide, but Marcel made it his essential existential imperative. He was aware of how rare and difficult it was. Most people fall into what he calls “crispation”: a tensed, encrusted shape in life — “as though each one of us secreted a kind of shell which gradually hardened and imprisoned him.”

May we daily discover the wonders of being available for others.

 

Ale Vazquez

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We’ll Always Have Berkeley

Letter/3 (Dissidents/4)
The Book of Mev

In August 1995 as Mev and I were getting settled in our new home in St. Louis, we learned that Steve Kelly had been arrested for a Plowshares action in California on the anniversaries of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Steve and his friend Susan Crane went to the Lockheed-Martin Corporation in Sunnyvale, California and, inspired by the biblical call to “beat swords into plowshares,” used a hammer to beat on missiles; they also poured blood on them. They and their partners on the East Coast issued a statement, which read, in part, as follows: “The period of August 6 through 9 marks the 50th anniversary of the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. . . Since August 1945 the entire world, led by the U.S. has been held hostage by nuclearism and the exponential rise of military violence. This violence permeates every level of society … Disarmament is the necessary first step to Christ’s Jubilee. We refuse to see violence as inevitable, injustice as the order of the day, and death dealing as the only way of life. Join us in this declaration for disarmament to announce the jubilee for the poor, relief for the children, and peace for us all.”

August 25, 1995
The day of your sentencing

Dear Steve,
What? No book? Are you meshugah? No way — Mev and I have already pledged that we will edit your letters and postcards, and have contacted Robert Ellsberg at Orbis for a deluxe edition. Mev’s going through her negatives of you for the appropriate cover shot.

I miss you, Steve. So you were preparing us for the big civil disobedience action by driving us over to Lockheed in San Jose — I shoulda known better with a resister like you/that I would love every action that you do/and I do, and I do, hey hey hey. Read the rest of this entry »

“I Belong to Chomsky”

The following is the chapter, “Peril,” from The Book of Mev.

 

Spring 1994 was blooming in the Bay Area. We participated in a Good Friday  demonstration at the Lawrence Livermore nuclear laboratory with Steve Kelly and our Pax Christi friends.  The following week, we welcomed Noam Chomsky to our campus.  On several occasions, we had both heard Chomsky fill the huge lecture hall on MIT’s campus when Mev and I lived in Cambridge in 1990-1991.

Chomsky had a slew of engagements. He was kind to include the GTU in his overbooked schedule, which has been overbooked for the last decade and   a half, as  he is constantly on the road, all over the world, giving talks.  That’s what he does best: explicate the nature of U.S. foreign policy in a way that ordinary people can understand. This has long earned him scorn and dismissal by those with the proper PhD political science credentials.  When  I interviewed him in Cambridge, he said to me, “When I enter the Harvard faculty club, you can feel the chill from  those professors.”  And even though he personally had no use for organized religion, he still had strong appreciation of the Catholic militants in Latin America whom he had met and stayed with throughout Nicaragua on a speaking tour there in the mid-1980s.  His anarchist convictions were interwoven with his personal practices:  Even though he was known world-wide as a linguist and philosopher of first rank and a radical political activist, he was eminently down-to-earth. He talked in as many monosyllables as possible because he believed that political commentators so regularly tried to make their specialty arcane and above the heads of folks.  Chomsky was different.  So, although I was delighted that he responded to my late letter of invitation, I wasn’t so surprised.  He’s a mensch, I told Mev.  Or, as my friend Angela, a Reform rabbi,  exclaimed, “He’s my rebbe!”

Read the rest of this entry »

Her Vivacity Gladdened Life

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, Knopf: Everyman’s Library,  1992 

I’ve acknowledged previously the importance of Reinaldo Arenas and Eduardo Galeano  during the late 1990s into 2000 as I was trying to figure out how to write what became The Book of Mev.  Also, during that period I read with relish James Boswell’s Life of Johnson.  That biography proved a fecund  encounter, as  some of my marginalia became a “To Do” for my project…

  1. Include a letter to make the point [get another voice in there]
  1. Include some of her more creative pieces [journal or no]
  1. Force, vivacity, and perspicuity [vigor]
  1. Long footnotes of clarification at the bottom of the page
  1. Spend six hours writing, one after the other, all the topics and fragments in my Mev log

Read the rest of this entry »

A Page of Mev’s Notes on Martin Buber’s “I and Thou”

Patricia Geier and I are reading and discussing Nathan A. Scott’s book, Mirrors of Man in Existentialism. This morning after having read the chapter on Buber, I went to my shelves and pulled off I and Thou. Inside Mev’s copy from the 80s, I found the following page of notes on the classic text.

 

What Kind of University Does SLU Want To Be?

Reading about SLU’s receiving of Rex Sinquefield’s fifty million dollars reminded me of a letter Mev Puleo wrote to then SLU President Biondi 25 years ago …

 

A School/2

After the exhilarating World Youth Day experience, Mev jumped right into her doctoral program at the GTU in Religion and the Arts. Early on, she became acquainted with Maria Bower, a doctoral student in spirituality, with whom she increasingly spent time. She also continued her Haiti solidarity work with local activists Pierre LaBoussiere and Nancy Laleau. But even as she began her study, her experience earlier in the year in El Salvador was raising all kinds of questions to her about higher education.  She dashed off the following  letter to St. Louis University President Father Lawrence Biondi.  

6 September 1993
Lawrence Biondi, S.J.
St. Louis University
221 North Grand Boulevard
St. Louis, MO  63103

Dear Father Biondi,

Greetings from a SLU alumna living in California.  I hear good words about you from both my father, Peter Puleo, and from some SLU faculty with whom I keep in touch, such as Sr. Dolores Greeley.  Congratulations on your good work.

I am writing in response to the “Campaign for St. Louis University” materials.  You and those who worked on this produced a beautiful publication with an attractive layout — which I appreciate as a professional photographer.  A while back, when I was heading to El Salvador for a meeting, Fr. McGannon gave me some literature on both the SLU Campaign and for the UCA-El Salvador Campaign.  (I imagine you are familiar with that publication as well, put out by the AJCU in D.C.).  

As a graduate and great fan of SLU, and as a person who has been active in solidarity work with Central America for more than a decade (which I began during my student years at SLU), I was jarred by looking at the two campaign booklets side by side.  I am very impressed with the UCA’s attention to “Social Outreach,” their ongoing analysis of the “national reality,” their attention to institutional violence, defense of human rights, and to bringing together people from across the political spectrum to try to encourage a more just, humane society.  They are explicit in their aims to educate the privileged (the literate and college-bound) to lead and serve the needs of the majority of the country.  While the SLU booklet mentions community service and scholarship funds, these themes of immersion, analysis and engagement in the local social reality are absent.   Read the rest of this entry »

A Beautiful Kaddish by Andrew Wimmer

I was writing in my Naikan notebook this morning, reflecting on some of what I’ve received from Andrew Wimmer. I remembered his “review” of The Book of Mev, and am happy to share it here.

This book contains multitudes.

Among other things,
 some beautiful faces, a spear through the heart,
Chomsky transformed,
and a bunch of hearts and minds wrapped in a tumor.

This is a book about the untimely death
 of Mev Puleo, a promising photojournalist, 
theologian, and seeker of the truth.

“Blessed are those who mourn.”
And mourn they do.

If you want hagiography, the life of the smiling girl with the camera who goes to Latin America and
 saves everybody, forget it. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear “Hermana Ann”   by Maria Vazquez-Smith

Maria is taking a class with me based on The Book of Mev.  One of the weekly themes was Direct Address, and Maria wrote the following and gave me permission to share it.

Dear “Hermana Ann”                                                                                         September 12, 2017

Hello, my name is Maria Smith and I am a 2013 graduate of Saint Louis University. It has been a true honor getting to know you through The Book of Mev (as in your friend, Mev Puleo. Her husband,  Mark Chmiel, wrote a beautiful book that you’d enjoy. It includes people like you that make me proud to be a SLU alum). This afternoon, I read an excerpt that features you being interviewed by Mev. During the time of the interview, you were both in El Salvador, perhaps sitting outside somewhere. While I read the interview, I was sitting outside my office. I had just finished eating lunch and was taking a moment to breathe and sit in the sun before returning back to work. Read the rest of this entry »

A Witness to Power’s Mendacity

A while back I reread David Barsamian’s first collection of interviews with Noam Chomsky, entitled Chronicles of Dissent.  Actually, I first heard the material starting in the mid-1980s, listening to Barsamian’s cassette tapes of interviews as I drove around Louisville and back and forth to Cincinnati and Chicago in  the often grim days of the second Reagan Administration. Since then, Chomsky’s readership has expanded considerably; even in his late eighties, the linguist still produces two or three books a year. I’ve lost count of the number of collaborative works he’s done with Barsamian.

Something I’ve found refreshing about Chomsky’s lectures and interviews is he speaks pretty much in plain English. There’s no academic jargon. And there’s no cheerleading for American Exceptionalism.  Here’s one terse example: “When the guys we don’t like do it, it’s terrorism. When the guys we do like do it, it’s retaliation.”  When ISIS beheads people, it’s barbarism. When Israel uses white phosphorus on people in Gaza, it’s self-defense.

The media play a key role in focusing attention in how we as US citizens and those of our allies suffer or are harmed. Here’s Chomsky commenting on an issue form the mid-80s : “There’s a big fuss and there should be, about American veterans who have suffered under Agent Orange. However, there’s a slight observation that might be made, and that is that the people of Vietnam suffered a thousand times as much, and we’re certainly not trying to help them, in fact we want to increase their suffering.” U.S. veterans finally came to be seen as “worthy” of care and consideration; what the U.S. did to Vietnam and its people is “unworthy” of U.S.  compassion, much less reparations. Read the rest of this entry »

Those Blasts of a Trumpet

I’ve recently finished reading Robert Richardson’s engrossing biography, Emerson: The Mind on Fire. The author regularly highlights the exuberant reading Emerson did throughout his life. Robertson not only identifies authors and titles of what Emerson read; he also notes how Emerson read. Twice, Robertson quotes Goethe, a dramatic influence on Emerson: “What is genius but the faculty of seizing and turning to account any thing that strikes us… every one of my writings has been furnished to me by a thousand different persons, a thousand different things.” Emerson was a proponent of skimming books:  “The glance reveals what the gaze obscures. Somewhere the author has hidden his message. Find it, and skip the paragraphs that do not talk to you.”  Read the rest of this entry »