It Looks A Lot Like Justice

By Andrew Watt

Written on November 8, 2018

The Parliament of the World’s Religions closed yesterday. We go home today. It’s curious and apropos that today the planet Jupiter enters into Sagittarius, astrologically:  wisdom and knowledge integrating with power and authority. When coherence and responsibility blend, the results look a lot like justice. The results look a lot like mercy and peace.

I heard from several aficionados of these Parliaments that “this time wasn’t as good as Salt Lake City (Utah, USA)” or “it wasn’t as intense as my experience in Melbourne (Australia).” For my part, as a first-timer, I was astonished by the range of diversity, nuance and complexity on display within the various theological and spiritual traditions — and the ways in which these vast and subtle traditions resolved to a few core principles again and again:

Develop a right relationship with the spirit world.
Develop a right relationship with nature.
Develop a right relationship with other human beings.
Develop a a right relationship with self.
Develop and iterate traditional practices that cultivate these relationships.

Now— it must be admitted, those relationships look VERY DIFFERENT based on whether your tradition began in a desert or a forest or a mountaintop or a city. Those

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Our EarthSpirit delegation (photo by Moira Ashleigh)

relationships look different when they’ve been cultivated for fifty years, five hundred years, five thousand years, fifty thousand years. Those relationships look different if you’ve always been persecuted, never been persecuted, or suffered both extremes. Those relationships look different based on the portability and replicability and practicality of your traditions and the ideas it carries.

But the successful religious systems still look like justice. The successful ones still look like mercy. The successful ones still look like mutual respect and kindness for all the realms of being.

It can’t possibly be an accident.

Every conference attendee I spoke with couldn’t deny how powerfully we were affected by the conversations, the presentations, the constant reminders embedded in both our own traditions and those of others, to practice hospitality and welcome, to share with strangers, to communicate in trust and in good faith, to hope for a better world.

It doesn’t mean we’re not ruled by fear at times. It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have genuine conflict as individual people or as nations over resources, over access to necessary goods and services, or challenges with bad actors of various kinds. And, of course, we are all experiencing some of the most radical shifts in our relationships with nature, that our species has experienced in quite a long, long, long time.

But after talking with Buddhists, Indigenous elders, Sikhs, Jews, Christians, and other pagans and heathens — I end my own Parliament experience with recognition and insight and renewed sense of purpose that love, justice, and mercy live very close to the center of all of the Earth’s great wisdom traditions. and that love, justice, and mercy look a lot like long-term survival.

It can’t possibly be an accident.

Let’s Do Lunch

by Jennifer Bennett

When you think of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, lunch is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. The thousands of people from all over the world; the hundreds of workshops; the spiritual and religious presentations; and, the many, many speakers and booths full of information—these probably are.  Yes, those are all important parts of the tapestry of this amazing gathering that happens once every three or so years somewhere on planet Earth. But, I’m here to tell you about the magic that is lunch at the Toronto Parliament.

The Sikh community, both local and partnering with communities from all over the world, offered langar every day of the 2018 Toronto Parliament. Langar–a free,

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Isobel Arthen, Deirdre Pulgram Arthen, and Sam Long attending langar (photo by Moira Ashleigh)

communal lunch–is cooked, served and cleaned up after all by the Sikh community. Thousands of people are fed, every day. Langar is offered in a space specifically created for it–you are requested to take your shoes off, cover your head, and wash your hands. There are spaces for shoes, stations where they will tie temporary head coverings for you—if you don’t already have your own—and sinks are set up for handwashing. The Sikh community members sincerely welcome you all along the way and have informational kiosks about the Sikh community and their religion’s requirement of service set up around the area.

As you stand in the initial food line, lunch is ladled in to Styrofoam trays (which are recycled). Every person who serves food or water or hands you utensils, looks you in the eye and welcomes you personally. The food is some of the best vegetarian, Indian-style food you’ve ever tasted. Chapattis, nan, rice, dahls, lentils—different combinations, every day–are ladled into your tray. You then make your way to sit on the floor—thus illustrating that everyone (regardless of caste, or any other “category”) is equal.  (A small number of tables with chairs are set up for those who require them.)  As you sit and eat, more volunteers are wandering up and down the aisles of floor seating, with stainless steel buckets and ladles, constantly offering you more of everything on your tray. But wait, there’s even more! After you bring your trays etc. to the recycling table, it’s time to visit the dessert and chai table on your way out.

As if all this was not the Divine in action in and of itself–all this generosity, true service and abundance–there are also the relationships that spring up with those you randomly end up sitting next to. This is where real holiness blossoms.

Throughout the week of the Parliament, I shared langar encounters with a member of the The Troth’s Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry; a woman from Aumism–Universal Religion, who was from France (and spoke just about as much English as I did French—but we managed a bit of conversation anyway); a well-known Canadian grass roots organizer (who was asked by Prime Minister Trudeau to attend the G7 Advisory Council on Gender Equity) who ended up going to a crone-ing workshop because I mentioned it to her; the husband of one of the Parliament organizers; a family (whose faces lit up once they found out I was Pagan) who asked me if I knew a particular person from S. Carolina…and I did!; a lovely young couple—one of whom was running for office in his very conservative state district (as an out gay man) because no one else from his party was running; and another young man who was living in an intentionally-multi-faith household in New York City (Christian, Jewish, Muslim). When he found out I was Pagan, he actually apologized that they had no Pagans in their community…yet!

Talk about feeding your spirit! All these are folks I just randomly sat down next to, or they next to me, to enjoy our meals, became a huge part of the Parliament experience. The Divine works in many ways and through many voices. We should all, always, have such opportunities to “do lunch” and in such a Pagan-friendly, accepting and supportive atmosphere!

Spirit Soaring!

by Kate Richardson

The Spirit Soaring Art Salon and Gallery formed the core and bulk of my experience at the Parliament of 2018. In the weeks leading up to it, I had already been reaching out to and communicating with artists who might participate. When I arrived on Thursday, the first thing I did after checking in at the EarthSpirit booth was to start setting up the gallery space, located in a generous alcove right next to the Red Tent. Deirdre negotiated lighting as I unloaded my easels and tables (the overhead fluorescents were on one switch, and lit both gallery and Red Tent).

Deborah Koff-Chapin showed up early, and set up a table draped with a banner and decks of her Soul Cards. Deborah then spent every plenary and assembly making ‘touch paintings’ in response to the speakers and performers; keep an eye out for an online gallery of her Parliament work. Swami Matagiri Perkins dropped off two paintings by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, and I set up a table with the drawing I had brought and some cards, just so it wouldn’t seem empty.

Over the next couple of days more work arrived and the space became full and lively. One evening an artists who became aware of the gallery while visiting the Red Tent

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Mosa’s altar and Carolyn’s mask (photo by Moira Ashleigh)

called me to ask if she could set up an altar. I enthusiastically invited her to do so; it was a thing I wished I had the energy and resources to plan and execute but had not been able to. So I met Mosa McNeilly, who set up a beautiful and deeply meaningful altar honoring Yemaya, and her ancestors brought from Africa to America. She gave permission to share the poem she posted alongside the altar, which I will do in a separate post.

Sunday morning I arrived to check on the gallery and found some striking drawings of stylized goddess faces right next to Carolyn Hawthorn’s paper sculpture of Medusa’s head, resonating with her fierce energy.  I did not get to meet the artist, Megha Venketasamy, until the actual Salon on Monday, just another example of the beautiful synergy of our location right next to the Red Tent.  I can’t speak enough gratitude for the way ALisa and the Red Tent holders shared the space and the flow of energy through our area. The Spirit Soaring gallery and the Red Tent experienced a flow of conversation, energy and experience between them that felt inviting and richly creative.

Finally Monday noon arrived, and the gallery filled with even more art, along with all the artists and others who came to attend the Salon. I patterned the presentation on our EarthSpirit Art Salons. Each of the artists briefly introduced herself and her work, then presented some statement or demonstration of how her creative process connects with or expresses her spirituality. With 17 artists presenting, we used the entire 90 minute time allotted, and many stayed later to engage or continue conversations.

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Dr. Suresh dancing (photo by Moira Ashleigh)

The offerings were wide-ranging. There were drawings, paintings and photography, weavings and tapestries, and books. Cheri Jamison sang an operatic aria, Mani Rao sang one of the Zoroastrian devotional songs she has composed, Dr. Padmaja Suresh along with her spoken presentation, demonstrated her training in Indian classical dance. Mosa read her poem and called on Yemaya with chant and rattle. The artists came from different disciplines and different spiritual backgrounds, and there was a joyful enthusiasm of sharing the wealth and range of expression.

Many of the artists expressed interest in keeping in touch with each other, and following each others’ work. I felt that the supportive, engaging experience I’ve had with our EarthSpirit Art Salon’s format translated very well to this setting. I received enthusiastic feedback encouraging us to repeat and expand upon it for the next Parliament.

I had thought this would be the end of my blog post, which I drafted after the Art Salon, but the experience continued! On Tuesday, the art started to leave the gallery, and I started to break down the easels and tables. In the late afternoon as the space was emptying out, Mosa came by with some friends, and began drumming on some drums she’d left there after a workshop. People began dancing, and joining in the drumming and chanting. The now mostly empty gallery space became an impromptu drum and dance, which seemed a most fitting closing for the joyful expressive energy that had inhabited that corner of the convention center. It delighted me as I was preparing to let go of a space I’d been holding all week, and seemed like a natural outgrowth of the kind of energy that EarthSpirit seems to join with and bring forth in the world.

Ancestors at A Parliament of the World’s Religions

by Arianna Knapp

As I drove the last few hours toward Toronto, I realized that I was coming to my Grandmother’s childhood home, and the city where my ancestors had arrived from

Kay Malcom Knapp

Kay Malcom Knapp

Scotland at the turn of the last century. It has been remarkable to witness and participate in a variety of cultural rituals which have each venerated ancestors. Her presence has echoed in my mind and poked at my bones as a chalice is raised and I walk a Wiccan circle dance invoking her spirit at Sam Hain, I speak her name over a horn of mead at a Sumble witnessed by dozens of participants from a variety of cultures, and meditate on her journey to the drums and chants of Canada’s First People.

Added to the depth of connection is the discussion of women’s history, empowerment and agency. There was never a time to explore such things with her, she left this world before I was of an age to ask the questions. However, I have the distinct impression that she is witnessing the generations of her lineage and proud to know how we have carried her name, her strength, and her kindness into our world.

Kay Malcolm Knapp: you are carried by:
Alma Kay Alberghini
Kael Laurel Malcolm Alberghini
Arianna Knapp