A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Walking with Buddhists, Hitchhiking for Peace, Lessons from a Monk, On the Farm

Walking with Thomas, Andrew, and Phap Khi

It is the second day of our walk from Istanbul. The four of us walk silently in single file. Andrew, an Englishman now living in Switzerland, is in the lead. He comes to a curve in the road, and points to a path through the wood that leads up and over a hill. We all pause, then nod affirmatively, though I am thinking that the path may not be a good idea. We make our way up the path, then take a break in the woods. We don't speak much during the break. After a few minutes we continue down the other side of the path, through the woods, and straight into a high fence. We then wind our way back, sliding down a steep embankment to get back to the road, nearly to the point where we'd started on the path.
In my unenlightened mind I am a bit exasperated. Our detour has cost us three kilometers and wasted energy. I am impatient to make some progress, not only to get closer to my ultimate destination, but also to leave behind the pain of separation from my friend. But for the other three, what the detour has 'cost' us is not an issue. We are simply where we are.

By the end of the second day we are in a tourist area, in a village called Polonez. Thomas has presented a leaflet he's had printed to the manager of a nice restaurant. The leaflet explains that we are walking for peace, and that any help the reader can offer, such as food and lodging, would be appreciated. The manager converses with his peers in Turkish. There is some laughter among them, some shoulder shrugging, some arguing. Then we are invited to have dinner in the restaurant.
Afterwards we are told to see the mayor of the village to find lodging, but when we get to his office, it is closed. It is now dusk, and we go into the teahouse and have tea. We sit silently waiting for someone to offer us a place to sleep. I explain to my friends that on my walk, having failed to find a room to sleep in, I would have already gotten through the village and found a place to camp. Instead, on this walk, we sit and sip tea, waiting.
Then a young man approaches our table and says hello in English. Phap Khi asks, "Can you help us?"
The young man just happens to manage a tourist lodge and restaurant, and we are soon in luxury rooms complete with jacuzzi. But first we are shuttled to the resaurant where we have another huge meal and lots of good conversation with our host.As we sleep in our luxurious rooms that night , it rains.
On my walk, I would have been in my tent, in the rain, eating cold bread and cheese.

Hitchhiking for Peace?

I left my Buddhist friends yesterday, and officially ended, or suspended my walk. I walked from Portugal to the village of Karakiraz, some 30 kilometers NE of Istanbul. It took me 15 months. Yesterday I hitchhiked and took a bus to  Kandira, where I am volunteering to work on a farm for a week or so. My plans are to continue hitchhiking to Izmit, then Ankara, then to the south coast of Turkey to catch the ferry to Haifa. In Israel I hope to resume my walk. But for now, my walk is suspended.

Lessons from Phap Khi

I had spoken to Phap Khi, the Plum Village monk, about leaving the group, about giving up my walk (though not the journey), and about a dream I'd had the week before my walk began.
Regarding the first point, Phap Khi didn't think I should leave them, and that running away would never bring me to myself.
"Okay, but I have to get down the road anyway. Istanbul has been a black hole, and I have to keep moving to keep from being sucked back into it."
By this time, Phap Khi knew what I meant; he'd heard me break down when we all shared our thoughts after meditation. He knew I had been gripped by indecision in Istanbul; that I had wanted to keep moving but couldn't bring myself to leave.
Phap Khi accepted this.
I also told Phap Khi that giving up my walk by hitchhiking through the rest of Turkey was a big disappointment. Insisting on walking every kilometer was a source of pride for me. But Phap Khi pointed out that I would free myself from this pride by suspending my walk for a while. A Quaker friend in Ohio had also suggested that my insistence on walking every kilometer may simply  be stubborness on my part. My excuse for hitchhiking now? That my visa expires in some 30 days, and that I cannot walk the 1000 kilometers to Iskenderun in 30 days. But I could have left Istanbul sooner. The fact is that I am tired of walking. I need a break from walking. I will walk from Haifa to Cairo. But I am tired of walking now. So there goes my pride and stubborness.
Finally, I told Phap Khi about a disturbing dream I'd had a week or so before I began this walk, back in October of 2011.
In the dream I was entering a house I'd lived in when growing up. I was entering the house with Linda, my wife, and with Olivia, my daughter. In the dream Olivia was only 5 or 6 years old. I had a bad feeling entering the house.
Inside, written on the wall, was the message, "No future." The message sent me into a panic, but Linda and Olivia thought nothing of it. They went out back to go for a swim in the swimming pool. I tried to warn them that something terrible was about to happen, but they disregarded my own fear and jumped into the pool, splashing and laughing.. In the meantime I went to the front window, watching for the terrible something that was coming. I watched the driveway with dread. A car pulled up, I was terrified, and then I awoke from the dream.
At the time I believed this dream was a bad omen and that I shouldn't make the walk. Making the walk would destroy everything we had together. But I soon came to my senses, believing the dream simply to be a manifestation of the anxiety I felt at that time.
Now as I explained the dream to Phap Khi, I also explained to him that Linda had moved on to a better life in Ireland, running a bed and breakfast. Such a life had always been a dream of Linda's, but she hadn't realized that dream while we had lived together. I  explained that Olivia was now in university in the US, and that time and distance had seemed to weaken our relationship. I  told him that Olivia seems to be happy with her new life.
"So I've lost everything I had," I said angrily. " I am really homeless now; literally everything I own I carry on my back. Once I reach Cairo, I don't know where to go. The dream was a warning, and there really is no future."
"But I think you have misinterpreted the dream," he said calmly. "First of all, Linda and Olivia were happy swimming in the pool. This is the happiness they have now, not because they are free of you, but because they are living their dreams. And the message, 'No future', was not a warning, but simply a fact. There is no future. There is only the present moment. Do not dwell on the past or what you think will be the future. Stay in the present moment. Come back to yourself."

Down on the Farm

Today at the farm where I'll be volunteering for a week or so, I am trying to enjoy the present moment. Sofia is here, and several other young travellers. The atmosphere is good; I've heard no complaints from anyone. Some representatives arrived from a group called, 'Only Peace', and we had a meeting in the sunshine with Turkish coffee. Vedat, the founder of the group, said that peacebuilders tend to find one another the way birds going the same way flock together. I agreed, and told him the story of how Inge and I had found Thomas, the founder of steppps.net, by what seemed to be a random meeting in a village near Istanbul. We'd met again in Istanbul, walked for peace there, then I'd joined his walk with Andrew and Phap Khi. I told Vedat that Thomas and his group may be at this farm in a few more days.

Peacebuilders find one another.
Live in the present moment.
Having faith in the first statement and living the second may be all that is necessary to move forward.
I may be hitchhiking now but I'm still taking steps for peace.
Let's all take our steps for peace!

1 comment:

  1. Great blog Ken. It seems we both have our share of doubts and troubles that shake our faith. But it is not called faith for nothing. If it was certainty and security we were aiming for, we would never have started our journey's at all. Don't be strong, be flexibel. Peace.