No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Monday, July 4, 2011

30 Day: Why I Love Day 5: Ahimsa

why i love ahimsa timoteo bodhrán, by lily-elaine hawk wakawaka

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in 2005 i visited a graduate program in the great lakes region as a guest in a graduate students of color weekend conference a university was organizing. the conference was designed to recruit potential-graduate students to join their university by matching them up with top professors at the university and top graduate students at the university. truth be told, it was a deeply bolstering and simultaneously awkward experience for me. i was there as the only native american potential-graduate student. the reality of being native american is that because we are radically under represented in the community at large even very race-conscious people often have misconceptions about what being native american will look like or mean experientially. i appeared at the conference as a person of color, but one that, in comparison to other students there, readily passed. the result of this on an experiential level was that as included as i was i also felt marginalized within this already marginalized collection of people. i wouldn't claim anyone intended me to feel that way. it's just a reality any of us sometimes face. let me be clear too that anyone that's got their shit together is gonna recognize i AM a person of color, without doubt, and they're gonna rock it with me on the reality of my alaska native background. it's just sometimes any of us get caught thinking this stuff has to do with appearances rather than soul. in the middle of this conference i found myself talking to a brother with the deepest soul of anyone i've ever met. ahimsa has gifted me with fierce support, deep and rich certainty of his own social understanding, a profound commitment to community, and intense compassion for those of us that, like him, are mixed into the complex reality of ethnic-racial-sexual-gendered-class love. this world is a rough world that demands a lot of us and ahimsa daily acts to make the love good.

on the second day of the conference ahimsa somehow saw me in the midst of my struggle--affirmed for being part of this conference specifically dedicated to we students of color going into graduate programs, and out of place for my identity at the same time. he responded to what he saw by asking if i'd like to go out after the conference for dialogue. we talked for hours that night, not just about the topics of the conference or graduate school but also about our lives, where we came from, what we liked to read, what we were passionate about, how to get along in this crazy world, and where in the world i'd found my ultra-bling vintage clip on eisenberg ice earrings. it was five years before i saw ahimsa again face to face but we spent that five years emailing, skype talking, and conversing over the phone too. last year he organized a panel that would coalesce the broad range of our shared interests -- examination of our indigenous roots, philosophical consideration of contemporary culture, and poetic commitment through writing and thought. the panel was accepted and we met again at the largest annual creative writing conference in the world. in being part of that panel that ahimsa organized i have also been blessed with connections to other writers with similarly mixed backgrounds and interests.

ahimsa has regularly strived to connect those around him with others that can offer existential support. he shares with me too an understanding of god's love in the midst of our difficult lives. when multiple friends of mine committed suicide in the same year he reached out to commune with me in my grief and sent me a book he thought might help ease the burden. this fall when i was struggling with the environment i was living in he first asked me to speak honestly to him, and then asked if he could speak honestly back to me about what he'd heard in what i'd said. it was through his insight i realized i could choose for my own sake what was right for me, removed from the pressures of success, outside influence, and worldly demands. in the midst of his own challenges he has shown himself an example of how important it is to do simple things like eat fruit, buy fresh foods to cook yourself, stay connected to loved ones, keep writing, send out publications regularly, and strive to take the skills you can rely on to reach for even greater goals. though i've known a lot of writers, ahimsa has more publications (and largely international too) than anyone else i can think of. he's brilliantly leveraged those publications into building a new life for himself as a writer in residence at numerous top writing programs around north america. i am regularly thrilled to hear how he is doing--whether it is in the middle of his own personal reflections and struggles, or in the midst of his most productive writing stretches. i am ever grateful for my on going friendship with ahimsa, and for the example he gives of living a life of productivity, simplicity, creativity, grace and love.

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