Posted by: MC | May 24, 2012

“We have to talk about these things”

I am back in Portland.  Three weeks, now.  Shortly after my return I receive email with the subject line:  yes-youmadeit/Dr. Dapo!  My dear and long-time friend, Dr. Dapo Sobomehin (voice 90 in 100 Voices – Americans Talk about Change), wanted to get together for coffee.  This morning we finally made it to the corner of Hawthorne and SE 37th for a few hours of catching up.

Every time we meet, I am compelled in one way or another, to share what I learn from this teacher of mine (e.g., EX:Change blogs — What’s in a Name and Do You Know Where You Are?).  Today is no different.  Since getting back to the computer this morning, the obvious most important next thing has been writing these things down, contacting Dr. Dapo for permission, and forwarding them to you this way.

When we met back in April of 2009 for the original 100 Voices interview, Dr Dapo began this way:

I’m a Yoruba from Nigeria, West Africa.  My name is Dr. Dapo.

Word, w-o-r-d, means a lot to the Yoruba.  We live by the word.

Dapo Sobomehin indeed lives his word.  “And you know what that word is, Mary?” he asked this morning.  “That word is love.  L O V E.  Love.”

Read on.  You’ll see.  This man has many questions of us and he lives many of the answers.

“People are not crazy for no reason,” he said.  “Something makes them crazy.  What is that?”  The vertical furrows in his brow deepen as he considers this question.  “This is our home but we do not feel at home.  These are our bodies and our lives, but we do not inhabit them.”

“We have to talk about these things, but we don’t know how.  How do we talk to each other about our pain and our fear?  How do we see each other for what we are?  Relatives.  We are all people and we are relatives.”  As we talked we reminded one another again about grave concerns and vast resources.  We agreed there are terrifying prospects in the behaviors of individuals and groups as they can only affect all other beings.  “Drones,” Dr. Dapo said with disgust.  “When will we stop this?  Stop killing the children.  We get nowhere with this senseless aggression.”  We also agreed that the balance still is profoundly toward what benefits life on the earth, at least from the dailiness of things.  Certain futurists may disagree and that would be a worthy conversation — Dapo Sobomehin and the futurists.

As soon as we turn to see what is working, the fear arises that we will become complacent and fail to act to correct the egregious and insistent wrongs.  Dr. Dapo suggests both kinds of awareness and action must happen at the same time.  “I am responsible,” he says.  “Every I is responsible.  Each of us takes loving action — loving every other one and loving our own self.  This is the answer.  This is the only answer.  Take responsibility and love each other.”

Dapo looked out the window at the rain falling on Hawthorne Street.  “My son spent time in Germany recently,” he said.  “When he got home he told me he was seeing something in the Germans.  He was seeing them take ownership of the Holocaust.  ‘By admitting it is theirs,’ he said, ‘ they are starting to deal with it — to heal.  That’s what we need to do in this country with slavery.'”

“He’s right!  we are all people.  We all know pain.  We all long for love.  But as long as we do not admit that slavery and the stealing of the First Americans’ lands are ours we cannot move together to make our country and our world strong and healthy.”  Dr. Dapo spoke on of the wholeness that comes from speaking of our worst deeds.  He spoke of the prostitute in the Bible who was surrounded by men of authority who, at the time, were authorized and expected to take stones in hand and to throw them at a woman identified as a prostitute until she died.  “When they heard the words, ‘He who is without sin, throw the first stone,’ they paused.  They all put down the stones in their hands and left.

“We are none of us our worst deed,” Dr Dapo continued — reminding me immediately of Michelle Browder (Voice 053), in Montgomery, Alabama and her introducing me to Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initative.  For many reasons, I will never forget my visit to EJI this past February.  One sentence stays with me, words I attribute to Bryan Stevenson, “No one is his or her worst act.”

“Take responsibility and love each other,” Dr. Dapo says.  Our country needs our listening.  It needs our admitting all of our past and our drawing on our individual and collective strength of character to reclaim and re-enter this home we share — these city streets, the vast stretches of forest, prairie, mountains, rivers and oceans that weave together to form this nation, this globe.

This just came over email.  The words are, of course to me, but don’t be fooled.  When Dr. Dapo speaks he speaks personally and universally all at the same time.  So this is for all of you, too:

So beautiful to always be with you.  Yes-indeed-it was a great morning — to see my dear friend looking so healthy — big smiles.  We didn’t create the joy — it is there from the beginning.  We retain it by nurturing it through our relationship with each other.  We love by sharing.

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