יום ראשון, 17 במאי 2015

Life is (not?) a picnic

"Once there was a teacher who lived with his students in a temple. One day, a student asked, "Dear teacher, can we arrange to have a picnic?" The teacher said, ":Yes, we will have to find a day when we can have a picnic." Yet they were so busy, they never found even one day. A year passed, then two, then three, and still they hadn't had a picnic. One day, while walking together in the city, they saw a funeral procession. The teacher asked his student, "What is that?" And the student said, "They are going on a picnic. The only picnic they have is when they die." 
I lived through two wars in Vietnam, and I know what war is - you don't know whether you will be alive this afternoon or this evening. There is fear, anger, and despair. If you don't know how to manage these things. you cannot survive. That is why our practice is to have a picnic right here, right now, and not wait. Is it possible for Israelis and Palestinians to have a picnic and to enjoy every moment of it? I think so."
Thich Naht Hanh / Peace Begins Here

I read this beginning of a book about the peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians by Thich Naht Hanh, and it is so relevant, I decided to write about it. because this is exactly what we are trying to do.

wallace and gromit having a picnic on the moon

Many people  do not know about the place I live - Ecome,  and when I tell them about the place, or when they come for the first time and ask - "what is that place about?" - it is sometime not so easy to explain. But now I think I have a good definition of what we are doing, backed and recommended by a well known Buddhist teacher and activist.We are having a picnic!!

some people may think that having a picnic is not serious, and also not something that could give a real answer to the political and other problems we have with this ongoing conflict.

 Some may say that this is mocking the Palestinians that are struggling to survive, and instead of supporting their struggle, we are having a picnic.

Some may think that having a picnic is what lazy people do, and that without hard labor there will be no change in our bloody and harmful reality.

Well, I have to disagree. Having a picnic may seem like all of these, but actually it is  very hard work to have a proper picnic. especially if you are doing it with the one you were taught to fear and fight against.


a picnic requires some preparation: making food, choosing a nice shady and quiet spot, and also a nice platform to sit on, whether it is grass, a blanket or a mat. 

Choosing the food is not so easy when you are having a multicultural picnic. Some are Jewish. some are Muslims, some are Christians (who do not have many food restrictions), some are vegetarian or even vegan. So when choosing and making the food it is important to find the most basic common dishes so that everyone will be satisfied, and also invite people to bring their own treats, in case the menu is not delicious enough for them.This should always be in some sensitivity because many people might get offended when you eat something they prohibit from themselves.

I personally say - Go Vegan. It suits everyone, even the non-human members of the picnic (the cats might need to go hunt...). 

Choosing the spot - this also requires some thinking and awareness, since some people are often not welcome in some places. For example - Palestinians can not go outside of the wall without a permission, and Israelis are not allowed in area A of the Palestinians territories, which means main cities and villages. Also poor people are not welcome in public spaces and noisy creatures are not welcome in libraries. So picking a place can also be a tricky business. This is why Ecome is located at Jericho (almog) junction, so it has accessibility for both Palestinians and Israelis, and it is on the main road from Jerusalem to the dead sea.

In general, I would recommend to pick a place with shade, some accessible running water (especially important when children are involved) and some open space to go around and find your quiet spot if you wish to be alone for moment or two.

Having a picnic inside our empty new pool 

Platform - to have a nice comfortable platform for everyone to really enjoy the picnic is not that simple as well. Some people have special needs. Some need a chair with a backrest, and some need a place to lie down. The children usually need some safe space to run around. And all of us need to feel secure and trust with the people we share our  picnic with, if we really want to enjoy it. So to have all this, you need some skilled picnic organizers, that can create and adjust the platform for everyone's needs. Of course it is not only up to the initiators of the picnic. The participants themselves have to take part in creating the right atmosphere so that everyone can enjoy the picnic.
Beside this, it is always good to bring a towel. Don't forget a towel. It can be useful in such many ways.

Entertainment - for some of us it is not enough to be with each other and some good food outside. We need more attractions, otherwise we will go a little crazy:


So of course shooting in the air while  playing music in a picnic is nicer than shooting each other, and yet, some of us are very traumatized by the heavy use of weapons in our culture, and would prefer a different kind of activities, such as - juggling,  acrobatics, drawing, yoga, playing games, writing and cloud watching. All of these are free, fun and healthy practices that can enrich our picnic and also overcome language and cultural gaps.

Beside all of these practical advice about having a picnic, I what to highlight want prevents us today from having a decent picnic. First, the technology. Today we are flooded with electronic devices that entertain us and give us all the excitement we need (or at least that is what we think), that going out on a picnic may sometimes even seem as trouble. Why go out with people, some of them we do not even know or like, instead of watching a funny video or chat with my friends? This is an obstacle we need to overcome, especially with the young generation, if we want to rediscover our human connection and belonging.

The second is what Thich Naht Hanh described in his book - our lack of time. most of the time we are so busy doing things, that we are lacking the time to enjoy our life. sometimes we are busy in doing very important things such as driving our children to school or garden, writing a essay for university or trying to raise funds for our NGO. Yet, the fact is the more we try to create a better system, the less we succeed, and the crises are just mounting up. I believe it is time we slow down and start spending more time with our loved ones, and then also with the ones we hate or scared of, if we really want to bring a radical change and to heal our pains as a human family.

There is always time for a picnic,
if we want...


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