Thursday, 9 May 2013

May 9, 2013  My Brain Hurts ...

There is a corner of the dining room set aside for us with many creative materials. Mostly in the evenings before our nightly reflection, we are encouraged to use the materials to express how we are feeling at this point in our journey. This was mine from last night ...

Kind of reminds me of the Monty Python skit “my brain hurts ...” I think that many felt the same way. We had another full day yesterday in Derry. First, we went to the Verbal Arts Centre, an amazing cultural centre and publishing house that supports verbal arts in its many forms – drama, writing, poetry, recording studio, magazine ... and how its work supports peace and reconciliation. We were reminded of reflections we had with Paul the other day about the long history of poets, authors, artists and musicians throughout Irish history, and how they have been supported in their work.

We had an impromptu tour of the Tower Museum in Derry with a wonderful tour guide named Gerry. He began with the oak grove (the ancient word for Derry was oak grove), through the Irish kings and their quest for power of the island, through the Vikings, the Normans, the British monarchs, right up to the present day. It was history animated, and with bits of humour thrown in. We were totally engaged. Slightly overwhelmed, but engaged.

Then we went to the Peace and Reconciliation Group to meet with Michael Doherty and hear about his work. The Dalhousie students and I met with Michael when we were here in February, and our time with him was one of the highlights of the trip. He did not disappoint. Once again, he started off by saying how frustrated he gets when he hears folks referring to Northern Ireland as being in a “post-conflict situation”, and that really the situation is more correctly described as a transformed conflict.

When asked to explain why a parade can be so contentious, Michael offered a metaphor ... “Imagine that you live in a house, on a street, and someone from a community that historically you don’t trust comes by and says ‘we just want you to open your front door, and your back door, and we are all just going to walk through your house playing loud music’ ... how would you feel?” Something that astounded every one of us was the fact that there were 3,962 parades in Northern Ireland. One of our members remarked “I’ve never thought of a parade as a weapon before.”

It’s safe to say that we were all a bit overwhelmed by information overload. Our reflections in the evening focussed around the hard work of peace and reconciliation, and profound gratitude for those who keep at it, like Corrymeela, over the long haul, despite setbacks and a small minority who would want to derail the peace process. Each night after reflection Rachel collects a word from each of us as a poem for the day. Below is today’s, on the theme of pilgrimage, and where we each feel we are on our pilgrimage.

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