The Peace Pagoda (평화의 탑)

By | 22 May 2011

You might have just glimpsed
the way to write this book:

Start with Thich Nhat Hahn’s recollection of Ben Tre
the city he knew from which a few shots
were fired at American planes

that came back
to wipe out the whole city.

We had to destroy it to save it, the Yanks said.

The fire in the monk’s heart lasted for days.
Anger consumed him.

Then he sat down and embraced it:
‘I looked deeply into the nature of my suffering.
Then compassion arose in me…

The young men sent to Vietnam to kill
and be killed suffered deeply.’

How on earth did he get to this point?
If your book could start right there, right here…

After reading Hahn on the way to Nagasaki
you felt worthless.
You did not have a peace book in you.

You have numerous books of war.
Scorn knows no bounds in you.
Not a night passes without a dream that seethes.

Your peace book has to exterminate the warmongers!

But no.
It has to start with an embrace, like old Walt’s:
‘I would not tell everyone, but I will tell you…’

‘You’? Who are you?

In Japanese, the character for Other
is made of Man, and Scorpion.

All creatures.
All creatures are our neighbours.
Will you ever be able to fully believe that?
Can you, as they say, make that work for you?

Six weeks after the Nagasaki blast
the ants came back to the surface of the earth.

Somehow, in the course of composition,
re-compositions, your insect mind has to
become as hard as nails.

It’s not a matter of loving your neighbour.
It’s a matter of loving your neighbour
as you love yourself

if you are able to love yourself.
Let the book start there if you can
and if you can’t, you can’t—

which might be where the fire really starts—
with the hard-baked zero
the Self-immolation part

which is not an ‘embrace’:
there it is, your anger, rising into the ether.
Thereafter, some words will emerge, yes:

try to make a clear start with them
see where they take you
try not to simply assume a peaceful end.

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