There's a Miles Davis album called MILES SMILES, and on it is a tune called CIRCLE. It's round and quiet and delicate, with a piercing sense of pain and sorrow, somehow infused with a burning sense of hope and optimism. It holds such unfathomable beauty to me that I have every note, every line, every passage memorized... I can't play it, because it took the entire quintet and their phenomenal interplay to make it real. I hear Tony Williams, and Ron Carter, and Herbie Hancock... I hear Miles and Wayne Shorter... and they all play as one entity on this tune. There is no ego in the piece. It is not about anyone, or about anything else than loving-kindness and forgiveness. It is a mystery, like a cloud or a raindrop, a sunbeam or a rainbow... just like all natural things. Its mystery is enough to stay with me all my life. I hear strains of it on many mornings, I hear parts of it often as I'm falling into sleep. It's the perfect creation of five eloquent musicians, and yet it is so much more than that. There is something else, alive, living in that recording. Anyone who has heard it and lived with it knows this...
The Circle is the province of peace. Many women know the Circle well. It has been our shape and our shared center. Not so for angles. Ego is all angles. Ego is all lines. Lines can hurt. Lines can cut. Lines can be drawn between people, between nations, between ideologies. Lines divide the self. Angles can confuse, obfuscate, and infuriate. Angles are sudden twists and bends in the road. Angles and planes, lines and barricades. Blades.
Angles and lines make rules. Rulers draw straight lines. And human Rulers make rules. That we would need rules, when every single aspect of being alive tells us right from wrong! And we fall before the rules. We plead, we fight, we hide, we flee. The Rulers are merciless. They murder millions, they lay waste to an entire planet. "Look what we have done. Look at all we have built, look at all we have destroyed."
We don't need more rules. We don't want to be cut in halves, quartered by lines, sliced by angles. We are together. We are Black and White, Yellow and Red, we are gay and straight, we are young and we are old, we are women and men and children, all in the same Circle. If we hold hands across the world we are a Circle. If we hold hands as we lie in bed together we are a Circle. If we cry at the death of one seen while we can't shed a tear for the death of a million unseen, we are STILL a Circle. Perhaps we have cried all the tears there are to cry. Perhaps the human brain cannot HOLD the death of an unseen million.
If we generously help another we make Circles in the sky. If we lose our way and hurt others, we hurt ourselves, we become divided against ourselves. Our only hope to live on this planet at all is to live within this Great Circle. If we give up our fear and say, "I am part of the Great Circle. I am a proud and trusted member of the Great Circle. I am a contributor and a continuous, steadfast friend of the Great Circle," we become free, free from ourselves, free from our angry, frightened brothers and sisters, free from the Rulers that would destroy our desire to live.
Now, more than ever on this planet, we need to join Circles. We need to nourish love and friendship. We need to plant gardens. We need to find the source of our anger and still it. We need to find the source of our water and protect it. We need to forgive our enemies. We need to learn to give again. We need to stop and listen to all of the beautiful songs being made by magnificent musicians in all corners of the globe. We need to stop and look at the art that our brothers and sisters, many in mortal pain and need, have made for us to see. We need to read and write poetry, as the words we have to convey our thoughts are a salve and a balm, just as they can be a line or an angle or a Blade. We need to stop, on the sidewalk, and look at the absolutely stunning beauty of each and every human member of our family, no matter how they are dressed or how healthy or unhealthy they are. We need to welcome, even entice, the Rulers back into the true family of fully living beings somehow. They want to rule us and deny us and hurt us and, yes, kill us, because they are mortally afraid of us. The killing cannot continue forever. All things end, all things change. They will not WIN. No one wins, ever, when the price of winning is the suffering and death of others.
Lately, I have noticed that our beloved President is lost. There is confusion in his eyes. As a bi-racial child, he must have felt this confusion most of his life. Now, even with all the trappings of power, he seems uncomfortable, unsure of his words and his actions. He must know that now he is a member of the Blade. And it seems against his gentle nature. His wife and children must worry about his safety constantly. He is lost in a sea full of sharks. He is only a man, one man. Alone. He has stepped away from the Circle. Into the world of lines and angles.
Whether our world survives is anyone's guess. If the ways of our people do not change, the outlook is fairly dim. But if, somehow, we can nourish the idea of the Circle, a huge, warm welcoming, giving, loving, kind-hearted Circle... if we can MANIFEST this Circle into visible reality through our words and actions, our art and song, our shared and common selves, we have more than a good chance to make our world come alive again with hope and thanksgiving. We ARE the Circle, and we need no other reason to live than to be proudly a part of it.
-JW, Oct 24, 09 -dedicated to Elaine and Diane