Friday, May 25, 2007

May 14, 2007

Dear Friends,
Someone passed on this Maya Angelou quote. I love it. She says: "I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refused to be reduced by it." Definitely I say I will not be reduced!

I write at the half point of my stay at the Hotel Carswell! I am sitting in the law library! Six chairs...that's it! If someone else comes and wants to study law or look up their case...well I will have to leave. The typing room has 12 typewriters! There is one copier and this is for ALL inmates, 1700 of us. It is not working well at all so if someone, like Ms B wants to make copies of legal documents on her case and the copier is not working well...(It leaves a black streak down the bottom of the sheet) well then we all, esp. Ms. B and those working on their appeals SOL (shitty out of luck) I kid you not. One lousy printer and she could not file it on time b/c Carswell might not get the one and only copier fixed on time...

These "little" things are so annoying and can turn deadly. FOr example two elderly women each told me how one has an enlarged heart and congestive heart failure and the other has blood clots in her legs. Neither one could get a pass for the elevator b.c the doctor who saw them said that decision had to go before the Medical Reviews board. A friend of mine said the one with heart problems should wear a sign around her neck that says I am a heart patient. If you find me unconscious on the stairs, please call my family. So they walk 4 flights of stairs everyday, many times a day while the Medical Board decides if the can have a pass for the almighty elevator no less...Ridiculous!!!

I continue to read Man's Search for Meaning. It is giving me so many insights into how even the horrors of the concentration camps have very, very similar dynamics to what happens here at Carswell. I know we don't have the gas chamber threat or physical deprivation like the Holocaust but the psychological dynamics between inmates and guards, inmates and inmates, and inmates and the God! I wonder if people realize we are recreating in a small way, yet a powerful way the same dynamics. Honestly I am sure people don't know. In a way unless yhey lived through being in prison they could never really know. I don;t say this braggingly, not at all. It is just the reality. It is the same with someone who has fought in and/or survived a war. I may imagine the fear, the horror, the adrenaline rush, etc but I really really don't know. Now I am not saying I understand the horrors of living through the Holocaust. But how Frankl talks about the dynamics of suffering, apathy, stealing to survive, picking through another inmate's clothes or bedding when they leave, the dynamic of guards, the picky rules meant to demean and keep someone under their thumb. I can go on and on. I find it fascinating and sad! The wastage of life over and over...young and old, well and sick, guilty and innocent. And the wastage goes on and on in ever widening circles...the children of prisoners, the spouses, the parents, the friends, All of the ripples of destruction continue to move out generation upon generation.

I wish I could discuss this book with each of you point by point b/c it seems so importatn at the moment. Frankl puts into words much of what I have felt and feel. He talks about apathy, blunting of emotions...I see this ALL THE TIME! It is a way to control and keep people under thier thumb. It is also one of those emotions that keeps one self centered, despairing in a quiet sort of way.

Thw way food becomes the center of prison life. Here poeple live by either the menu or the microwave law. The microwaves are controlled by few and fought over frequently. It becomes like the lowest common denominator. Commissary is another issue. It is the small, little seemingly insignificant stuff that become big issues here.

He talked about the spiritual development or lack thereof. My gosh how I see this dynamic. He says that he realized at one point that the salvation of people is through love and in love. How true this is with or without prison. He goes on to say,"Love finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self..." The inner life of a prisoner tends to become more intense that they experience the beauty of art and nature as never before. I have seen this in myslef. I walk outside and notice birds, flowers, trees, even ants. It is as if takig away the big things like freedom and controlling our every movements make a person focus on what they can't take away or control.

Then he talks about suffering. I am still digesting what he talks about on this subject. He talks about how he sensed at one point his spirit piercing through the gloom. He talks aboout how he struggled to keep his mind and inner freedom intact, his yearning for privacy and silence. my God how this fills, this morning was my day off and so I got up and spent the morning outside before it got too hot. THere was silence...only the song of the birds and occasional hello from the women walking the track. Honestly this was the very first time I had silence and uninterrupted time to just meditate, write and drink in the silence and beauty. I came back to the unit and I felt as if I could do it again. I could be here and find peace amid the absolute chaos and noice. Yes! I think there can be stillness in noise...there can be a space un between all the chatter that one can find some stillness. I am amazed at this. I hit points, walls such as when I was so sick and could not get time off the rest or when the noise got so loud and out of control and constant that I was so tired when I had to get up at 4 am...I hit the wall again but the amazing thing is when I hit that wall and I think, "my God this is impossible, please help." Then just as I ask, there is is right there and I just have to smile and then laugh right out loud!!! And i realize that I am walking with Psalm 23 says, I fear no evil for you are there with your rod and staff to give me courage..And yes...if we walk through the valley of death...I fear no evil for you are there with me to give me courage." I can not tell you how very very real these words are. I've said this psalm MANY MANY times over and over...But now, now the words are so very real. Now the words are living words not just nice or kind or thoughtful words...

I am realizing that each person walks in this world, with in their own skin. Yes we are loved, carried at times, and we carry others but that basic living, loving, suffering, joy and sorrow we live through and live with...this is ours and ours alone. Each of us have this sacred journey. We make choices on this journey. I think there are times I want to run away from suffering, hoping someone can take it away. But now I realize that somehow all these things are not to run from but to be embraced, cherished, they are part of our living and by God, I want to live every speck of it. It is not lonely, this is a Holy aloneness that I believe strengthens our commonness...strengthens the human family. It is as if when I take responsibility for myself and my life, then it adds something to the dignity of the world...a small light of a life lived...maybe, and to be honest, gratefully, not lived perfectly..I don't want to be perfect b/c it would not be any fun really...and I would have nothing to learn from and grow deeper from...But accepting what life gives rather than wanting something different from life. THis is a glorious gift tihs living...even in a place like Carswell where Hell seems to be made real on earth. No somehow in embracing where I am, I am finding small bits of freedom...I don't know if I am more loving or compassionate. I still get so angry sometimes at the just plain old meanness. But I am praying for them (the officers) I pray esp. for the nasty and seemingly hateful ones. Honestly I want to forgive them. There is one level that says I want to forgive them then there is another level of actually forgiving. That next step is a bit of a mystery to me honestly...I want to but when they act like jerks and idiots then I feel the disgust rise up in my soul. then i find actually forgiving seems I pray about it. I actually do LOTS of times. And maybe it is something I have to do agian and again and again. Maybe it is not a one time shot.

(I will finish the end of this letter at the beginning of the next, tomorrow) Sorry!

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