Thursday, March 20, 2008
A Love Supreme
'A man who has never seen the world, never lived as a stranger among foreigners, who has never known a life and culture other than his own is in some way limited. He cannot help but feel his own way of life to be superior, to be the only way. This was one of the poisons I saw seeping into my company in Iraq from the beginning: parochialism, ignorance, knowing nothing about Islam or the Middle East, or any other society outside American cities like Tampa or St. Petersburg...
Many people believe in good and evil. Just that, that simple: good on one side, evil on the other. By default, we are always on the good side. This means that any who oppose us must logically be evil. Buddhism tends to take a circumspect view of good and evil, avoiding that distinction entirely and instead speaking of "positive" and "negative" actions as measured by their effect in the world. It is never as final and absolute as good and evil. Yet duality invades every level of society, from religous sermons to the political rhetoric that drove us into the Iraq war.
The absoluteness of good and evil is an incredibly dangerous doctrine, dangerous in the wrong hands and without proper restraint. I believe that experience demonstrates that never in life is anything wholly good or evil. Good and evil are metaphors, signposts to guide us in the right direction. To render good and evil as actual physical truth is to render an infinitely complex moral world into absurd black and white. Further still, to hold that truth out to the mass of humanity and invite them to act upon it is to invite disaster and fanaticism' - from The Sutras of Abu Ghraib by Aidan Delgado. The author spent a year with the U.S. Army Reserve in Iraq where he worked in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, and the book charts his progress from soldier to Buddhist and conscientous objector and it is essential reading. My quote is verbatim. I am only too well aware that Telford and St. Albans in England can be substituted for Tampa and St. Petersburg without in any way altering the message.
I will be celebrating the Western Easter this Sunday (March 23) on Future Radio with A Love Supreme, and the main work in the programme is John Coltran's legendary 1964 four movement jazz suite of that name. Before Coltrane's 'gift to God' I am playing music by the Yuval Ron Ensemble. This group has been working since 1999 to break down national, racial, religious and cultural divides using the sacred and folk music of the Middle East. The Ensemble includes Jewish, Arabic and Christian Armenian musicians, and they are all actively involved in building musical bridges between people of different faiths and cultures. In the programme they will be playing music and song, appropriately, from Iraq, and also from Muslim and Jewish Andalucia. Listen online at 5.00pm UK time Sunday March 23 with a repeat at 12.50am on Monday morning for transatlantic listeners.
Now visit the green hill far away seen in the photo above here.
Photos are of five great manifestations of A Love Supreme, the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham, Norfolk and the Neue Synagogue, Berlin (both copyright On An Overgrown Path 2008), the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul, the Potala Palace, Lhasa and the Taizé Community, France. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk