I didn’t take the early flight from Miami to Port au Prince (“PaP”) today because I tend to not sleep when I have 5 am wake-up, and I had to teach the first day after my arrival. July is always a busy travel time between Miami and PaP as many Diaspora visit Haiti and many Haitians visit family in the US. It’s also the time of many important ceremonies d’ Vodou (Plen Du Nord, for Ogou/St. Jacques); Limonade and Lory all celebrate these as does Sodo.
I was a little irritable because of a pretty significant auto accident the week prior to my departure. I was rear ended on the interstate because the traffic came to a sudden stop. The dodge truck behind me didn’t have anywhere else to go and didn’t have time to brake enough to avoid a collision. At least he did brake because he was going fast when he saw me stopped there! I mention this incident because my immediate and subsequent response relates deeply to Haiti.
When we are initiated in Haiti, we are invited to deal directly with our fear. To enter an experience where any occurrences or events or visitors will invoke a response in us, and we are essentially training to respond with love, open awareness, and curiosity, instead of fear. When fear arises, we look at it. Observe it. Accept it. And because we are in an immense stillness and silence and spaciousness, fear has ample opportunity to dissipate.
I have had 9 previous accidents. I have endured numerous whiplashes, which have affected my back, neck, body, movement and dance (my favorite thing). I have been diagnosed with PTSD, and I am often terrified when I am a passenger in the car of an aggressive (or even assertive) driver.
I saw him coming, and I heard that unmistakable screeching of brakes. I knew I was going to be hit on a highway, by a fast moving truck, in a traffic gridlock with lots of other opportunities to crash into something. I had stopped with plenty of room between my vehicle and the one in front of me, and I was just sitting there. I had one thought: “You are a Continuum Movement Teacher. You know what to do”
Both Buddha and the Marines crossed through my consciousness because I also heard:
Don’t just sit here and take it—MOVE!!”
And, I heard: “BREATHE.”
I calculated, roughly, impact, and as soon as it was imminent, I rolled the car forward to decrease impact and I breathed—followed a big inhale with a big exhale. I figured that exhaling and releasing into the movement, and going with the movement, was better than bracing and standing still. Before I moved the car to the side to talk with the other driver, who was lovely and very concerned, I did several Luna Breaths (Continuum), which release initial shock and fear to cool the system.
I have had some pain, stiffness, and sadness since this moment, And, I “should have” been much more injured. In speaking with Emilie, who created Continuum, an ongoing body of work that began after her 5 years living and dancing in Haiti, she reminded me of the Mystery School practices (like an initiation) that we can source in these moments. There are many ways to die, literally and metaphorically, and surrendering to everything that is bigger than we are is one of them. So is letting go—which is the action of the exhale.
On to Haiti, where I am now. I am traveling the day after the Aurora movie theater shooting, which comes almost a year after the awful, cruel killing of many children in Norway. I am home from Norway only 2 weeks, and while I was there, the trial for the killer, and preparations for the one year commemoration, were ongoing.
The news is full of this most recent cold-blooded cruelty in Colorado, and I cannot help but link them in my mind.
While I was in Norway, watching the trial, I noticed one very distinct detail about the murderer: There is no light in his eyes. I’ve probably seen this before, but never focused on it because the context was probably not as horrible. After noticing this, I began to study the eyes of the Aurora shooter—and saw something similar. His eyes appear, at times, to have light, but its “dis-regulated”—either too bright; or out. I think that gives us a clue as to what’s possibly going on.
In Norway, there was extensive disagreement and discussion about the killer’s diagnosis. And I believe this is because the correct diagnosis for these two men doesn’t exist yet. We are beginning to experience the extraordinary and problematic impact of virtual worlds and virtual realities, often laced with power obsessions and violence and extreme worldviews, on young people. Actually, on all people. Just as I speculate that ADD and ADHD arise from humanities withdrawal from the soothing and equilibrating balm of the natural world; I speculate that the high frequency technologies we are exposed to, and the virtual worlds that many spend most of their days and nights in, will re-wire some brains and nervous systems in tragically disconnected ways.
My point: I journeyed to Haiti in discontent. I love Haiti and, as I have blogged before, its hard to visit these days because of the many confronting ways Haiti has changed in the wake of the earthquake. So while I am always excited to return to my hearts home, I boarded the plan this morning with a bit of an attitude.
It was only about 5 minutes after I settled that I realized that there were about 15 youth with matching missionary t-shirts surrounding me in business class (we had apparently all been upgraded). Theirs were about the 10th different missionary/save Haiti/Jesus saves Haiti t-shirt designs I had seen that morning. My irritation grew.
As I sat back and tried not to think about the blatant (though probably well-intended) disregard for Haiti’s culture and Spirit these missionary groups can sometimes represent, the computer voice began her boarding announcements. First in English, then French, then Kreyol. After the Kreyol announcement finished, the young woman in her t-shirt sitting right across the aisle from me said VERY LOUDLY to all the other students riding up front: “DID YOU ALL HEAR THAT? THAT’S A SPANISH SPEAKING PERSON, SPEAKING FRENCH.”
I pondered this for a moment, and decided I hadn’t heard that. The person next to me, a rapper from Haiti, cracked a smile.
Then: “HEY. DID YOU GUYS HEAR THAT?! THAT’S WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE WHEN A SPANISH PERSON SPEAKS FRENCH.”
I couldn’t bear it. I turned to her:
Me: “Do you know where this plane is going?”
Me: “I said, do you know where this plane is going?”
Her: “Haiti”??? (Yes, there was a question in her voice).
Me:” That’s right, Port au Prince Haiti. Where they speak Kreyol. That’s the language you were just listening to.”
“Spoken by a Kreyol speaking Haitian”.
The rapper was laughing to at this point; looking away and out the window as if he could hide his shaking. I just turned back to my reading. She was quiet for awhile but spent much of the short flight talking loudly about everything she knew.
I don’t think I need to say anymore about that unfortunate event. I hope I’ve made my point. One thing I always teach to when I am teaching about humanitarian response work: Before you go, learn as much as you can about where you are going. Learn about the original landscape—not just the natural landscape—the people, places, cultures, languages, colors, traditions, beliefs etc. etc. etc. that form the tapestry of landscape or worldview of your destination. And, be really clear about your own worldview—so you really know what it is you don’t know.
Then—imagine what your presence and being there will do to this landscape. How will it change because you were there? It always does, and one of the least helpful things any of us can ever do is walk into a landscape or environment or situation where we intend to create change, and not have considered all the ramifications (or ripples, if you will) of that change. Because if we don’t consider our impact, we may be no different than the generations of colonizers who destroyed many a culture, country, social structure, people.