In this 'Mad World', discovering peace within--out

I attended a lecture this evening by a highly-acclaimed Asian American poet, author and peace activist, Maxine Hong Kingston. Her first book, a memoir entitled, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (1976) won the National Book Critic's Circle Award and made her a literary celebrity. China Men (1989), a sequel to The Woman Warrior, received the National Book Award and was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize. She has several more novels, including books of poetry that you can research for yourself.

I purchased two of her books, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, and The Fifth Book of Peace, which I plan on reading in succession. In signing, she penned, 'To Kim, in sisterhood'. I was left standing there dumb and speechless, wheels turning in my head. All I could say was "I very much enjoyed your lecture this evening." What I really wanted to say was "Your lecture has moved me in many ways tonight. I particularly connected with what you said about inner peace being a developmental process that is never ending; never conclusive. That trueness comes when we do not seek it, though often times, once we are aware of its presence the most difficult part is hanging on to it." Well... perhaps I'll send her an email or something, but for now I am at least happy that I found the courage to meet her face-to-face.

In citing, her writing is often known for its
"Melodious and poetry--its exploration of myth, legend, history, and autobiography combines to create a genre all to its own. Fearlessly creative and relentlessly brilliant, she shares worlds where imagination and reality collide, and truth is revealed."
I believe she is a true, old soul. She carries the likeness of Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama...

I took notes for my own literary inspiration, which you will find below. I'd like to regurgitate a little of the anecdotes she shared in hopes that it is of some interest to you as well. If not, I suppose you're in the wrong place on the wrong day.

Kingston's opening story was of a man, a Vietnam Veteran who had killed a woman soldier. He said that when he killed her, he saw her soul escape from her body and enter his chest. For 20 years he carried her soul with him wherever he went. With this burden, he also carried her tattered hammock.

Relating war with the embodiment of women--this masculine power that, figuratively, takes us into any type of war, and the feminine strength that returns us home. In essence, women bring men home. Not meaning in terms of love or living, but in terms of spirit; the essence of the Yin; motherhood; comfort, peace, and compassion. Her spirit, the soul of this Vietnamese woman warrior, followed him back to the states on a thin, silver string--both aware of the other. Homeless and broken, the Veteran continued to carry her everywhere.

Twenty years after, he authored a book titled Shopping Cart Soldier, filling it with their many years of dialog. She spoke often of his dying guilt, this heavy burden that was Her. Rarely speaking of the other in negative terms, there were instances of haste and frustration. Why was there this constant misunderstanding between them, and why could their essential reliance of each other not be recognized?

It was something, that of which took time. Time. That evil little word we all loath, merely existing in placid measurement. Placing structure to our existence into more manageable terms, realistic to the human order of value. I often think we have it all wrong really, but that can be saved for another day perhaps... or perhaps not.

The Yin and the Yang. The Feminine and the Masculine, though as often as it is limited to these restraints, this harmony represents the balance of all things that exist (black/white, negative/positive, large/small, etc.). When we focus on sex gender (I meant gender), we should know that everyone is composed of both principles and it is these and our reaction to the surrounding environment that creates a favorable qi. When Kingston expresses women being both Odysseus (apologies for my handwritten error) and Penelope--the warrior and the weaver--this is merely another representation of the capabilities of all things.

We are all equally capable. Trust this. Can we endure the torment of war within ourselves and forgive? Is the human psyche truly capable of letting go? Maybe it involves learning how to do so, all over again (I believe). Trusting that the shower (show·er) will not lead us into the lion's den. Maybe we should stop trusting the shower, and start believing in the ground that we chose to walk on. Even still, that takes time... motivation... desire. Maybe I don't have any room to talk, but I always have room to teach. Like I've quoted in a somewhat recent blog, "we teach best, that of which we need to learn." Truly.

Kingston's lecture taught me, that I still have a lot of things to deal with inside. I know this, as I sat there teary-eyed throughout her soothing and mellow-voiced lecture, I couldn't help, but to feel extremely guilty about my demons I carry with me too. I still cannot catch my breath, but every moment is a blank slate; a new opportunity for reflection in the right direction.

Now please, I ask you to raise your glasses with me in honor of the passing Women's History Month, and the upcoming Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Yung sing.


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