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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

739: What kind of world do we want?

Day 739: Friday March 25, 2022


What kind of world do we want?

I watched the dawn and sensed it might be a day I would not like. After a while the birds began to stir, and I found that I was a bit jealous of their carefree outlook.

After morning meditation and breakfast, I moved to my desk. The first thing that caught my eye was a reflection by the delightful Ananta Alva which began with a question.

What kind of world do we want?

My next contact with the human race was an email from a charming young person who several years ago introduced me to that remarkable Quaker educational tool “The Spices”: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Stewardship.

There is my answer to Ananta’s question — that is the kind of world I want! I like to imagine that perhaps that is the kind of world the birds I was watching enjoy. Instead, I have a world that seems to be filled with corruption, greed, and wars. It has been that way for most of the 91 years I have been allowed to live on this planet.

Why do we have such a world? Ananta says it is because we have chosen “individualism over community, consumption over conservation, and competition over cooperation.” I cannot argue with that but I'm not sure it is a complete answer. How do you think we have ended up with the world the way it is? If it is something you are willing to share, please drop me a note when you have a minute. I am really interested in your thoughts. Thanks.

Fires are burning around Chernobyl In Ukraine. Firefighters had trouble reaching the blazes because of the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s forces. Ukrainians and most of the world are very aware that on 16 April 1986 this was the site of the Chernobyl disaster, an atomic accident that was the worst nuclear crisis in history.

A few days ago more than 1000 Ukrainian firefighters did get through and are still attempting to contain all the wildfires in the area. Ukrainian authorities believe the fires may have been deliberately set.

To Putin, Chernobyl is simply a part of Ukraine, which in turn is just one piece of the political jigsaw puzzle he needs to assemble. Journalists point out that he wants to reestablish the Russian Empire and become “Putin the Great.” To thousands of people in Europe, and even at our little dot on the map here at Starcross, Chernobyl means more and will never be forgotten. Our little Rebecca was one of the many casualties of that disaster.

Rebecca (not her real name) came to us in 1996, 10 years after the nuclear catastrophe. She was three days old. Her parents had been told that Rebecca would not have long to live, and they asked us to care for her. They had left Ukraine after the Chernobly disaster and had already lost three babies as a result of radiation contamination. The parents were caring for their own parents, who had cancer. To watch another of their babies die, I am convinced, would have destroyed them. Like many Ukrainians they were Jewish. I offered to try to find a Jewish Hospice, but they were quite insistent that they wanted Rebecca to be with us as was recommended by the hospital in San Francisco.

Rebecca had Zellweger Syndrome. There were no treatments or cures. It was always fatal, usually within months. Having no muscle tone, Rebecca was like a rag doll. The beautiful baby was blind, deaf, and unable to swallow. We fed her through a tube leading directly to her stomach. Although her brain was not developing, we felt that there was some kind of communication. Perhaps Rebecca felt vibrations. She seemed to enjoy it when we sang or played music. She lived with us for five months and was a great influence on everyone. Sister Lynn was holding Rebecca when she took her last breath here. I was in the room trying to support Lynn, who went on to become a Benedictine nun. A Rabbi presided over Rebecca’s funeral at a Jewish memorial park.

We could not do anything about the major nuclear catastrophe. But no one here will ever forget Rebecca. Memories of that sweet child fill our minds when we hear anything about Chernobyl or even Ukraine. If there is some way we at Starcross can help a bit with the plight of the 10 million displaced Ukrainians we will do it —in Rebecca's name.

- Reflection by Brother Toby

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