Tag Archives: fighting

How We Fight

Wild One 101
From Ciarán of Ailbhe’s Nine

Some learn to become indifferent to pain until they fight without thought. They learn how to lose themselves (their ability to feel, the essence of who they are, their sense of being) in order to win. The cost of this is high, for the selves they defend are the very same they so easily abandoned. Their eyes go vacant or hard or unseeing. They are trained to deny much of their own human being, and so likewise cannot see those they fall as flesh and blood and bone. They choose an inner death before their life is ended, believing it makes them better able to survive. It is unknown what continues to exist after such a fight is done, even in a victory.

But we learn to fight with our aliveness. The power within us forged in the fire of feeling. Our eyes are clear and wakeful, whether full of sorrow or laughter– compassion and passion being as they are two sides of a soul. We live our humanity fervent and full. We see each other eye to eye, and in the defending of all people, recognize ourselves in all we meet. No one is immune to suffering or grief. But the cries that we utter are always our own, whether of joy or of pain, and always the radiance burning inside. And when we fall, we blaze out each like a pulsing star, a heart that dared to beat with love, until the last spark fades from who we are.

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My own thoughts:

I’ve been having a very hard time putting anything into words regarding how I feel about living in a nation that seems to have been swallowed up by fear, prejudice, hatred and greed, perhaps in reverse order. Reading the news is like downing a glass of pesticides every morning and then trying to go about my day hoping I won’t experience any side effects. I’ve been paralyzed by a sense of hopelessness, grief-stricken, incredibly angry, tentatively resolved into taking action, terrified, and sometimes daring to dream all in a day. I’m a philosopher who spent more than a decade learning the rules of reason: all that flooding of feeling recently often leaves me reeling. I’m still trying to learn how to effectively take action without shutting down.

I used to be an avid advocate for the rights of children. I used to daily defend my right to full inclusion, equal access to education, acceptance and regard. And, whenever someone ever suggested to me that my perseverance made me a fighter, I’d be sure to defend my definite opinion to the contrary. To me, the purpose of advocacy was to build bridges, while the purpose of fighting was to burn bridges and erect walls, and the winner would be the fastest. I thought advocacy was strategic and thoughtful, but fighting was inherently destructive and usually violent. Advocacy resolved conflicts, fighting created them. That was a lot of black and white thinking.

We’re now faced with a situation in this country where our supposed leaders want to build walls, and the most effective way to resist is to fight: for compassion rather than hatred, for freedom over fear, for dialogue over discrimination, for human rights, for healthcare, for immigrants and their families, for people rather than profits and for healing rather than division.

I believe now that when people used to tell me I was a fighter, I honestly had no idea what they meant by that. I am discovering that I have so much to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

I am learning how compassion is as fierce as it is gentle, and is more powerful than fear, stronger than the deepest shame. I’m learning how wholeness is always in each of us, and that division is only as effective as the deception behind its appearance. I’m gradually accepting the fact that maybe, perhaps, I know how to fight for myself and for others… I just need to learn a new paradigm for how to go about it more effectively. I’m learning to trust more, to listen more, and to share, speak up, more.

I am not finding sharing these thoughts to be easy for me, at all. But I’m starting with where I am at, and that’s enough for now. I’m sure there will be many more insights from my ancient family to post as well, as I keep learning, so I will be sharing more from them here, too.

First World Living

I am giving up, I say
Crawling into bed
Closing my eyes
Many relationships, my dissertation

Are simply not working
I am tired of fighting, I say
Nothing happens
Events feel senseless to me

In high school once a year
We drew tiles
White blue red
First, second, third world

Meals were dealt out accordingly
Everything from banquets to hardly anything
More went home empty and hungry
Some went home full wanting more

Later I walk across the street
To the restaurant
There I am hungry
Potatoes and vegetables, soup and turkey

carry it home
I sit down with my thanks
Giving proportions
Fill a glass

With water
Prepare to eat and realize
This is first world living

Not just the food but
Having more than enough and still
Feeling like
Life is a waste

All day emptiness but outside
The world spills up and over itself everywhere
Full of itself with
More than enough

Trail’s End (Written Around 2005-2006)

This winter the road is washed out by a waterfall.
The two children prance ahead,
Their laughter reaching the stairs
That lead to trail’s end.

I assume (of course) that there’s a cliff where the water torrents down.
The wet ground feels good against my bare feet,
And my sister, rushing river below,
Roars her rapture up at me.

Following my guide dog I wonder at walking.
Each step taken, is a falling
And catching of myself again and again,

Knowing nothing of what’s ahead, and moving forward anyway,
Expecting I will land upright, but when I stumble
I forget to trust my own sense of balance,
All the while baffled by my fear of letting go.

I watch the impact I have on the earth.
What a strange way to journey through the day:
My body made of earth and water passing recognition over
Earth and water, before my time to pass over.

Like so many thousand drops of water, I am spilling over
Making way, dancing across boundaries between worlds,
Shimmering along edges of my clay self,
The path I am tracing, a carving through centuries and stone.

And then amidst the music that surrounds me,
Gathered in, held quietly, I am stilled,
As if I too could dissolve into the halcyon pool below.

Toward the dense, deep smell of grey
Looking up at the leafy tree branches above,
“Who are you kidding?” I ask.
Slipping beneath sound into its silences, I answer and listen to the one who speaks:wordlessly.

“We say, in a fight, you cannot win,
You can only defeat;
And out on the rock– my brother—we
Locked horns and the blasted words deafened our ears.”

“I remember being ashamed, lying sheet-wrapped and silent,
And more than the running into wall after wall,
It hurts to know that once we threw rocks,
And for a while afterward, we did not speak to each other.”

“Words are like oceans. They are beautiful and offer freedom,
But once you are there with them, never turn your back.
Perhaps I am who I was before.”

“And if I am, somehow, in some mysterious way,
Then a child was born who happened to have an I
Who I could hear and think and feel and share.”

“Coming home, we stamp off our shoes and put all our baggage away.
I look out under the stars and watch the world dreaming,
The rest was long and good to wait for.”

Now I stand next to the two children,
With no memory of how I got myself here.
Beyond the railing, I can trace the shapes
The river makes as it moves.

The wind is making a play thing out of my hair.
I wonder whose story I am telling,
And if I’ll ever know who called to me,
From somewhere beyond the stream of time.

And for a moment, the song of myself that lives in me
Sings of the wind of changes, and the land,
Cradling the river in it’s arms.

I brush away the lingering mist,
Spray splashing on my face.
But there is more to be said, and though I do not understand,
This time when I answer, I speak from more than I am now.

“Sometimes, we trip on the roots and sometimes we step over them,
And when we’re walking, sometimes the routes get too long
And we get lost retracing them, tracking where the footsteps fell,
And it’s the wandering lost that has often frightened me.”

Tell the I who sought after freedom, who long ago
Misplaced the map written in the language of belonging,
Tell my feet that crossed and recrossed the road
Full of its endless spiraled turning,

Tell the I who faced sun and rain to hold my own,
I am reunited with my own, I have come full circle.
Tell my hands that constructed and reconstructed the shelters,
I am home.

Lessons In The Landscape

Change comes, in little packets of seasons. Each time one opens, it adds flavor to the landscape; salty or sweet depending on its mood. When I become the landscape, feet take on new importance to me. When I get stepped on, my rhythms stop, and I lie still like an ocean without an undertow. There will always be a landscape.

 

Sometimes, it is easy to sculpt like sandcastles peaking out from under grain, as close as the distance between two hands. Sometimes on a distant shore, I awake not knowing where I am, and wander for days until I find a river to trace back to my beginnings. When I arrive the terrain changes, takes on more mass, perhaps. It moves slower than I do and knows more than me. What it knows it cannot tell me, although I can always find it in myself.

 

I am standing with the trees. I am grounded under them. I am flying above them, carried by my wings. The wings are actually made of thread, and I fly because I will do anything to be a light beam.

 

I have a country all my own, full of particles with particular personalities. They don’t have good resonance, but their echoes do. There is always something falling—a leaf, a broken wing—and always feet first. Whenever I land on my feet, I assume I’m a child. Whenever I land on my feet, I am forced to remember that I have grown up.

 

I have never built a cocoon. I am somewhere between larva and butterfly, but don’t know how I got here. The people in this country never wanted me to change: they carved their hands into me so I couldn’t own my body, or my words. There are other children like me inhabiting this country who scatter like particles with no freedom to harmonize. Chaos is white in particles and dark purple in children. Children are purple because they have to hold their voices in like breaths, and lose life quickly. As a child who loved purple, I could never make sense of the world I was born into or why no one sees the signs that guide them back to their own voices.

 

Silences I think are clearer compared to reverberation and those haunting echoes that make me cry. If silence covers the land, words hand over their meanings and get sentenced to periods where they’re locked up in capitols—no rights are stated. Laughter dwindles into nothingness. Nothing always conceives water that forms its own music, breaking down silences.

 

Even the leaves and the dirt they become have voices. The voices echo throughout the labyrinth under the landscape where I found my string and wound my way to where I could skip like shale, though fragile, to the water’s surface. Somewhere under the water, there is the original source I would like to touch.

 

Whatever home I once shared, no one treads water like I do. I am your wanderer, that is clear; I have built myself from the cores of trees and the hold-fasts of the ocean floor. I have made myself walk through narrows, because I can find footing best. I can climb and crawl anywhere, I can get lost in a free world. I wove a rope from the string and tensioned my way all the way up the mountain to look down. There is only one mountain here and it lessens every time I climb it. Someday it will be a pebble glistening red on the sand.

 

I have been, in most conditions, a gray wolf, compact and wild, fiercely maintaining my territory. I defend my people, too. I am with people, but I have no people. For most of my life I have been left alone, making my way like a nomad across these fields.

 

Time feels as though it is being measured by the clock in someone else’s reference frame. Moments whiz by like lightning bugs; I cringe in a corner knowing I will be next. I am always last. I get dizzy waiting, standing still, so I go fast, dance until the wind carries me, and I catch light beams in my hands.

 

Why is it so hard to learn to trust again? I fought for my hand and my words and my steps, I fought for I have been trod down, I fought to move the figures in my head, I figured the objects would love me so much more that they’d give me a guide to worldmaking. I thought I could trace the contours of concavity, fill closed loops like smiles, use my hand to signal direction. I thought my hands became my eyes, that I would know even though this and that stand in the way.

 

I strain to hold my neglected child, I know I do not know, and I am lost, crying for you, flat on the floor with my hands stretched out flat against gravity, and fields and fields away from where I first met you. I must come to terms with my own darkness. How much have I given up to seek a definitive? Perhaps every object I ever loved will let me go. I am reaching for edges to grasp what it is to break out of a circle.

 

I am always looking for the center and never find it. I am the center.  The words come to me.  They wait in lines to begin their journey across steppes and cliffs and wetlands, many meters, and eventually home. When I reflect, I mirror the shadows. Darkness is just the absence of light.

 

To fill the silence that follows, I twine color through my songs, remember what I lost, and how to find it again. The truth is like a sphere, like parabolas and sine waves, like music and friendship—simple and everywhere. In wonder I reach out my hand, for myself, on my own. And light has been worth the destruction of every shadow; this is another way to find the center of it all.

 

I lift my song by hand and it shimmers through my hair like burgundy, comes out clean. I am usually alone, though you are welcome to find me here. You are welcome to experience everything, live with me in the peaks and troughs, mountains, and valleys of long incantations. In the place where answers are questioned, where silence speaks, where space is woven through our belonging and we have never left each other, you may fly between the chords. And home is what happens when you no longer throw yourself into living as if it’s a thing to chase after or prove you can hold, and just let go.  I let go, I let go, I am found again.