February 21: 7th Interfaith Wisdom Circle
|Opening to spiritual wisdom — a global video conference circle of people who seek to share the sacred and serve the world.|
Celebrating the Spiritual Guides Who Have Shone Light into Our Lives
Professor Dr. Ibrahim Farajaje, a dear friend and spiritual mentor to many people of diverse faiths, races, and backgrounds in the Bay Area and around the world, left this world on February 8, after a massive heart attack. Those of us who had the blessing of knowing him are in mourning.
In Ibrahim’s honor, the theme of this month’s Interfaith Wisdom Circle is remembering our spiritual guides who walked with us along the way. Rev. Charles Gibbs will moderate the conversation.
Ibrahim Farajaje: Opening Sermon at Star King School 2012 Symposium
More about Ibrahim Farajaje
Ibrahim Baba was a pioneer in building bridges across bountaries that usually separate people. Deeply learned in Islam and Sufism, in Judaism and Jewish mysticism, in Christianity and Buddhism, fluent in 16 lauguages, equally at home in Istanbul, Turkey and Berkeley, California, he travelled the world for decades, leading studies, producing videos, and delivering papers, on the interrelatedness of the world’s spiritual traditions as they play out through the rich diversity of the world’s cultural contexts. In recent years he was Provost and Professor of Islamic Studies at Star King School of the Ministry, whose mission is “is to educate people for Unitarian Universalist ministry and for progressive religious leadership in society.”
What a lovely and powerful group of folks! Thank you for convening this inspiring conversation.
Yes, Aryae, I thought of a spiritual moment where I learned, though there was no teacher. Actually….
The teacher was Brian Cooke, a jazz pianist who had played with Chet Baker. And he led me to a moment of truth that is as fresh today as it was then. We had formed a political rock ‘n roll band in Berkeley, in ’71, called Contraband. We were seven, a great singer named Dianne, my brother Jon was on the trombone, me on the bass. Brian had agreed to join us for a political festival, and we were trying to tame this jazzman enough to get him to do the antiwar and feminist songs we were singing. But one day at rehearsal, he took over and taught us a bossanova piece called “Reza.” Bossanova goes on and on, with that endless train rhythm, forever. The song stretched us out of our comfort zone, with unusual chords and tricky syncopation. But we hit the zone, we were in the flow. As we played it over and over, I suddenly was seized with the awareness that I was not playing the song….the song was playing me! Gone was any vestige of “Hey look at me, I’m playing in this cool political band….” God wanted this music to be playing, and I was his vehicle. The seven of us were one, and for us there was only “Reza,” rolling out of us, a song that wanted to happen.
Now, a quick 45 years later, I ask myself…..What song does God want to be playing? Can we be the vehicles for what asks to happen now?
Here in Jerusalem, what is it we can provide that will respond to the terror of living in the Palestinian neighborhoods? What openings can we find to penetrate the walls of indifference on the Israeli side? What is the key to getting intelligent people to see that children will only leave their homes with scissors, knowing they will likely die, if they are despairing so badly that this has become an alternative? Are Israelis willing to acknowledge the suffering that our domination engenders daily? With 75% of the residents of East Jerusalem living below the poverty line.
It is hard for us to be with the knowledge that 700,000 Palestinians fled this land in ’48, thanks to us Jews, and that since ’67 we have occupied the land and lives of Palestinians, who now number nearly four million. To dwell in the truth of what we have created here…..the greening of the deserts, the flourishing start-up nation…..alongside the unfathomable suffering of a people. The Palestinians, the wandering Jews of the middle-east, stateless as were we for 2,000 years, enduring years of midnight arrests, screaming children in the night with soldiers armed to the teeth hovering over them in their beds. Pogroms. How difficult for us to embrace this truth while continuing to live here, and not to confront the weight of our responsibility in making things right. We cannot help but be uneasy, deflecting our conscience or numbing ourselves to it, when there do exist ways to shoulder our burden while affirming our own right to live here.
We refuse to be seen as “friarim,” suckers. We got the land, we fought the wars, we lost the soldiers in war and occupation, citizens were killed in coffee shops and on the roads hitch-hiking home. The guerilla Palestinians wound us, kill us, providing endless “good reasons” to be defensive, aggressive, righteous. Individual families bear the losses, while most of us meet friends Friday morning for a schmooze over coffee. Do we insist on clutching to our blinders? Can we not lift ourselves up out of the swamp to see the possible ways out? Can the peace movement activists not join forces and offer the rope and the jeep that will haul us out of the quicksand?
We carry no flags. We carry both flags. Together, we can seek the cracks in the wall. We must join hands and play the songs that beg to be sung. And we will bring tomorrow’s possibilities to fruition, to the gentle chords and determined syncopation of bossanova.
Yoav — this is moving and eloquent. Thank you. I love the connection between the bossanova that was “playing you” in Berkeley in 1971, and the songs that “beg to be sung” in Jerusalem in 2016.
My prayer: may we all — global citizens and peacemakers, brothers and sisters, in Israel/Palestine, in the U.S., in Africa, in India, in Europe, in Asia — learn to hold hands to become an irresistible instrument for the songs that are begging to be sung.
Very few others can match your integrity and vision ahead. Disconnected from one another, injured and self-centered, most people also lack your courage and skill to face one’s own shadow one of humankind’s most serious illnesses. Thank you.
In Sunday’s OWL circle with you, I said that people too numerous to number continue to be my spiritual teachers. This afternoon a friend from the past phoned with a passage she wanted us to have.
Perhaps it was to be for you at this moment, to remind you to keep helping people to join hands.
In the dark of the moon,
in flying snow,
in the dead of winter,
the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside,
~ Wendell Berry
Thank you, Yoav for such a moving post and for the courage to continue such difficult heart wrenching work. And thank you Len. I can really see the importance of the work you and Libby do, in providing support to those who are on the ground every day doing peace work in such difficult settings.
Yoav, it was a deep joy to be with you on the call on Sunday, and it is profoundly moving to read your soul-full posting, which inspires me more than anything I have read in a long, long time about that precious, supremely troubled piece of Earth where you and so many others reside.
May you and all the peacebuilders there be sustained in the sure knowledge that others all over the world hold you daily in the light.
Thank you, Yoav, for your eloquent plea to go beyond what has heretofore been imagined in Israel. That jazz pianist long ago forced you and your bandmates into the spirit of improvisation, a state of presence and sluffing off of ego out of which profound creativity–God’s song–may arise. The 18th century hasidim called this state “bitul ha-yesh,” which Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l translated as “transparency of the self.” I second Aryae’s prayer and the charge inherent in the poem of Wendell Berry’s that Len shared: may our transparent selves become sowers of clover in these tragic fields. Holding you, the people of Israel and the people of Palestine in my prayers.
1. Opening check-ins, starting with Yoav Peck in Jerusalem
2. Ibrahim Farajaje: Opening Sermon at Star King School 2012 Symposium
3. Rabbi Diane Elliot, Yoav Peck, Libby Traubman, Steve Karlin, Rabbi Donna Friedman, Dan Howard
4. Wendy Berk, Len Traubman, Offuh James Offuh, Deidre Combs, Aryae Coopersmith, Rev Charles Gibbs & Dr. T. B. Singh
5. Additional reflections: Wendy, Diane, Len, Deidre
6. Closing check-ins.