Waiting in the belly of a whale

As I write on Monday, July 11, people in India are planting trees. Their goal is to plant 50 million trees in 24 hours. Chairman Mao said that to plant a tree is to believe in the future. I think to plant a tree is also to help create the future. These tree planters in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh need more trees. They also want to beat the current Guinness Book of Records current title holder, Pakistan, at 847,275 trees.

This energy uplifts me, even if the motivation is to beat Pakistan. It can't hurt to win at planting trees -- like the saint who wanted to be best at humility.

Here in the United States these have been hard days -- except for those who haven't noticed Black Lives Matter at all and, regarding Dallas, to quote Robert Frost: "Since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs." But what can we do except turn to our affairs, even less mundane affairs like planting trees? I went to a memorial last Friday that Black Lives Matter had called for on behalf of Alton Sterling, killed by police in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, July 6. The next day, Philando Castile was killed by police in Minnesota. And on Thursday, the five Dallas police were killed, and another seven officers plus two civilians wounded.

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So what were we to do on Friday?

Twenty of us were there at 4 p.m., at a downtown park near the War Memorial and the public library. More came slowly and sat on benches in the shade or stood talking quietly, as if we were at a wake. I held a Black Lives Matter sign on the street corner for a while, until it got too hot. Nothing had been planned, or if anything had been planned, it had been cancelled. Around 5, there were close to 200 people gathered quietly. About 20 police cars were half a block away. The police were standing on the street in small groups, talking quietly, like us. No riot gear in sight.

After a while I went home, feeling hopeless. I don't know what to do. Nobody does. It's like Jonah in the belly of the whale. Discalced Carmelite Sr. Constance FitzGerald wrote a reflection many years ago about impasse, that it is being in the belly of that whale. That's where I feel I am right now. It's too hot to plant trees, but even if the weather were brisk and I were outside planting trees, I'd still feel like I'm inside the whale.


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