It’s hard for me to be dignified and peaceful sometimes. To produce and sacrifice without rewards, making sure I’m not “sacrificing” in a way that quells my truth and power, making sure I look at dignity in a liberating way. Words continually need to be unpacked, and I do that. I know the work. According to the OED, it means “The quality of being worthy.” For me, ‘dignity’ is just being aware of your self-worth and celebrating that. It feels hopeful and romantic and raw. To sacrifice, to me, in the way I’m using it in this moment, is to be life-giving and co-creator; I think of it in the same way as what the earth does, so that it can continue. Like a leaf fallen to nourish its own soil.
The OED definition of ‘sacrifice’ I like is “The destruction or surrender of something valued or desired for the sake of something regarded as having a higher or more pressing claim.” We can decide what is more pressing. For me it is the ethic of generosity and production in a non-greedy way. I do not sacrifice in this more self-empowered, law-of-the-universe way I’ve recently come to understand much. But I would like to. Sometimes, though, I feel tired in my production, like I need more feedback, even if it is another woman willing to listen to me, which is why posting on FAR is so healing and life-giving because there is all of you.
I’m glad I have wisdom in my body. Even if “I” (my mind?) goes chaotic, feels overwhelmed and lost, my body has this natural intelligence to heal and regain balance if I can listen and get out of its way. That reminds me a lot of the earth—regions harmed by human mindlessness have been known to restore itself, even after radiation or toxic explosions, when humans leave for awhile. But if “I” equate myself with my mind, isn’t that also a part of the body? Wouldn’t the mind (the brain? the processes that help mental consciousness and thoughts arise?) then be wise, seeking balance? It just does not feel like it. So if anyone can weigh in on that. . . why so easy for my body-body but not my mind-body?
On my journey of seeking peace for body and mind, I do not want to be reductive about peace. I desire knowing peace in a holistic, complex, authentic and dynamic way. It doesn’t really help to create a false monolith of a self regardless of what heightened descriptors house it.
Holly Near is a musician and activist, performing songs about relationships, identity, longing, desire, war, consumerism, feminism, and the environment. In 2005, she was included on the list of “1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize,” a project which began by 20 female peace activists from different countries meeting in Switzerland to fashion a list of women that should collectively win the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize as “representatives of the hundreds of thousands of female peace activists and as a symbol of the courageous-but mostly invisible-peace work undertaken by women.” Take a look here.
I am most personally compelled by Holly Near’s Simply Love (2000) album and can envision an off-Broadway musical theatre production with it as the score – I see such a story in it – but that is for another post, maybe another forum. One of her songs that I feel help me walk toward a feminist perspective of peace is “Peace Becomes You.” Here is a selection of some of the lines of the song that speak to me.
“I like the way you look in your baggy jeans . . .The way you laugh when you’ve got something to hide . . . But most of all I like how you trust in change. And honey darling wonderful and true,
May I say, Peace Becomes You. [. . .].”
“I like the way it breaks your heart to see the cruelty of prison. . . .The way you show up to be counted time after time . . . I like the way you raise your voice to put an end to war . . . The way you celebrate a woman in her prime . . . . Ain’t no doubt about it, I like the way you speak your mind. [. . .].”
“I like the way . . . you know when its time to honor rage. . . . The way you stand on a picket line for a living wage. . . But most of all I like how you chose to love me.”
In Near’s lyrics, the key is “appropriate relationships.” Kind of in an Ecclesiastics 3:1-8 way (a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh. . .), although there is much to unpack in this as well.
It is appropriate and not against peace to raise our voices, to honor rage, to protest. Near even lets a girl like me “laugh when I’ve got something to hide” and can find something to like about that. The last line is “how you chose to love me.” I wonder if she is thinking about a specific person here, a passed on or moved on lover. But it suggests there is relationality in peace.
In Near’s songs, I find a liturgy for peace in the world and peace in self for my embodied female, women and earth loving self.
Lache S., Ph.D., graduated in 2014 from the Women and Religion program at Claremont Graduate University. She teaches online composition from a contemplative pedagogical approach at Oklahoma State University. Currently, she is working on a chapbook of poetry and traveling through Iceland, Spain, and Ireland.