|Posted on October 14, 2011 at 11:45 AM|
Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time;
Close to the gardens of broken shadows,
We do what prisoners do, And what the jobless do:
We cultivate hope. ~ Mahmud Darwish
Self-doubt has been my companion this week. I have had the experience of telling my plan of writing an anthology of everyday resistance here in Palestine, the stories of real people to several other 'travelers'. All of them are either also planning to do something similar or knew someone that was. I began to think “who am I to believe that my voice has anything to add?” Then I thought about the focus of the book, Palestinians in Israel (a mostly ignored story) and the person that encouraged me to get serious about a book – he said that what he liked about what I wrote was that I don’t attempt to prescribe answers as so many do, that I let the questions stand.
Well, words mean a lot to me – poetry, music….I think in metaphors (which often seems to get me in trouble when I assume others view things from a shared context that may not exist). So as I pondered his words, I was happy to find, as often happens, just the right words came my way, and I found this in my inbox;
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson (commonly misattributed to Nelson Mandela, who used it in a 1994 inauguration speech)
So, back on track I realize that that the “romantic edge” of being in Palestine during my last trips is not the same this time. I expected that the everyday-ness of actually living here would be like that (and I welcome it), just not so soon. It is very much a different experience than before. If I step outside of myself, I still have that "I am not in Kansas anymore" feeling. But, when I step back into myself, into the moment, it just feels like the most normal thing to be here.
I do find that the local Palestinians treat me differently than before (more aloof). I was speaking with my new British friend, Luke, about this, and we agreed that we are a little disappointed that they did not seem to engage with us the same. Maybe we are different, having been here before, or maybe they are more cynical about us - I am not sure ..... I met an older American woman yesterday. She is leaving this weekend after a two week stay which she described as profoundly lonely. Then one of the Palestinian staff here explained that he no longer gets close to foreigners because they leave.
I do in a rational sense, understand his sentiment, but we get invested as well (some of us even come back) and I think it is sad to miss any opportunity to connect with someone on a deeper level. When I was here last year I thought I had found an incredible friend in the most unexpected place, only to find that after I left he decided not to continue the friendship – it broke my heart. But I refuse to let that stop me from being open to new people coming into my life - People who will impact me at least as much as I impact them (and probably more) .
God breaks the heart, again and again and again; until it stays; OPEN. ~ Hazrat Inayat Kahn (Sufi)
People like the three women I mentioned last week whom I pass everyday on the way to the office. Two days ago, on my way home two of them, Muna and Lydia, chased me down. After several minutes of trying to understand what they were asking, I figured out it was something to do with glasses and reading. I promised I would return the next evening – not sure if I had promised to come read to them, or let Muna use my glasses to read something herself (or even – uh oh – agreed to give them my glasses). The next day I returned and called a local friend that could translate. He explained that Muna was asking me if I could help her get glasses, because she enjoys reading but can no longer read without them (she is Moslem and reading the Quran is important to her as well). I started thinking “how can I make this happen?”
I know that some would say it is a mistake for me to do so but, I told her I would try. It is a dilema because there is a sense of learned helplessness here. It is a fact that Palestinians are the most aid dependent population (50-80%, depending on location, rely on foreign aid). That combined with the very real difficulties imposed by the occupation can create a sense of “why should I try?”. This runs counter to the Western idea of individualism and “pulling yourself up”. But, I believe that I am my brother’s (or sister’s) keeper, as they are mine; and we should not pass up the opportunity to make even one life a little better.
A small bird found lying on her back was asked, “Why?” She responded, “I heard the sky is falling.” “And you think that you can hold up the heavens with those spindly legs?” To which she replied, “One does what one can do.” ~ Bulgarian folktale