Heading: Beginning Our Correspondence
3/8/14: Dear Charla,
I'm so glad we are partners in this assignment, and the final project!
I'm going to confess something right away: I was raised by a very racist man. My father was a WWII Navy veteran and was raised on a farm in the Texas Panhandle. I had just turned nine years old when the Freedom Riders pulled into Montgomery, Alabama (May 20, 1961). I remember him screaming at the television, veins standing out on his neck: "Is that a WHITE man with those niggers? I hope they kill him first. What would make a white man get on the bus with those niggers?" His rage scared and confused me. And I loved my daddy.
He wasn't all bad, in fact he was a wonderful person in many ways, and had no prejudices other than toward African Americans. I have often wondered why, but it was probably just what was modeled for him in his family, and it was very common in his day. Here's some writing I did about him last semester.
So, having gotten that over with, I want to say that perhaps because of his hatred, I have always sought to understand what makes people hateful and prejudiced. I've been a peace maker all my life, but my family seemed to prefer violence and bigotry...and maybe that's why it's so important to me.
I became aware of Gandhi and his writing and teachings in high school. I remember writing a paper about him for an English class. I share a fascination with my father about Eastern culture. He could read and write Chinese when he came back from the war. I still have his pens and ink. He also studied the Mayans extensively, and could read and draw Mayan hieroglyphs. My intellect is similar to his - I have to be interested in something to care about learning about it. I do not do well with math and sciences!
So, tell me a little about yourself. I noticed you are from DC. I lived in Arlington for a year while my second husband was working there. I loved the Metro! It was fall of 1992 and I attended Clinton's first inauguration. I really enjoyed the museums and art galleries and spent three days in the Holocaust Museum when it opened in April, '93. Intense.
3/10: Dearest Jade,
I am so excited to be working with you on both projects, too! I have so much respect and admiration for you, and I'm looking forward to getting to know you better!
I just read about your writings about your dad and other veterans. Thank you so much for sharing. That was so beautiful, and the part about horses caring if the person is safe now gave me chills! I really appreciate your honesty. That is so interesting that your father went to so many parts of the world and studied such diverse (and amazing! I feel very connected to the Mayans) cultures and yet had an aversion to African Americans. I bet he was a very complex man.
It is really amazing that you became so dedicated to finding out what makes people so hateful and prejudiced. I share that wonder with you (and I would also add I wonder why people are so unhappy. It almost seems like people want to be unhappy sometimes.)
I really love cultures, too. I want to travel the world and be immersed into all sorts of cultures. I can definitely relate with needing to be interested in something to care about it! That's why I love Naropa!
I am from DC! Well, from a town in Maryland very close to DC. I was raised in Rockville, MD, until I was 8 years old. Actually I remember the date was January 29, 2002, when I moved! I have a pretty bad memory, but I am very good with dates! We moved to Potomac, MD, which you may have heard of since you lived in Arlington! I don't like to say I'm from Potomac because of the stigma that comes with it. I still say I'm from Rockville. Phil from our class is actually from Potomac, too! His house is a couple streets away from mine, but I just met him in this class!
Wow, what was Clinton's inauguration like? and what did you think of him as a president? The Holocaust museum is amazing! I'm not a fan of the metro but that's because I have a fear of doing a lot of things by myself, including riding the metro. I love the idea though. It is so convenient! I have no problem riding it with some company.
My parents were not really role models for me. I mean, I love my dad so much! But he just doesn't really see life the way I do. He has very different values, but he supports me, and I'm so grateful for that. I think he was emotionally stunted at a pretty young age. Right now, I am working on myself (I have not heard the word "healing" as much in my entire life as I have this year at Naropa. But my vision is to help everyone I meet however I can. That;s why it's so hard for me to try to pick a career: I don't want to focus on any one population. But I need to work on my self-empowerment and confidence before I can really do anything for anyone else, I'm learning.
I have very mixed views on Gandhi, mainly because of the way he treated his wife. Granted, my mixed views come from what my friend Ranjit has told me about Gandhi, but I trust his research (and also will do some of my own). So, going into the movie I felt biased. I really respect his visions though. I guess it just shows he is human. Do you know about sun, moon, and ascending signs? My friend told me Hitler and Gandhi had the same sun, moon, and ascending signs. It is so interesting how differently their lives panned out.
I can't really emphasize how excited I am to get to know you! I really wish I could come to the workshop tomorrow, but I have class during that time. Have a great time though, and please tell me how it goes!
See you soon!
March 12: Hi, Charla,
Your letter brought up so much for me! I did a little research on the astrological charts for Gandhi and Hitler: fascinating! My business coach is an amazing astrologer, and I'm going to ask him what he knows. It seems to me that the difference in how they played out their charts could be related to their early childhood experiences. More research is needed!
Yes, Daddy was Gemini, the most confusing sign in the horoscope. I've avoided ever looking at his chart. I think he came in as a potential shaman or healer, and was terribly traumatized by his war experiences. It shut down his heart. He was a horrible nicotine addict and severely asthmatic from birth. He died from emphysema and diabetes on Christmas Eve of 1994, at the age of 69. He was a very complex individual and it didn't help him that he married my mother. But I'm glad he did...
I loved being in DC, mostly because I knew I would be leaving after the year-long assignment my husband had there. He was an assistant Attorney General in Texas and had the opportunity to be the editor of the national newsletter for the Attorneys General Association. That year was hard for me, because I left all my friends and family in Austin and Bart was in a downward spiral with drug addiction and alcoholism. I lost my support base. I stayed busy by volunteering for the Smithsonian and was there for the 15th anniversary of The Vietnam Wall. There was an exhibit inside the museum that took people about 6 hours to get through, at the peak of interest. My job was to entertain people waiting in line. The exhibit was small, and people would get in there and break down. They had counselors there the second day and the line moved a little more quickly. I also worked at The Wall some and helped people locate the name of their loved one. The Vietnam War was my generation's war and it has had a huge imprint on me.
The first few months of Clinton's presidency were exciting...we all had such high hopes. Then he was challenged about gays in the military and wimped out with the 'Don't ask. Don't tell" policy. That was the end of the love affair. He's just another politician. The inaugural weekend was a fine party. I'll see if I can dig out some pictures!
We'll visit some more about the general oppression of women, and how it was just the way things were...even in India! I was fortunate to be in the era where things shifted. Feminism has been an imprint on my generation, and it didn't go well for most of us, personally. I'm looking forward to sharing more! Much love, Jade
3/13: Hey Jade :),
Yea, it is so interesting how much can affect our lives! I mean, I believe the Astrology part has a big influence on the background framework, but then our childhood upbringing can really add a whole new dimension, too.
My brother is a Gemini, too, so I understand! haha. I am really sorry that you lost your dad in a way that sounds really painful (for both of you) :(. I bet he had a huge heart, even if he might've suppressed it. Will you tell me more about your mom?
Wow, that's amazing. Which Smithsonian museum did you work at? Or was there only one then? I'm really sorry about his addiction. My brother-in-law (who is going to graduate school for law) also had some serious addiction issues. I absolutely bet you were great at entertaining people in line! That sounds like a really intense job, and a really amazing exhibit. Do you know if it's still there?
Hm, who has been your favorite president so far? I don't know much about politics honestly.
I'm sure! I would say feminism is still struggling these days, but I know it has come a LONG way! How was the workshop on Tuesday by the way?
I'm very curious on Gandhi's views toward women. I thought it was interesting in the movie that he told the white reporter male that the best way he could help is if he left, however he allowed the white female nurse and photographer both to stay. and toward the end when he told he photographer "You're a temptress!" and she said "Just an admirer!" to which he said, "Nothing is more dangerous, especially for an old man." I also wonder what his views on sexuality were like.
3/14: Dear Charla,
I was at the National Museum of Natural History. The exhibit was only open for the month of the 15th anniversary celebration, November, 1992. There is a gigantic warehouse full of the items left at the Wall over the years. This was a small selection of some of the most poignant. Items are picked up and cataloged by Park Rangers every night, with a record of the panel the item was in front of...fascinating archival undertaking!
Favorite president? I loved Jimmy Carter. I think he is a good, honest man, and was not corrupted by the power and money of the office. He has spent his retirement in social endeavors, like Habitat for Humanity.
I'm going to research a bit more about the astrology charts for Gandhi and Hitler. Do you want to look around for more about Gandhi's relationship with sex and women? I'm going to see if I can get a copy of the book that Candace showed us yesterday. More later, Jade
3/16: Hi Jade :) hope you've had a great weekend!
I love the Museum of Natural History!!! I don't know if I love that one or the Native American museum more. I met an Alaska Native on a plane once (who I absolutely fell in love with, but that's another story!) and he told me that he, his dad, and other members of the tribe carved a canoe and shipped it (literally) all the way from Alaska to the Smithsonian museum in DC. He even showed me a picture of it, it was amazing! One day, I finally went to the Smithsonian Museum of the Native Americans and I looked for his canoe. I went all over the museum and couldn't find it, even in the "Sealaska" exhibit. I even asked someone who worked there and they had never seen it! I missed all the awesome artifacts the museum held because I was so focused on finding the canoe (which was an important lesson in itself..you miss everything around you when you are only focused on one thing), and then eventually accepted the fact that I wouldn't find it. The next day, I went to the Museum of Natural History and as soon as we walked in, there was a poster and my friend said, "Hey, didn't you say his last name was Chilton?" and sure enough, she had found a plaque that explained the journey of the canoe and then it said "Look up". The canoe was hanging in the museum right above the main entrance!
That is amazing. I can only imagine how cool it must be to work in a museum! and kind of a shame that the items are locked away so no one can see them when they're not being displayed!
Ah, from the little I know about Jimmy Carter he did seem like a good person.
Yes, that sounds great! what else interests you about Gandhi? I find I keep wanting to bring him up in conversations lately! Charla
3/16: Hi, Charla,
Yes, the weekend was good and today was so beautiful. It was hard to sit here and get work done, but I did get out for a long walk.
Great story about the canoe: loved it!
Yes, I think we'd better focus on our tasks, here. I am always talking about Gandhi to friends. I find it fascinating that he has had more books written about him than any other person, living or dead. I also love it that he died with less than 10 possessions, including a watch, his spectacles, his sandals, an eating bowl and plate and the clothes he wore.I like to think I'm a minimalist, but I've managed to hold on to my papers, photos and memorabilia from my life. This is my treasure chest for my writing in these last few decades. I go to a clothing bank once a month, and the rule is I have to get rid of the number of things that I bring home from there. Moving a lot has helped me stay light, I think. I've also lived in small places, mostly, so that helps.
I did find that book, Gandhi's Truth, by Erik Erikson, at the Longmont library. The letter he wrote to the dead Gandhi in the chapter, A Personal Word, is very powerful. I think I like it because it's written by a Westerner, asking some of the same questions we are looking at around his treatment of his wife and his relationships with other women.
Talk to you soon,
3/17: Hey Jade!
I'm glad you had a nice weekend :) definitely appreciated the sun!
Thank you :) I figured you might enjoy the story!
I definitely find it interesting and amazing that he's had so many books written on him! Does he remind you of anyone you know in person or have ever heard of?
I could definitely learn a thing or two from Gandhi (and you!) about possessions. I like to consider myself a minimalist too, but then I look around my room and realize I have way more than I need!
That sounds powerful! I really wonder how Gandhi would have replied.
Good luck with your writing! And yes, a new thread might be a good idea! I guess what's most important is incorporating our thoughts about Gandhi (and MLK, but we havent really talked about him yet). The assignment says it's up to them to have a voice in our paper. So, anything that interests us about Gandhi or that we don't understand. It seems like it's more of a back-and-forth letter format rather than a formal paper!
I am going to try to be available over email during spring break but I honestly don't know! I am going to the Crow Creek reservation in South Dakota, and I have no idea if they have internet there honestly. But i will have my phone, which will be good if i find out I can only text you. (by the way my number is _________)
It sounds like you are going to have a wonderful break :)! I hope you do. Charla
Heading: Gandhi & Women
3/29: Hi, Charla,
Hope you had a great break! hard to believe it's over already.
I ran across this today about Gandhi's power position with young women. We should probably wrap up our correspondence project and get focused on the final presentations...I'll try to work on the Gandhi/ MLK piece tomorrow...not doing too well, health wise right now. More later, Jade
3/30: Wow, Jade. That article was amazing, thank you for sharing it! I wonder if peoples' opinions would be changed if they knew that about him (I hope so). It kind of reminds me of how in elementary school I learned only the European peoples' perspectives of finding America and not the Native Americans' perspective. Really interesting to think about the motive that people have for leaving this important information out.
I hope you're feeling better!? and that you had a great, relaxing, and hopefully long enough break :) Charla
3/31: I'm fond of what I've come to call 'rascal' gurus. Osho taught tantra to a select few of his students. He died in the late 80's after a colorful career of bringing Zen Buddhism to the west. He was deported to S India because he was not paying taxes. Our very own Rinpoche was known to sleep with female students, with his wife's gracious consent. He also drank a LOT of rum, and can be seen quite drunk in a number of the films of his lectures.
Because Gandhi stepped into a position of moral leadership for the entire kingdom of India, his personal life has been scrutinized and picked apart endlessly. Just as Jesus showed anger at the money lenders (at least based on the Bible) to let us know he might be the Son of God, but he was also human, so, too, did Gandhi have his faults and frailties. MLK had mistresses, and occasionally prostitutes.
I think it's important to look at the era and the history of the oppression of women. Feminism was not even a faint whisper in the late 40's, although the suffrage movement had rocked things in America, at least in regard to the right to vote.
What do you think? Jade
3/31: That still sounds very nice! I'm sorry you didn't get to go to the barn though. My trip to the reservation was soo amazing, I'm excited to tell you about it in person :).
Wow, I don't know too much about Osho, but I definitely didn't know that! That's an interesting website too. I also heard Trungpa didn't even know his wife's name when they married. Definitely an interesting "rascal!" I also find his alcohol tendencies interesting because I personally don't feel grounded at all when I drink. I wonder if he did.
I guess everyone has their dark side, but it seems like some of these really amazing people had some really dark sides... darker than most. I find that fascinating. Who do we look up to and why? I got in a fight with my roommate today and then I was explaining why conflict is a good thing, and I said a relationship can only thrive as much as it has conflicts. Just like I think maybe a person can be only as bright as their shadow is dark, so maybe the brighter the light the darker the shadow. Maybe..Just a thought!
“To me, conflict is a deeply spiritual place. It’s the high energy place where power meets power, where change and transformation can occur.” Starhawk
Where do we go about forgiving their not-so-admirable tendencies, and which ones are unforgivable? Personally, I wouldn't forgive Gandhi's exploitation of women, especially because I am one!
That's a very good point; I guess I am biased because I feel like equality for all would include women. I have a hard time fathoming how feminism is such a new thing. It feels like people in history have always needed/had a group to oppress! I'm glad women at least got to vote.
Yes, definitely! i believe it is due April 8!
Heading: Correspondence Question
4/2: Hey Jade :) would you also want to talk about the idea that was brought up in class about zeroing the self versus self-love? Charla
4/3: Yes; I was intrigued by that, too. I believe that ego can be a healthy function of being human, and it can take over with it's own agenda, if left to it's own devices!
Self love is something I've worked on my whole life. Still can't say I'm there..had a sick fuck of a mother that messed me up really badly in the realm of self-worth. I still struggle with it every day. What are your thoughts? Jade
4/4: I'm sorry about your mother :( I had a very similar situation and I am definitely on the path of finding out what self-love means to me.
I highly agree that the ego is healthy and important. We are human, and thus we are born with an ego. What we choose to do with that is what's important.
Like I was telling you in class, I think there is a huge difference between people who give up their ego and throw themselves into service before ever establishing who they are versus a person who knows exactly who they are and is rooted in that, and then chooses to go into service because they realize they want to. I know this from experience! When I was younger, I knew I wanted to help people somehow, but I didn't even know who I was. It was like bypassing the self-discovery and sacrificing myself for others. Now, I am on this serious journey of self-discovery, and I feel like I'm being selfish and regressing, but I have to remember that if I want to help people (like I do!) I need to know who I am and what I am actually good at in order to share those gifts with others! I want to work with improving mental health too, and I think promoting self-love is so important for that (and how can I promote it if I haven't cultivated it in myself?). I guess the biggest difference between self-love and ego indulgence is the first one allows you to meet your basic needs so that you can survive (how can you help others if you're dead?!) and allows you to cultivate wisdom, and the second one is when you live only for yourself through greed and overindulgence. I know which one I want to choose :).
Heading: Great Quote re: Ego
4/5: "When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness."
~Joseph Campbell Jade
4/5: I love that :) Charla
Quotes to work into our writing from our text, Gandhi the Man: How one man changed himself to change the world, by Eknath Eswaran
"...one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself" (p 80)
an English reporter asked, "Mr. Gandhi, don't you think you were a trifle underdressed for the occasion?" Gandhi replied, "His Majesty had enough clothes on for the both of us." (p 101)
"...in order to enjoy life, we cannot be selfishly attached to anything--money, possessions, power or prestige, even family or friends" (p 125).
"If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman" (p 160)
"Rama, Rama, Rama. It meant I forgive you, I love you, I bless you." Gandhi said to his assassin (p 166)