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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

956: No matter how bad the headlines may be, the raven flying above me is living out his or her life

Updated: Oct 29, 2022

Day 956: Friday, October 28, 2022

No matter how bad the headlines may be, the raven flying above me is living out his or her life.

Given the dire state of the news, I thought I would balance things with something light. However, several weeks ago a request went out from Starcross asking friends to share what was concerning them. There were a couple of things troubling folks that I thought I might be able to help with.

It seems as if the egregious actions of Vladimir Putin have created a conflict between Russia and the entire Western World. That situation is accelerating to the point where all-out nuclear war is a definite option. Many friends who try to live lives of nonviolence feel that conflicts between nations should be resolved with diplomacy and not warfare.

Today, they find themselves in the same situation that an earlier generation faced when Hitler began his conquest of Europe and the annihilation of Jews and other peoples. Some of our friends, myself included, are having difficulty maintaining a nonviolent attitude towards what might be the beginning of World War III. Putin continues to massacre innocent people and take actions that the International Criminal Court label crimes against humanity.

So, what do we do? Do we stop thinking of ourselves as nonviolent? No!

Mahatma Ghandi who was a powerful advocate of nonviolence wrote these simple words which give a clue as to how we find our way out of this quandary today:

We may never be strong enough to be entirely nonviolent in thought, word and deed. But we must keep nonviolence as our goal and make strong progress towards it.

Nonviolence is a work in progress for most of us who prefer that approach to solving conflict. But there are times when we must take another approach for the common good. We may be facing one of those times today. For myself, I trust I will never agree to kill another person but there are times when I will reluctantly agree to the use of force. In 1945, when the United Nations Charter was signed, it was my hope that the UN would handle those times rather than individual nations. That has not worked out so well yet. However, I think it is something to work toward. As I write these words the UN General Assembly is taking up this very issue.

Another issue that some friends face is the belief that we are headed toward an Armageddon of both nature and culture. Some folks have a deep feeling that nothing we do can change anything. It is too late to save the planet or the people on it.

I have always been impressed with the Eastern emphasis upon the Now Moment. No matter how bad the headlines may be, the raven flying above me is living out his or her life. The bees in the flowers at my feet are fully engaged in the Now Moment of their short lives. This is what the Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (1926-2022) has urged us to remember:

Our own last breath or the final gasp of a collapsing planet can be a precious and beautiful Now Moment!

Now something lighter than wars and the destruction of the planet!

I like pumpkins. In a former life I might well have been a member of the Hopi pumpkin clan. Actually, it's the "squash/pumpkin" clan, more formally it's called the Patung Clan. Patung was known as a great healer.

(Kai at the pumpkin patch)

Years ago, I convinced people here at Starcross to plant a pumpkin patch that could be enjoyed without cost by children from families with limited means. Earlier this month, a group of pumpkin seekers arrived to choose their pumpkins. They were also given seeds and little pots of soil to plant another pumpkin to take home. There were also games, and songs provided by our volunteers and our great farm manager, Lance Baker.

(William and Sean (the Carltwins) with Pumpkins)

How did the pumpkin become the signature symbol of autumn? Thereby hangs a tale! It all started centuries ago among the Celtic people. It was called the festival of Samhain. People would light bonfires, dress in costumes, and dance the night away unafraid of any dark spirits. It was so popular that an 8th-century a Pope decided to have the church adopt this festival and convert it to several holy days including All Saints Day or as it was called among the English, All Hallows. Eventually Samhain became All Hallows Eve.

Now we have to look to Ireland for the beginning of trick-or-treat and the jack-o-'lantern.

Legend has it that a man known as "Stingy Jack" had a drink with the Devil but no money to pay for the drink. Jack asked the Devil to turn himself into a coin for the drink. The Devil did so, but Jack put the coin in his pocket along with a cross. He wouldn't let the Devil out until the Devil agreed to never send Jack to hell.

Jack actually tricked the Devil on at least one more occasion which was very upsetting to the Devil. When Jack died God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. And the Devil was not about to let him into hell. He gave Jack a candle and slammed the door to hell.

Jack carved out a turnip and put the candle in it. That didn't work well so then he picked up a pumpkin, carved it and put the candle inside. Now Jack had a perfect lantern. When he was first spotted on a dark night people would say, "There comes Jack of the Lantern!" Later, they simply said "Jack O'Lantern."

And so, if on Monday night you are fortune enough to have some bright little spirits tapping at your door, know that they are carrying on a tradition going back many centuries. You may see a jack-o'lantern or two out there somewhere. Perhaps you have one on your own porch.

Don't be afraid. It is not old Stingy Jack. I have it on very good authority that a long time ago Jack ran into a Hopi member of the Pumpkin Clan and was converted into a very generous and happy person. Here is a recent picture:

- Brother Toby

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