Open the Window: True Names, Please

As a white person (btw, I hate that label, but that’s another post) I am working these days on getting my personal window open–open to injustices that are all around me many of which I actually benefit from.  This benefit from injustice–the very idea of which appalls me, happens usually without my even knowing it.

Susan Stebbins Collins confirms my own experience in this regard when she says that “injustice is based on one person or group trying to get/control/hold on to resources, status, a ‘good life’ at the expense of another person or group – including subtle and extreme forms. Injustice can be understood as a personal and collective experience and as a set of well-developed systems that pervade our lives and include intersecting oppressions: classism, racism, sexism, etc. These are often hidden/obscured and difficult to face, calling for continual awareness and inquiry.”

There is a poem/meditation of Thich Nhat Hanh’s that has helped me over the years work on loosening the seal on my window. It reminds me that there is a place where the oppressor and the oppressed meet, that I can recognize both within myself.  I share it below for your own reflections and your own work on opening the window so that the dove can fly in.

Bob Patrick

Please Call Me by My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

— Call Me By My True Names, Thich Nhat Hanh

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