Thursday, August 13, 2015

Striking at the root

"...and to live among monsters is to live on the edge of hell." - Kenneth Burke

From her, I receive dispatches. These reports I would craft into parables as if each were a lesson rather than a summons. By transforming them into arcs of hope perhaps her stories will not break me. But they should. And I should let them. Not only break, but shatter. ...
...The more we remind ourselves to think positively, the more immersed we are in the business of denying our despair at the struggles we see around us. We decide to move far enough to the edge of our culture to see it clearly. What is the norm and normal does not serve us well. Many of us have tried to live a "normal" life, and how is that going? I have taken vows that I have broken, I have hurt people that I have loved, and there is no self talk that will change that. If I can accept these struggles in myself, then my chances of seeing the struggles of others compassionately increases. This means we have to be abnormal and imperfect. We have to be willing to see clearly and to question what others seem to condone....

- Peter Block, The Answer to How is Yes
So, she told me, that night, in this city, there was a child with cause to fear her father. This fear the child has in common with her mother for the child has in common with her mother the same father.

Now: how is it I can think of anything else? I do, of course, but how is it that I do?

I recall a night when I was a child coming to an epiphany. The word for it came much later, but what came that night as I wondered if anyone else was laying awake in the dark was a certain, laughing realization that of course there were others. If not in the house, then somewhere. A somewhere that night that expanded beyond the house and out into a world that I knew to be round, where the sun was always somewhere rising and somewhere setting. A big thought.

Later would come bigger thoughts. Somewhere someone was getting up and someone was going to bed somewhere. Someone was eating breakfast. Someone lunch. Someone dinner. Right then. All this was happening. Even when I slept, it all was happening. All the time, somewhere. All the time we have in a day and all the things we do in a day was happening somewhere.

Somewhere all the things that happen to us is happening. Someone being born. Someone dying. All manner of births. All the ways we die. All the things we do to each other, somewhere is being done. Somewhere all the things we say to each other is being said by someone to someone. On and on.

All the time, all the time we have and all we do or are is happening, now. There are so many of us that all of what we are must be happening somewhere. An incomprehensible din of all of it.

Only god could comprehend it. All creation happening at once. In any moment, all is available for review. All virtue. All sin. All the time. One constant hiss of everything, always. What more could god possibly need? What is god waiting for?
...A demon denies time, change, growth, dialectic, and says at every moment: This can't go on! Yet it goes on, it lasts, if not forever, at least a long time....(Reasonable sentiment: everything works out, but nothing lasts. Amorous sentiment: nothing works out but it keeps going on.)

To acknowledge the Unbearable: this cry has its advantage: signifying to myself that I must escape by whatever means, I establish within myself the martial theater of Decision, of Action, of Outcome. Exaltation is a kind of secondary profit from my impatience; I feed on it....

Once the exaltation has lapsed, I am reduced to the simplest philosophy: that of endurance....I suffer without adjustment, I persist without intensity: always bewildered, never discouraged; I am a Daruma doll, a legless toy forever poked and pushed, but finally regaining its balance....This is what we are told by a folk poem which accompanies the Japanese dolls: Such is life/Falling over seven times/And getting up eight.

- Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse
And that's how I do it - think of anything else. Baffling reminiscence. Brooding "archetypes of instrumentality and desire."

So, she told me, that night, in this city, there was a child with cause to fear her father. This fear the child has in common with her mother for the child has in common with her mother the same father.

In Walden, Thoreau writes, "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root."

This night, in this city, she is striking at the root.


With a few edits here and there, what appears above was largely written five years ago after a (another) conversation with Karen Edmonds who is now the executive director of Project Legacy.* Project Legacy is the latest iteration of the work in which she and her husband John have been engaged for over two decades. Local news outlets have reported on this work from time to time. Most recently here, here, and here.

In a recent Facebook post, Karen writes,
When the Chief of Police for RPD rearranges his schedule to sit in Circle for two and a half hours with Project Legacy youth.

When young people speak so deep, ...speak their truth, and share their stories with 100 community members who came out to learn, support and begin to build a better community. If only it had been 1000 who made it a priority to hear our youth.
When a 20 year old recites the words spoken to him five years ago by our key note speaker, David Carson: "You can't enter the palace of the King speaking the language of the Peasant." Words he said he took to heart, memorized and they were life-changing.
When a young mother of three - an addict, an alcoholic- attends Circle for the first time seeking support as she tells the group she is 4 days clean for the first time in 4 years....and asks for the support of Project Legacy.

When the Chief of Police shares his story, all eyes locked on his, the room hushed. All opening their hearts to hear, understand, learn and forgive.
When Peter Boesen flies in from L.A. with Devontae and they both share their story and ask others to support Project Legacy as he and his wife, Stacy, have.

When nine Project Legacy youth ask the audience, including the Director of Adolescent Mental Health and the Director of Community Services, to please support this program that has changed their lives and given them the Hope, Love and Opportunity they never had before.

When my husband, John Edmonds, asked the audience, "Why shouldn't these children have the same opportunities as our children? They need your support. They deserve your support."
When I sign on this morning and read the words of the youth and their friends who respond......

My heart is full of love for our youth and the community members who are beginning to respond.

Please, support our youth. Act to end addiction, hopelessness, generational gang affiliation, homelessness, poverty and racism.  

Though Project Legacy must hack through the branches, it aims always at striking at the root.


*Disclosure: I sit on the Project Legacy board of directors.

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