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Old Turtle and the Broken Truth

 

Have you read the wonderful children’s book, Old Turtle and the Broken Truth? Written by Douglas Wood,  it is a profoundly moving fable which tells the story of how the earth and all its creatures are suffering, for the people will not share their Truth, which gives them happiness & power, with those who are different from them. Then one brave little girl seeks the wisdom of the ancient Old Turtle, who sees that the people’s Truth is not a whole truth, but broken.

In a far-away land that “is somehow not so far away,” one night a truth falls from the stars. And as it falls, it breaks into two pieces—one piece blazes off through the sky and the other falls straight to the ground. One day a man stumbles upon the gravity-drawn truth and finds carved on it the words, “You are loved.” It makes him feel good, so he keeps it and shares it with the people in his tribe. The thing sparkles and makes the people who have it feel warm and happy. It becomes their most prized possession, and they call it “The Truth.” Those who have the truth grow afraid of those who don’t have it, who are different than they are. And those who don’t have it covet it. Soon people are fighting wars over the small truth, trying to capture it for themselves.

A little girl who is troubled by the growing violence, greed, and destruction in her once peaceful world goes on a journey—through the Mountains of Imagining, the River of Wondering Why, and the Forest of Finding Out—to speak with Old Turtle, the wise counselor. Old Turtle tells her that the Truth is broken and missing a piece, a piece that shot off in the night sky so long ago. Together they search for it, and when they find it the little girl puts the jagged piece in her pocket and returns to her people. She tries to explain, but no one will listen or understand. Finally a raven flies the broken truth to the top of a tower where the other piece has been ensconced for safety, and the rejoined pieces shine their full message: “You are loved / and so are they.” And the people begin to comprehend. And the earth begins to heal.

What I Learned From Nelson Mandela #MandelaDay

DE_uzuXW0AAjenj.jpgThe soundtrack to my teenage years in the mid-eighties was filled with The Specials Nelson Mandela protest song; in school I spoke as captain of our debating team about the evils of apartheid in South Africa, and I witnessed the strike by 12 workers at Dunnes Stores in Dublin who protested for two and a half years, for the right not to handle goods from Apartheid South Africa. The dispute started when Mary Manning, a 21-year-old cashier, courageously refused to handle fruit from apartheid-era South Africa. Mary and her colleagues became a household name in South Africa and Mandela said that their stand helped keep him going during his imprisonment.   Many years later when on honeymoon to South Africa, I had the opportunity to visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his life in exile.

Nelson Mandela became for me and will remain the most iconic figure in my life time. In the eloquent words of Barack Obama he was a “man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.” The impressions made on us when we are young have such profound and lasting effects that it feels when something connected to that time is lost years later, that we also lose something of our youth. But it can also be an opportunity to reconnect with our youthful idealism. I am reminded of this again today, International Nelson Mandela Day, reading his quotes:

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living ~ Nelson Mandela 

It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that determines the significance of the life we lead. ~ Nelson Mandela

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.~Nelson Mandela

Our world is a poorer place for Nelson Mandela’s passing, but a far richer and better place thanks to his life –  a reminder to us that we are capable of so much more in our lives and no longer settle for playing it otherwise.

Thursday Thoughts

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Lynne Twist talks about visiting a potter in Mexico. She admired the pottery, and commented on its beauty. She noticed that the potter had many pots and asked, “How many pots have you made?” The potter was surprised by the question. “Here,” he answered, “we don’t count such things.” – The Soul of Money

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The Hope of Loving

What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure?
I think it is the hope of loving,
or being loved.
I heard a fable once about the sun going on a journey
to find its source, and how the moon wept
without her lover’s
warm gaze.
We weep when light does not reach our hearts. We wither
like fields if someone close
does not rain their
kindness
upon
us.

Meister Eckhart

A Poem For World Poetry Day

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye