Saturday, August 05, 2006

Chant for Peace

I spent 6 hours last Saturday at the 24 Hour Interfaith Chant for Peace.

I drove over an hour to get there, Great Vow Monastery is in Clatskanie, Oregon. Once you're in Clatskanie, the roads leading there include those blue street signs that give you information: Zen Monastery 5 miles. I wonder how many of those there are in the US.

Happily I had two passengers, one a 23 year old flower child, raised by her hitch-hiking mom with a very informal home schooling. She told me when she was around 10 they used a correspondence course because they were in a state that made it illegal not to have some schooling. She agreed wholeheartedly when I suggested that childhood must have made her very adept at negotiating different cultures. She laughed, telling us there were many small towns that they got stuck in. M----- came to Portland last week, hitchhiked here with a woman she met at the Rainbow Gathering. She's staying at the site of a group I've written about, and someone who taught at one of our Buddhist festivals in the park. He's a charismatic man, and I've noticed most of his students are women. He was already at the chant, and I got a feeling something was up (or had been up) when the two entered the meditation hall together much later. Later she found me and she was grinning from ear to ear, or I should say the radiance of her smile extended about three feet beyond her physical body. Did I say he is a charismatic man?

I hugged her and told her she looked so happy. She said "Good call." (about the hug) She was riding back to Portland with him and the other woman from their group, I knew before she told me. Eh. I shouldn't gossip. I'm not trying to though, I thought it was sweet.

My other passenger was a man who was leading a Christian Taize chant in the final hour, at 6 pm.

I should have left Portland a little earlier, because we arrived only just in time for me to get into position for my portion of the chant. There was a chant assistant assigned who helped with setup and who kept time for when we would start walking. Each group would chant or sing for 45 minutes, then continue chanting while we walked on a circuit through the monastery. (Formerly a grade school built in the early 70s.) We seeded the room with percussive instruments so people could liven up our simple chant from the peace marches: "Freedom from violence/ Freedom from suffering/ Compassion! Love! Joy! Peace!" Almost immediately I felt congestion collecting in the back of my throat, too many allergens about, but that didn't stop me. My arm got tired from bonking the fish drum for 45 minutes, but that didn't stop me. It's really quite an experience to chant something continuously for an hour that normally you might sporadically yell out for about 5 minutes at a time. Some of the people there had been there from the beginning, 7 pm the day before. What was a little congestion? If they could do it....

Always with the same beat, sometimes through the hour you felt like punching out the words with a staccato separation, other times drawing them out, running them into each other. Either way, a group synergy takes place when you chant that long, somehow people make those changes together, magically, harmoniously.

For the next two hours, I missed the chanting, the Bahai, and the Dances of Universal Peace. Several people wanted to talk to me. As I told one, I was still doing the work of the chant, nurturing those connections that bring peace to the world. I talked with two of my BPF comrades from Seattle. They sat next to me to help lead the chant. They'd been there since 9 pm the day before, and stayed the night at the monastery again before heading back.

Then, the women's spiritual songs. They sort of sang those as random rounds, some people singing one stanza while others sang another. I'm normally terrible with rounds, but when you sing it over and over and over it doesn't really matter. Finally I settled on the one about a drop of rain flowing to the ocean. (not the exact lyrics, but close) A woman sitting next to me also settled on that, and she would ting her bell on the words .drop.of.rain, a nice touch. When we walked through the echoing halls, we started shouting the line "Great Goddess". Whoa, raised a lot of energy, almost gave myself an asthma attack.

Then back to the main hall for Gregorian chant. It took my heart a little while to settle for the less ebullient energy, but still a strong energy. How appropriate, I thought, to go from the very female ecstatic celebratory singing to this resonant mellow patriarchical singing. We sang the Prayer of St. Francis in Latin. I think I fell in love with it. I found myself wondering, 'did we get ooby dooby doo from "ubi dubium, fidem"?' And how interesting that the word for love is diligere. Except for the Lord and Divine Master part, I found so much of this reflective of natural intentions and discoveries I've found in my own practice. (I almost said 'truths' but settled on 'natural intentions and discoveries'.) "...may I not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned..." Love is indeed diligence.

Finally, the Taize tradition led by my passenger, Adam. A mix of people from different groups accompanied with their instruments, while Adam also played violin. I'm not sure if they prearranged who would play when, or if they simply played when they wished to play, and sang when they wished to sing. After the sweet unity of the Gregorian chant, this was a little more scattered. One of the two chants was in Spanish, "Nada te turbe, nada te espante...."

I had Adam to myself on the way back to Portland, and we talked a little about St. John's. I'd mentioned it on the way to the chant because he'd told us he'd studied the Great Books. I can't remember the school where he studied, but it was a religious school that taught the Great Books with a "theological emphasis" and he wondered if St. John's taught the Great Books with a philosophical emphasis. He had to go outside the program for his math and science credits. At some point in our meandering conversation about spirituality, etc, I came out to him about being polyamorous. Somehow when that thing is the next natural thing to say in a conversation, I just say it, unlike my sweetie and other people who manage to keep it under wraps.

(I wrote this last week, but didn't get a chance to post it. More out of town visitors this week.)

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