13 Nov Meeting with NZ friends, Santiago, Chile
Spent the day with Peter and Leah the couple I met in Arequipa, Peru.
We met at the Cathedral in the city and had a walk around this building. It is very beautiful to see the painted glass, paintings, monuments to Jesus. You often see Jesus around the city, for example at the park near where I am staying, Jesus is there on the cross. I find this unusual as in Australia we are not a catholic country but we do have catholics in our religious faith community. So to see a cross with Jesus at a park for children I found confronting as the image is of a person tortured. Yet the Jesus that I know is one of unconditional love and peace. I feel the kindness around this soul and I believe the message was one of love. So as I am walking around the church my friend and I engage in a discussion about the church as an institution and the fear of god that is created. I have no fear of god, only a sense of love. I don´t see punishment I only see learning. So we walk around my friend tells me she doesn´t believe in god. I tell her I know god exists but I don´t follow any religion as I feel god within myself, alive and present. I am fine with those who choose a faith but as long a they respect there are many ways to find that god is with us. I said to my friend just think of it as love, whenever you feel love without judgement you are feeling god within. That is how I have experienced it. We also talked about the issues of paedophilia plaguing the church. We talked about the suppression of sexuality and that through suppression distorted beliefs have arisen. Sexuality is as natural as breathing, attempts to stop people having it or somehow restricting it will create distortions. I feel that is what happened to the priest in their attempts to maintain faithful to their creed they suppressed their very natural impulses in them. This has had implications which manifested in paedophilia. The issue of sexuality is the central one to be discussed by the church and some relaxation around it. I don´t believe in judging the priests but working out what created the desire in the first place. Truthfulness and courage is what is needed to look at where doctrine has created a structure that has affected what is natural and turned it into distortion. The impact on children is lifelong and unnecessary in a balanced world at peace with its sexuality, rather than viewing it as dirty or only sanctified by marriage. Sex in truth is sanctified by love and this is god. Is it not. Funnily enough one of the priests kept telling us to be quiet. I walked up to him and said we were discussing god. I do not wish to be silent, I wish to express, I respect others are praying and we can move it away so it doesn´t disturb, but talking is what is required to understand god.
After our little church visit we headed for a bench to keep cool and catch up. I had to laugh as Leah is an intense person with strong opinions, much like me actually. She is passionate and we talked about the environment. She found an ally in me and was quick to let Peter know. I had to tread carefully there as I don´t want to discredit Peter´s views, as we all have a right to our viewpoint. Yet I have to be honest in what I feel as well. I articulated that I felt the world will collapse, I don´t see it as a doomsday scenario but a outcome of an economic system that has no finite limits to growth. Inevitably nature cannot supply the endless demands that are generated. Peter indicated he felt he was selfish and just wanted to retire on his pension and live a good life. I can understand that after a lifetime of working, but my inner feeling is that we have a responsibility to the next generation and if we can at least try and live sustainably we are not adding to the problem. He did agree with this but I guess he felt there was not much he can do. I do understand that as well. However, I just keep trying to extend the peace I am working on to the environment. I have much undoing to do there, I do love going for coffee and buying from the supermarket. In the future I will have to change these patterns and grow my own food and start to deeply learn about the natural world. I wish to be part of the solution not the problem. Leah felt real concern about the way things are and like most women feels fired up. I often find it is women that really care about where we are going. Maybe the link to children fuels that, I don´t know.
We then decided to go to a café and discussed our journeys. Peter and Leah are here for 3 months as their son and his wife had a baby, so they are being around to help. They are a delightful couple and have travelled extensively in their lives. Peter was a successful business man and Leah was a nurse. So they spend their time travelling all around the world and for many years they travelled. Great life. They have a unit for a few months here in Santiago and will head to NZ in the new year. We enjoyed our coffee in the shade and watching the people.
They invited me to come to their flat and we had a nice salad lunch, I showed them some of my photos still on my camera. They showed me some on an ipod of their trip to Mongolia, India and other places. It was fascinating seeing them with elephants, camels and in the wilds of Mongolia. What wonderful experiences, I suggested they should have a slide show to show others.
Leah suggested we go to a memorial from the Pinochet era. It was just down the road. So we went along. We ended up meeting this lovely woman whose eyes just shone as she talked. She didn´t have good English and of course my Spanish is non existent, but Leah is not to bad. She explained that under the current government the funding for these memories was removed and the people who volunteer to support these places pay out of their own pockets. I found that surprising and it seemed to indicate the governments position. She mentioned to us the School of the Americas (US Army) as responsible for the torture and oppressive practices that destroyed so many lives. She said there would be a denouncing of this school. I reflected on this later and wondered are their ways that truth can be brought out without demonising the other but to illuminate how these things happen, as it seems over time torture has existed and each of us on some level have thought negatively or hurt another, the higher lesson has to be seen. What dynamics creates this as acceptable and as a way of holding onto power. Many questions need to be asked. She also informed me that the Pinochet regime lost power because of the election it held. Pinochet was so convinced that he would win that he was willing to chance it. She informed me that they threatened the public with secret cameras at the polling booths and they would know who voted no. this intimidation did work to some extent, although the majority were brave enough to vote No. Turns out that 54% of the vote was a NO. So they were turned out of office. Some years later in 2004 there was an attempt to try Pinochet in the International Criminal Court. According to wikipedia Chilean Judge Juan Guzmán Tapia ruled that Pinochet was medically fit to stand trial and placed him under house arrest. By the time of his death on 10 December 2006, around 300 criminal charges were still pending against him in Chile for various human rights violations, tax evasion and embezzlement under his rule and afterwards. Pinochet was accused of having corruptly amassed a wealth of US$28 million or more while ruler of Chile.[
The lady at the memorial also had concerns about the terror created by the US Government and there were questions around their activities. I think the time will come when the US will have to look in the mirror and see terror in its own reflection. They certainly haven´t been upholding the values they articulate in the US Constitution and have lost credibility around the world as a policeman, they are seen as a bully and engaged in crimes themselves. I am sure the Obama Administration are well aware of this and I do think he will try and reverse it, but he has US industry to contend with and they are the titans behind the conflicts. One hopes that those who actually believe in the values are more influential than those who wish to hold onto practices that are self serving.
Yet there are natural limits which will stop this juggernaut of consumerism, it will be evoked by cosmic forces outside the control of people. So it is a relief there will be an endpoint and no one can blame anyone for it, change will occur through nature. We have an incredible planet that is increasingly under pressure from exploitation and imbalance, it is not sustainable and the reality will be faced at some point. Power is not strength, real strength emerges from unifying values and a desire for true peace. We are on one planet and indeed we are one people, and in the future we will understand the fruitlessness of division of any sort. Our collective survival rests in collective wellbeing and a higher consciousness that understands what we do to another we do to ourselves. This is the truth. Fighting against anything is futile and only creates further division. We have the choice to rise above and understand the forces that create such fear and instability. The only security is in love and peace and these are not fanciful statements, they are the birthright of humankind and the reality of life on earth. This is the future. If it is not, there will not be one.
So the memorial was another reminder of the futility of violence and the ongoing legacy it creates. For all life is of high value. When we educate for peace, we become the peace we so desire, then we see the world in a different light. Indeed we see the light.
My friends and I enjoyed a lovely fruit salad and I headed off home. I had a big day but an enjoyable one. It is good to have friends here.