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Swords of Salt 15:28
I. Are you filled with anger? Do you lash out in frustration at the crushing power structures and cycles of toxicity? As you look out onto the world are you filled with the boiling seas of what you cannot do? Are your fingers worn to the bone from tearing at wall after wall, never fast enough? Are your horizons crowded with enemies? Is the hand of your oppressor heavy upon you? This burning, pulsing, roiling mass is everywhere inside you, spread throughout your body, just beneath your skin. When moon and sun inside you move along their ways, these tides shift, and you may feel pressure or pain in this area or that – a throbbing behind the eyes or temples, a knot in the stomach. As you become conscious of this motion, you can envision and then feel the body of anger, mirroring yours, just below the skin, a body very slightly separate from your own. And as you envision this seperate body, this burning self, you can feel the space between your self, and the fire, growing larger – and the fire becomes hotter, more concentrated. And this other self recedes from the skin, further inside of you while getting smaller, and denser, and hotter, and smaller, and denser, and hotter. And this separate self eventually becomes so small, this tiny burning, raging you – you can feel this tiny other body living deep inside your center. And then, when you are ready, you will feel this little burning one rise. First in your gut, and then in your chest, and then in your throat, and then out of your mouth – out unto the world, to set upon Works that you are too visible, too physical to do. II. What is the difference between those of us who remain here on this island, and the whole wide rest of the world? It is a matter of time. On this island, time is simple; the sun sets, one day ends and another begins. In the rest of the world? Oy it's a mess – rotations of celestial bodies, nine million vibrations of some molecule in Paris, who has time to keep track? No one, maybe that’s why so many of them bent to the computer. It is no surprise that when we start counting, we end up in different places. By our way of counting, this is our six thousandth year. And we celebrate this, a miracle of survival – or, do we? Is survival enough? On whose shoulders have we stood? On whose backs? What persecutions have we been blind to, and what have we committed, as we recovered from our own? How did we come to live still, enshrined in this rock or that up and down this coast? What did we leave in the world as we receded? The stories we tell ourselves about where we came from, who we are, and where we belong – these stories define us, and so change as we change. They have become signs – and in this role, they can do more damage than they events they intend to depict. And so, very carefully, we set one stone atop another. This story, is a story you know. A story found in many books, and films, and other texts, and has no author because it happened, in variation, many times. III. Three hundred years ago in a time of war, a family fled into the forest, burned out of their homes by fascists, lucky to make it out alive and mourning those who did not. These were townspeople – a teacher, a tailor, a nurse, a mechanic – but they learned to survive in the forest, hiding and hunting and stealing, until one day they came across a band of partisans fighting their way to the west. Grudgingly, the partisans took this family in, trained and taught them and, for a moment, the two groups became one. For the first time in their lives, these teachers and tailors held guns. The band moved west across frozen rivers and twice burned fields, fighting, shrinking, growing, and shrinking again. The members of the family saw how many of their kind, and many others, were butchered by the enemy, and the vast scale on which it had been done, and they wept, and they gripped their weapons more tightly. And then, one day, the war was over. This group that had come together began to walk apart, little by little. Some members of the family, weapons still tight in their hands, said: “for thousands of years we have lived within the margins of kingdoms, empires, and nations – crushed as the grow and grind against each other. Why cannot we become as them, and build our own castle, a fortress, that we might stay safe as our enemies might dash themselves against our walls.” While others, eager to put fighting behind them, said: “Have we not had enough of walls? Did our enemies not wall us in? It is not for us to write our name on a scrap of earth, draw lines around it, and decide who may or may not cross them. Any such tower that we build, will lie in wait for its rock from the sky.” And so they began to walk separately, further and further apart. Many in the family put down their weapons, and returned to their lives as teachers, tailors, nurses, and mechanics; dwellers inside the societies of others and different even from themselves - adapting and living and striving and assimilating and refusing to assimilate. While others in the family struck deals with the vast empires of the day, and became a nation of their own. And so the teachers and tailors and their children became the builders of walls, and the bulldozers of houses, and another family fled into hills, their homes destroyed by fascists, there to take up arms, and continue the circle. Two hundred fifty years ago, some of those who had returned to the margins said to the builders of walls: “do you not see who you have become? Monsters, no different from those who persecuted us. You hold on to power for the sake of power, you force people from the land of their birth, you colonize and spread – you have become the opposite of who we are meant to be.” While those who lived by arms turned to those who abhorred them and said: “And you? You have become weak, just as we were before, and when the enemy rises again you will line up meekly in the town squares, you will board the trains with no resistance beyond sarcasm, and you will be the author of instructions for others to do the same. You have forgotten what was learned in the forests.” Two hundred years ago, the empires of that age were fragmented and falling, the age of nations beginning its end. In this time of chaos, many of the children of this family found themselves once more in exile, while others grew in power, and they were scattered among the broken nations, and walked further apart than ever before. IV. Far to the west of where this story began, our land of golden hills and silver seas held a hundred kingdoms, communes, communities of ideas or geography or blood. All temporary, transient, constantly resettling in the walled cities of their predecessors; hermit crabs in a shrinking tide pool. It was in these nights when some among us, children of those children, awake now to the liquid world, left our homes inside of the mirror, walked across the channel, and wrapped ourselves in the cloth to dwell in salt and stillness. One hundred years later, one hundred years ago drom now: an arrow was delivered to us from across the waves on the back of a piece of paper. Sent in an exile of her own by the machinations of petty kingdoms – they did not know we were here – she stepped upon our shore, and so ended our spell. As we awakened once more, we sharpened the salt edges of our hands into blades and - fifteen years later – recrossed the waves as our arrow flew above us and across the land; and we saw ourselves glint in the light, jewels on the hilt of her sword. We returned to old and shattered homes now long overgrown with vine and swallowed by the land, new lines and roads cut into the green, We returned to a world pulsing with force and flow unseen, once common, once oppressed, once forgotten, then remembered, and then coated in plastic and sold, and then broken open, now alive, glowing, searing in the hands and eyes of friends and foes. And of the bridge of eighty five years between that day and now, as of the five thousand nine hundred and fifteen years before that, we ask: On whose shoulders have we stood? On whose backs? Who have we harmed with the movements of our hands and who have we harmed with their stillness? As we atone do we atone in stillness and reflection, or do we walk once more across the waves?