One big union

Dear Hildegard,

September 11 passed my way this week, and like many others, my thoughts went to that day in New York. The city that never sleeps, had its two front teeth punched out, and irreplaceable DNA became cosmic dust forming swirling clouds of grief that choked more than the city.

Across the other side of the world I discovered someone I knew was lost and was then counted among the dead. As I often say two degrees of separation in Adelaide is often one too many.  Andrew was his name and he had given me a copy of One Big Union for me to learn more about the Australian Workers Union.  I loved learning more about the foundations of the Australian Labor Party.  Years later I gave the copy Andrew gave me to Anthony Chavez the grandson of Cesar Chavez the great leader of farmworkers in the USA.  Anthony is Br David Steindl-Rast’s assistant and a wonderful young man, just as Andrew was a wonderful young man with a vision of a better future for workers in this land.  Two young men separated by time, place and culture coming together in my little universe and through the labour movement.

This weekend Australia rejected the worker’s party and chose the party of capital – although it was hard at times to recognise much difference between them – but by the time the three years are up I am sure that will have been clarified for many voters.

The relationship between land and capital was alive and well in your time too and your crafty redistribution of property. Those young noblewomen who voted with their feet, leaving their families and promises of marriage gifting their dowries to your convent. When you set up your convent in Rupertsberg, those monks you were leaving behind I expect weren’t that excited about your move in taking your charges and their land with you!

Hildegard you had visions that guided your steps and just as surely did the nonviolent revolutionaries like Cesar Chavez and the violent leaders of al-Qaeda; I ask myself, what kind of vision do I have to bring about the reforms I yearn for? The ballot box seems such an unimaginative vessel for revolution to be birthed, and yet I am a big fan of democracy. I suspect you weren’t that much of a fan of democracy, after all the church certainly wasn’t in your time and isn’t in mine anything like a democracy.

Whether we find our selves running down the stairs to evacuate, sitting on a plane captured like an animal behind bars; abandoning our family or holding the banner and marching in the streets; we find ourselves in a big story. It is one big union we are all called to belong, and that union for me, is the uni-verse; the place where the one voice unites us all and calls us to a deep and sacred place.  My vision is for one song we all sing together in as many harmonies as we can invent; for one big union that we are all in together.

It’s not easy to hold on to this vision when planes fly into buildings, when people and their lands are separated from one another and when a government gets elected by neighbours that don’t share your values and idea of democracy.

One Big Union

The stairwell is filled with smoke.

I won’t be returning to my family home.

I remember who I am;

And where I am going.

 

The cloister is filled with incense.

I won’t be returning to my family home.

I remember who I am;

And where I am going.

 

The field is filled with cries.

I won’t be returning to my family home.

I remember who I am;

And where I am going.

 

I clear my throat;

I close my eyes;

I fold my arms;

I open my heart;

I apply my head;

I find my way;

And

I remember where I am going.

 

The workers descend.

The choirs sing.

The workers rise.

Each voice adds to the next;

One big union for one big universe.

Solitary candle waiting for another one to be lit.

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