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What If We All Stopped for a Moment?

I’m one of the lucky ones who has a lot to celebrate. But celebration is hollow if I don’t acknowledge the widespread suffering of my brothers and sisters, and try to use my blessings on their behalf.

Without letting the darkness rob me of the light, I need hold the two in creative tension — a tension that can open my heart open to greater compassion, and to ways of helping others rekindle hope.

So my life is part action and — paradoxically — part stillness, as I try to follow the counsel of Pablo Neruda in this remarkable poem.

“Keeping Quiet”
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about…

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

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