Friday, September 24, 2010

Flummoxed are the cranemakers

I was flummoxed last week when folding origami cranes on the Driscoll Bridge. Our activity of crane-making was associated with this week's unveiling of the DU Class of 2010's gift to the university of a Peace Pole. We were providing an opportunity for members of the DU community to participate in the ceremony -- even if they were unable to be there -- by making cranes. At the end of the ceremony this last Tuesday, we distributed the cranes to those in attendance, asking them to pass them to their friends and loved ones -- expanding the circle of peace created at the gathering.

I hadn't wanted to reveal the precise purpose of the crane-making (a little mystery might encourage attendance at the ceremony!); the posters simply said "Fold a Crane for Peace". The accompanying handout had information on Peace Poles, as well as the association of origami cranes with peace. The flummoxing moment came, therefore, when a student stopped at the table and, when asked if she'd like to make a crane, responded with something to the effect of "No thanks, I don't believe in what you're doing." I did a double-take, and asked, "You don't believe in peace-making in the world?" "No,that's not it," she responded, "I just don't agree with how you're going about it." Flummoxation! It wasn't like we were selling drugs to finance a peace process (see the Seeds of Terror book discussion announcement below); we were simply folding squares of paper into bird-like shapes. I think I said something insightfully brilliant, like "Oh," and she walked on. Perhaps if I'd not been helping another student with the finer points of book-folds, I might have conjured up a better response.

Peace-making has been a big part of my life. I grew up as a member of a pacifist religious tradition. My father (part of that tradition), however, took up arms in WWII. When I asked him about that seeming contradiction, he responded, "Hitler was different." I never got the opportunity ask him, however, if he was fighting to create peace, or, rather, to rid the world of a an evil. Given the rest of his lived life, I would assume the latter. Peace-making, I believe, is much different, and much more difficult and nuanced, than achieving a cease-fire.

So, for almost a week now, I've been puzzling over that remark. What was behind it? There must have been some misunderstanding about what was going on . . . or was there? Was folding cranes not "engaged" enough? And, if not, what level of engagement in peace-making IS enough? Are symbolic acts (like folding origami cranes, or erecting peace poles) ineffective? I certainly hope (and think) not! Symbols (and words are symbols) are part of what we use to construct our reality. If we recognize symbols of peace for what they are, are we not constantly reminded of, and renewed in, our pursuit of of peace? Meditating on the word "peace' will produce a different result than meditating on the word "kill."

The simple act of folding cranes DID bring peace. The focus on the manipulation of paper calmed the minds of many who stopped at the table: an inner peace so necessary in our busy, conflict-ridden, lives. The camaraderie of those of who were folding brought some understanding of one another -- a major step towards peace. And, then, the eagerness with which the attendees at the ceremony took the cranes to share with others was infectious -- the opportunity to "pass the peace", to engage in conversation about what had transpired near Evans Chapel last Tuesday afternoon -- peace-making again.

I don't know. I'd love to talk more with the student. I'd like to think that we could at least understand what we both mean by peace-making (if you read this, contact me!). In the meantime, I'll fold cranes, and pass them along. And, after it's planted (I'll let you know!), I look forward to running my hands over the Pole's letters/characters of "May Peace Prevail on Earth" and then work and pray for peace in every other way I can imagine. I invite you to do the same.

Peace (English), shalom (Hewbrew), pax (Latin), salaam (Arabic), wolakota (Lakota), paix (French), shanti (Hindi), pace (Italian), ukuthula (Zulu), fred (Swedish), ednhtaiwain (Mongolian), layena (Zapotec), paco (Esparanto), roj (Klingon)!


*flum·mox |ˈfləməks| verb [ trans. ] (usu. be flummoxed): perplex (someone) greatly; bewilder : he was completely flummoxed by the question. ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: probably of dialect origin; compare with dialect flummock [to make untidy, confuse.]

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