UU Women and Religion

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Cakes For the Queen of Heaven, Isis?

Helen’s March 14, 2011 Note:  My love letter of concern to all my Japanese IALRW, International Association of Liberal Religious Women, sisters:

A teapot holding tea leaves becomes active with strong essence when the water is added.  I see you “in hot water” and being strong in this time of tragedy.  Today, it’s so hard to know what the escape of radiation from your quake-damaged nuclear plants really will mean for human health.  However what I have witnessed about all of you is the steadfastness of your supportive interdependence and industrious positive energy.  I’m sure that “when in hot water” from the earthquake, each one of you is becoming strong enough “to take it” and give what you can to your people’s struggle.  This vision I carry inspires me to send, daily, my positive vibrations of concerned love.  May you be safe and able to be resilient every step of the way to recovery.  History proves you’ve done it before.  I hold you in my heart dear sisters.

[Details on IALRW members' aid efforts in Japan are on their Facebook group page.]

Egypt’s weaponless January liberation protest connects to WW II’s A-bomb devastation in Japan.

By Helen Popenoe, (written February 21, 2011, but relevant to Japan’s tragedy, today, in its connection to Michiko Tsuchihashi’s mission, described in this report.)

February Article Introduction (followed by early March responses):

If Jeremiah could have looked at Egypt this beginning of 2011, how would he have interpreted the motivation behind the protestors’ movement?  Might they have baked cakes for the Queen of Heaven in their pre-protest communication?  In WOMUUNWEB’S fall issue, I started a series based on my reactions to presentations I heard at September’s conference for the International Association of Liberal Religious Women (IALRW.)  Now, my second report is an opinion piece about Egypt’s strong protest, one minus the violence of warring with weapons.  The weaponless Egyptian January freedom demonstrators’ success ties in with IALRW’s Michiko Tsuchihashi’s unforgettable sharing of her mission in life. 

WOMUUNWEB’s last issue’s report was based on a description of Dolma’s peace education.  Michiko, in her presentation, acknowledged how Dolma’s  good work in India connects with Michiko’s peace work in Japan.

2010 Centennial (100th) Celebration of IALRW Being Women in Action

I begin with two quotes from a Sunday Star, July 15, 1962, article I saved.  Its title is “On Living in the Shadow of Atomic War” by Saul Pett.  “Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas points out that the Chinese word for crisis is made up of two characters, one meaning danger; the other, opportunity.”   President Obama said that out of opportunity comes hope when referring to the Egyptian protests right after President Mubarak stepped down.  Later on TV, President Obama toned down what he meant by hope for Egypt with his reminder that Indonesia’s history tells us that it has taken them twenty years to reach their present modernity.

My second quote from the 1962 article comes from Robert Oppenheimer, who facilitated the atomic age into being.  “We live with an expansion of knowledge overpoweringly beautiful, vast, ramified, quite  unparalleled in the history of man.  We live with a yearly enrichment of our understanding of nature, and of man as part of nature, that doubles every decade…”  But he added, “We have so largely lost our ability to talk with one another.  …We hunger for nobility: the rare words and acts that harmonize simplicity and truth.”

To me, that simplicity lies ingrained in our unconscious memories from the early agrarian days when humans lived in peace through egalitarian, communicative interdependence.  That simplicity led to joint action for the betterment of all beneficent life.  The UU Women and Religion curriculum, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven has convinced me that this way of living from thousands of years ago still is held in humans’ unconscious minds today.  That interdependence must have been centered on “respecting each person’s life”, as Michiko put it in her IALRW presentation.

The real connection that is coming out of modern social networking technology, can spark embodiments of positive, creative energy to deal with the realities of natural and political troubles.  Carol Lee Flinders in the Cakes… resource, Rebalancing the World, says, “The energy that can rise in real connection is the stuff of revolution.”

I see many of today's protestors seeking liberation to live according to their inner felt truth, learned by humans in the ancient era of partnership and peace.  Carol Flinders named those ways, the Belonging Values.  David Korten called them, Earth Community values in The Great Turning, another Cakes… resource.  Also, in my preparation to become a Cakes… facilitator, I learned that Egypt had a Golden Age of harmonious peace from 1990 up to 1786, BCE (Before the Common Era.)  Could the Egyptian protestors in Cairo’s “Liberation Square”, also, have that ingrained, unconscious memory (meme) to give them additional power to act on their behalf?  David Korten spoke of this kind of living together as one of “mutual empowerment”, supported by the “regenerative power of the Spirit.

Partnership Ways – Yes!  Violence – No!

On December 22, 2010, another hope came to those of us “who believe in the importance of a verifiable nuclear arms control agreement between the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers.”  This happened by way of the U.S. Senate’s ratification of the New START, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.  This treaty between Russia and the United States “will help to prevent the global spread of nuclear weapons.”  (The two quotes are from the United Nations Association of the USA email announcement I received from unahq@usa.org.)

Michiko told us IALRW’ers that she works for a “war-free”, nuclear-free world” as a path for “achieving lasting world peace.”  In this exciting, but confusing world that surrounds us Earthlings, the thoughts Michiko expressed at IALRW’s September conference gave clarity of purpose.  She included her family’s grim story of when the A-bomb hit Hiroshima 65 years ago.  She ended with a positive thrust I am inspired to follow.  Here is a translation of those segments:

“At the time of the bombing, my family lived in Kure City, next to Hiroshima City.  I was three years old at that time and was in Kure, so I was not exposed to the A-bombing.  However, my mother and one-year-old sister were at my mother’s parents’ home in Hiroshima, so they experienced the bombing.

“Mother and younger sister were exposed to the A-bombing 5 kilometers from the hypocenter, and trapped by our house smashed by the blast.  However, they miraculously survived.  When Mother managed to get out of the collapsed house, she saw so many people escaping from the city, with their clothing all burnt, their skin peeling and black red, inflamed, the sight of which were so horrible to see.

“While fleeing, she saw many dead bodies everywhere.  Many people with faces burnt and clothing ragged, were crying, ‘Mother, Mother.’

“However, she could not do anything.  She also escaped over dead bodies, although she tried to avoid them.  There were tremendous corpses in rivers.  They might have jumped into those rivers, trying to get water.

Father entered Hiroshima City right after the bombing, looking for Mother, so he became a secondary A-bomb victim, and got out of shape due to the radiation infection.

Several years later, Mother got ill with the swollen thyroid gland, which resulted from the aftereffects of the A-bombing, and this condition continued for a long time.

For a long time, Mother did not talk about her A-bombing experiences which is overwhelming our imaginations.  She said that when she tried to recall the day and her experiences on the day, she was filled with too much sorrow, and became unable to talk.  However, in her old age, she finally could overcome these feelings and left her testimony.

At the end of her testimony, she concluded by saying, ‘I wish that no more wars will happen, so that our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will be able to survive in the 21 century.”

Michiko, with her doctorate, holds the position of Chief Managing Director of the NPO Corporation’s The Hiroshima Religious Co-operation and Peace Center in Hiroshima.  This is her means, as she says, “to practice and act for the real world peace that will prevail from each person’s heart.  …As the lives of [those in my] family, including me, are very precious, so all the people’s lives are equal and precious.  Today, the dignity of life which is the most important is being lost.  One of the reasons of this loss comes from wars or conflicts made by human beings’ ego.  In wars, people kill each other and lose precious lives, and this leaves only hatred and resentment behind.”

In response to her mother’s testimony, Michiko vows, “Keeping her deep prayer as an important message to the future, in my mind, I thought that to thank for my present life, to try my best in every moment, which changes minute by minute, and to live for each person’s peaceful mind and the world peace are my mission.

“We, as persons of religion, would like to cherish lives and pursue the world free from conflicts and a world of ‘forgiveness and reconciliation’ instead of retaliation.  In the Buddhist sutra, ‘hokkukyo (Dhammapada)’, there is Shakyamuni Buddha’s saying, ‘It is indeed true that resentment can never be solved by resentment. Resentment will disappear only by being without resentment.’  These words are the words that we should keep in the minds of us who live in this day and age.”

Michiko’s belief “that human dignity means preciousness of life” brings me to her description of the Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace.  “It contains a stone chest housing a register of those known to have died of exposure to the A-bombing.  The front of the stone coffin is the inscription which reads, ‘Let all the souls rest in peace; for we shall not repeat the evil.’  …”This pledge to transcend hatred and resentment of the horror and misery caused by the A-bombing, resonates in our minds deeply.”

The power to take life doesn’t count as much as the once prevalent partnership ways for enhancing the life of our human species.  Michiko’s inspiring words give me the hope that the realization of lasting peace can grow if our starting point is respect for the preciousness and dignity of human life.

Afterthought about a childhood experience of mine:

When I was eleven years old and a regular Sunday school attendee at Washington, D.C.’s All Souls Church, Unitarian, I must have participated in sending a gift of school supplies to Hiroshima’s children who survived the A-bomb.  Before meeting Michiko at the IALRW centennial, Sugarloaf, my present congregation, had an April Sunday service for honoring the Hiroshima children’s 1948 drawings.  What they depicted had such bright colors, happy subjects and hope.  They had been sent to us Sunday schoolers as a thank you for our gift and, since then, preserved in the All Souls’ archives.  Michiko knows about that exchange and remembers with gratitude our creating a child to child bridge of support.  Maybe, deep down, I, still, know in my heart the sad feeling of empathy and, in my mind, retained longtime unconscious awareness of the dreadful meaning of the U.S. dropping Hiroshima’s A-bomb, 65 years ago.  I believe in the power of such memes to give present-day guidance.