Friday, March 16, 2012
What else worth remembering have I forgotten? I've been reading Utah writer/poet Emma Lou Thayne's new book A Place of Knowing. I have known Emma Lou for many years, appreciated her poetry and her anti-war sentiments--once in a peace march downtown during the first George Bush's war in the Middle East, where we ended up on the state capitol's steps to hear her (and others) speak. My young son Marc, about twelve at the time, carried a home-made cardboard sign on a stick that said in red letters: NOT ONE MORE DROP OF BLOOD. I remember on the way up, there were people on the sidewalks jeering at us. Some even spit at us. I remember that. I don't remember what she said. She writes, "So much of our mental space is occupied by reverie, mostly about ourselves--how we did or will do this or that, what we'll do in an hour or next month, wishing, fearing, worrying...."
Paying attention has never been easy for me. In high school I daydreamed my way through algebra and geometry. At the university I skimmed my way through French and biology. I've performed in numbers of plays from which I cannot recall a single line.
Late in 1986, Emma Lou spoke at an event, "a unique celebration for peace on the last day of the year. At noon Greenwich time, people worldwide would simultaneously pray and meditate for peace. Noon in Greenwich was four a.m. in Salt Lake City, and on New Year's Eve! Fifty million people in fifty-six countries were expected to participate... Now when all else had so lamentably failed where peace was concerned, why not prayer...on a global scale?"
Wouldn't you think I would remember such an occasion, if I had been there? It was not until I read about it that I eerily remembered that I had, in fact, been there. Reading Emma's words recounting the experience, a sort of gauze lifted in my mind--a really spooky kind of levitation possessed me, like seeing a vision. I remembered the dark cold morning, the hundreds of cars on the streets, in parking lots and along the curbs. My dear friend Nila and I walked in the dark for blocks to Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus, where readers and musicians from sixteen cultures took their places on the stage. Emma Lou was one of them. They spoke of "peace, diversity, heritage. In the language of their tradition, one by one, Navajo, Greek Orthodox, Mormon, Catholic, Baptist, all took their turns. Between musical numbers came prayers and readings--Hebrew, Iranian, Baha'i, Hindu and Islam. Percussion--sometimes just a run of bells--indicated a change of mood. After an aged Lowell Bennion read from the Book of Mormon, a twelve-year-old African American Baptist boy read in Swahili from the new testament.
"Finally, Robyn Simper, general organizer of the event, read about forgiveness and lit a candle on the darkened stage. For seven minutes the hall was silent...then music professor Ardean Watts came forward and lifted his arms and the whole hall rose to sing 'Let There Be Peace On Earth, and Let It Begin With Me.'...We joined hands and raised them over our heads and smiled...."
I remember it now, Emma Lou! I was there, I participated. I was there! How, even over these many years, could I have ever forgotten?
Thank you, Sister Thayne, for giving me this gift, this memory!