It is one week to the day that Christine Blasey Ford and Bret Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the world. In the last week I have felt like the old lady in the black and white opening of The Wizard of Oz, who passes the window riding her bicycle through the tornado. Not that I’m a witch, but I have felt that I’ve been steadily peddling through a blast of dust and fury, that has left considerable emotional devastation for both women and men.
For women, a triggering of trauma, shame, humiliation, grief, and rage. For men, a horror to find themselves of the male gender in this climate. Many are combing through their own adolescent behavior, wondering if they had been stupidly offensive to women in their distant past. To those men I have gently pointed out, “When she said ‘Stop’, you stopped.” This was gratifying to hear, but for many, the shame of being associated with the typically aggressive gender, persists.
In the midst of this, I stumbled upon a Netflix documentary, Walk With Me, a poetic, often humorous, and ultimately inspiring portrayal of life in Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastery in southern France.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist, or even a person of faith, to allow yourself to be immersed in the Zen Master and his community. Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, the filmmakers take us into a world where women and men live, sing, meditate, and tour together.
One can take exception to the chastity provision for nuns and monks imposed by this particular Zen Order. One can certainly speculate about the family circumstances that motivated so many nuns and monks, many of them Americans, to renounce all worldly good and re-locate in this monastery in the south of France.
But all such speculation pales as we, the viewer, walk into a community where all feelings are welcome, all pain seen, known, and honored. The sonorous voice of Cumberbatch guides us with quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh’s journal, Fragrant Palm Leaves, written in the 1960’s when “Tay” was a young monk at a monastery in Viet Nam. He attempted to unite the disparate Buddhist communities, and promoted peace in a country torn apart by war. It was a terrible and divisive time, and Tay was sent into exile, ultimately establishing Plum Village, far away from his beloved homeland.
We can imagine his plight, as we reflect on the divisiveness in our own country: the manipulative, power-grabbing, cultural and political war that has brought shame and outrage to both women and men.
The opening quote of the film provides insight into how Tay began to work toward awareness of a deep human unity, even as everything around him was falling apart: “I know what it is to get angry. And I know the pleasure of being praised. I am often on the verge of tears or laughter. But underneath all of these emotions, what else is there? How can I touch it? If there isn’t anything, why would I be so certain that there is?” (Fragrant Palm Leaves, Riverside Books, New York, page 84)
I encourage you to find this beautiful film, Walk With Me , on Netflix or on DVD at your local library, or elsewhere. The film touches the heart of this world “underneath” the anger, rancor, power and glory. There, in the dimension of universal consciousness, we can experience peace, and the reality of our intimate relationship to all of nature, and human women and men, for each other.