Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Cushion in the Road by Alice Walker

The Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm's Way

Alice Walker is an old radical. Just when you thought the U.S. government under Obama must indeed be “liberal” because the Republicans keep telling us so, Walker comes along to say, no, Obama’s policies are a long way from liberal. Reading Walker, we can see what “liberal” really means.

It is refreshing to me to have someone thoughtful (but not a political consultant) give a considered opinion on anything these days. Walker surprises me with the range of her concerns and the vehemence with which she addresses them. She has so much generosity, respect, and righteous anger built in to her worldview that one wonders how such a person would govern. A Daoist, perhaps: “Let the forces rule.” But really, Walker is a spiritualist of every sort. She is animist, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim. She believes in the basic tenets common across religions: Be thoughtful. Be kind. Be generous. Enough is as good as a feast.

This is a book of essays, letters, articles she has written for publication, diary notes, or sometimes transcripts of lectures she has given. It gives us Walker’s thinking, the things she has struggled with, the things she struggles with still. More importantly, it gives us some idea of how to approach our own thinking about problems that plague us.

Take, for instance, the question of Pfc. Bradley Manning. Manning was the young man who allegedly gave government secrets to Julian Assange to publish. How should we deal with this question in an enlightened way? What is the best solution? I guarantee Walker will make you question again things you thought you’d already decided.

One of the pieces in the book that I liked best was “12 Questions: Korean Women’s Soul Questions.” South Korean women, confused about how to live fulfilled in the strict patriarchy of South Korean society, asked Walker and a prominent South Korean feminist, Hyun Kyung Chung, for their opinions. Some of the questions are ones we have heard before, e.g., Can women and men be friends? Should women change their bodies to interest men? Walker’s responses are always interesting and get right to the heart of this old radical’s worldview, encompassing all her deepest themes. This is a woman who has studied oppression of one kind or another her entire life and knows whereof she speaks.

Anyway, Walker’s articles in this book are a short sharp shot of something strong and fiery. It goes right to the bloodstream and jumpstarts the brain. Of course, it can only be taken in small doses, but you may find you develop a taste for a woman with opinions, and crave to hear what a bright, thoughtful human might say on the state of our affairs. Her point of view adds depth and richness to the human response sent into the universe when negotiating the maelstrom that is life.
Mother Nature presents a very different kind of army than the ones we are used to fighting: the armies of poverty, colonization, weapons of all kinds, media doublespeak, that keeps us confused. In fact, what is so chilling about Mother Nature is how indifferent She can be to who should be punished for the crimes committed against her. We are all being punished. And this is because we have forgotten one of the most basic of the things that made us beautiful: that we must never fail to have respect for her. And we must cease, at once, taking more than she is willing to give.”

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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