Monday, July 4, 2011

Alice Tells Her Chickens about Dharamsala: The Song on Which Everything Depends

Alice Walker, writing (to her chickens) about what she encountered when she went to the monastery of Dharamsala, in The Chicken Chronicles: Sitting with the Angels Who Have Returned with My Memories: Glorious, Rufus, Gertrude Stein, Splendor, Hortensia, Agnes of God, the Gladyses & Babe: A Memoir (NY: New Press, 2011):

Our guide gently opened this door, which liberated a tidal wave of sound.  There before us were hundreds of nuns in dark red and ochre robes, seated at desks on the floor, chanting an ancient prayer.  The sound of these nuns praying was like the sound of a billion bees buzzing.  And best of all, they were not even attempting to pray in unison but were chanting wherever they were on the page, which meant a dissonance that brought life and spontaneity to the words and urgency to the prayer.  It was so powerful and unexpected it nearly floored Mommy.  In fact, Mommy sat right down among the nuns and let herself be bathed in the sound of what felt like an ocean of prayer.  If she could have lain down without offending anyone, she would have.  She could have stayed there forever; she never wanted to leave.

She wanted to come back to you, though, even so!
Mommy had this realization: that behind the world, always, there is a song.  That behind every country's "leadership" and every country's "citizenry" there is a song.  Behind Tibet, behind the spiritual "country" the Dalai Lama and Professor Rinpoche and the Tibetan Government in Exile have formed, there is the song of the nuns, which is the song of the feminine.  Without this song, there is no movement, no progress.  It is this song that keeps it all going, though we may hear it infrequently or only by accident.  For millennia and to our detriment, it has been deliberately drowned out.  But it is there, nonetheless.  Mommy was ecstatic to hear it.

And  it strikes me, as I post this passage on the American national holiday of independence, that it's not by any means inappropriate as a commentary on that holiday.  Behind every country's leadership and citizenry, a song, though we hear it infrequently or only by accident.  And the song on which everything depends is often deliberately drowned out.

I wonder what that song might be for the United States and their never-fully-realized experiment in democracy . . . .

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