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Every Day Acts of Peace

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Beijing 1990: Fear That Shakes Us From Our Power

Tonight, after teaching
at the secret underground school
in Beijing's university district -
I met my Friend at a cafe
to eat some late night dumplings.

We discussed what Mengzi wrote in 289 BC:
“Never give way to anger,
otherwise in one day you could burn up the wood
that you collected in many bitter weeks.”

We observed the irritation in Beijing
circulating fast, spreading
from individual to individual -
touching feelings buried so deep -
everything felt like a trigger 
for yet another emotional explosion.

We noticed a group of men
take seats at the table across from us.
They looked like Workers 
imported from the countryside as city labor.
Their volume raised, with each beer drunk.

These Workers became post-sports-game-loud, 
increasing their hand-gesturing with their cursing.
They were outraged against the Students 
for demonstrating in the streets.

State-owned media blamed the Student protests
for causing prolonged disruptions to the local economy.
These Workers blamed the Students 
for the current inflation, unemployment
and the economic terror 
imposed after Beijing's Spring protests crashed 
and we were all burned.

These Workers considered the Students extremists -
young terrorists in tension armed 

with intention and the desire for social change.
The Protestor's will, bent the will of society -
everyone desired social change,
but not the unexpected creation of universal upheaval.

These Workers were not from Beijing,
if they had been then they would have known -
that the Workers walked equally along side 
the Teachers, Journalists, Doctors and Artists.
People from all walks of life,
all together walked the streets of Beijing 
arm in arm in protest as protectors of the peace.

Sometimes silence spreads false rumours of truth.
Sometimes silence creates truth that spreads faster than lies.

The itinerant labourers, 
armed with their particular perception,
were too drunk to care. 
So these Workers yelled, 
screamed so everyone could hear.
Their blur of slurs was a protest,
a pouring forth of all their Worker feelings.

Arms flailed against the Student protectors -
there seemed to be no peace and justice for all.
"Young-egotistical-foolish!"
"Self-absorbed agitators!
The Worker's outbursts over,
they labored drunkenly 
to weave their way safely outdoors.

Everyone in the café was also moved to leave. 
I stayed sitting ...
I was waiting for more to come.
I had noticed the Leader, 
the most vocally upset of the group, 
had a gun tucked into the waistband of his pants.

While my friend sat in suspension,
I deepened my inner peace. 
We ate more dumplings, 
and discussed the Leader's gun.
Personally-owned guns in Beijing are very rare, 
and bullets even more scarce to come by.

My friend and I eventually exited the cafe 
just in time to see the Leader, 
the angriest man of all the Workers - 
now even angrier, reach out 
and grab by the neck a Student 
who was riding past on his bicycle.

Excluding the Student, 
now lying on the ground, 
there were eight of us all in shock
at the unexpected suddenness, 
of late night dumplings mixed with drunken frenzy.

The Worker's Leader was incensed -
insistently pulled the protesting Student
to a kneeling position.
This person, this Student,
who might not have been a protestor at all,
was suddenly the target 
of all these Worker's unreleased, 
unexpressed, frustrated,
Worker worked-up pent-up anger.

The Student was kicked repeatedly and cursed.
I stepped forward to do something, anything,
but I was pulled back into a spectator position.

My Friend did not want us to get involved, 
it was against his code of ethics.
I disagreed, resisted 
and verbally challenged my Friend 
over the differences in our beliefs -
but as we debated 
the world grew even more surreal.

As my Friend and I battled each other, 
about the wisdom of interfering with the desires
of a man on a drunken rampage waving a gun -
our whole mythic world tumbled.
We witnessed socialist equality among the classes 
become violently overturned and redefined.

The Worker's Leader gun was pulled,
cocked and placed next to the Student’s head.
The swing of the gun, the metal blur and click
created a silence that punctured and slowed all motion.
The nightmare heightened as we witnessed 
some nights seem as if the whole world is reduced 
to a dream sequence of confrontations.

Our hearts chilled watching these sights -
hate being acted out within
the grasp of our intimate surroundings.
All of our potential added up to nothing 
just frozen interactions ... 
until someone, the angry man’s girlfriend reacted.
She came forward braking the trauma, 
therefore breaking the tension.

I watched as breathless passion suppressed the surreal,
and smeared her lipstick-mouth tense-red then twisted.
Her lips addressed her struggle to pin down her fear
while convincing her boyfriend 
that his feelings were not worth killing for.

I watched this angry man's down-deep gut-felt feelings
wrestle a rise from his unconsciousness,
and look for ways out 
of his bewildering emotional encasement.

Suddenly altered, 
into a state of consciousness, 
he paused –
then kicked the Student 
into the ditch and left.

I moved towards the Student,
then my Friend pulled me back 
whispering softly
to leave the Student alone 
to deal with his humiliation -
to give him time 
to recover his lost composure.

Unsure, 
I wanted to give more, 
so my Friend reassured me
that what the Student needed from us 
was the space to recover his dignity.

The drunken man left, 
gone in search of Self-recovery.
I wished for him a renewal, 
a re-centring from our recent trauma.
I hoped that he would somehow regain 
his lost composure once he re-found himself.
He might reinvent himself from his Self-realizations,
re-visit the deep healing effects of this experience.

I hoped his Self-awareness 
would return after his body de-stressed. 
I witnessed him move through these events.
I watched him passage through 
this twisted emotional mass of time - 
he was a measurement of our humanity's maturity.

I saw all his buried sentiments stress -
I witnessed his pressure forge from the unexpressed,
and suddenly let loose to become emotional stuckness.
To watch an individual consciously manifest war,
is to observe hate activate 
the body's fluid-physicality to unconsciously move.

Over time the unspeakable terror of change 
is united with the uncontrollable -
all existence is forced inside
and married with feeling.
Where the unresolved builds up pressure,
all natural unnatural forces twist 
a person's humanity bent into shapelessness.
Rage becomes that which ravishes 
and is feed by revenge.

Witnesses to his turmoil
we are all left motionless,
emotionally spent on the side of the road -
united speechless in the temporary loss 
of our self-identities 
to the kind of fear 
that shakes us from our power.

~~ Other People's Fingerprints ~~
Sometime after 1892 Marina Tsvetaeva wrote;
“My horse is a devouring fire,
Where my horse breathes--no spring runs.
Where my horse leaps--no grass grows.
O, fire, upon him--unsatisfied rider!
My hair knots into his red mane...
A fiery streak--toward heaven!”



Beijing, China June 4th,1990