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World Peace Through Volunteerism, By Brian Wrixon

peace69Building World Peace Through Volunteerism

by Brian Wrixon

                “Passage – the act or process of moving through, under, over, or past something on the way from one place to another.”

 

The title Passage to India has been used at least twice in the history of great English literature, first by the American poet, Walter (Walt) Whitman (1819-1892) in the 1900 edition of his Leaves of Grass, and secondly by English novelist E.M. Forster (1879-1970) in his 1924 work, A Passage to India. The 1984 film version of Forster’s novel won two Oscars. With great respect to those two giants of literature, I borrowed their title for my own book, “My Passage to India” which was published in 2014.

My first personal passage to India took place in January 2013. I visited what is commonly known as The Golden Triangle, the cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur in the north. I had been invited to read my poetry at the inaugural Delhi Poetry Festival and I was intent on attending the Jaipur Literature Festival. My conclusion was that literature has a way of breaking down international and racial barriers. One of the highlights of that trip was the opportunity to sit spell-bound for an hour and to listen to the Dalai Lama speaking about the historical influence of Buddhism on literature.

My second trip in February 2014 and my third in October 2014 were both to the beautiful state of Kerala. That part of southern India is known for its production of rubber, spices, tea, coconuts, cashews and coffee and for its magnificent Backwaters. I went on a volunteer placement, principally to work with small businesses, helping them with strategic business planning. My trip was organized by the Canadian NGO, Chalice Canada.

My visits to India served as an attempt on my part to eliminate the various myths that I associated with the country and to establish, once and for all, my own reality of India. There are two kinds of people in the world as far as opinions about India are concerned, and both types have very definite opinions. When I told people where I was planning to go, half of them responded positively and spoke with envy about the experiences that I would have. The other group invariably responded with disgust. “Why in heaven’s name would you want to do that?” was the meekest of their replies. Many other comments were unfit to repeat.

I have heard every horror story imaginable about India, its filth, poverty, corruption, stench, disease, evil social habits and crime. According to the disgusted, most of whom it turns out have never set foot in the place, the streets are paved in excrement, rats run everywhere, flies cover everything that moves or doesn’t move, and the horrid stench of the country can be smelled five miles off shore by those unfortunate enough to be passing by on a cruise ship. We are led to believe that crime is rampant, people are slaughtering each other in the streets for religious reasons, every male is corrupt and every female is in mortal danger of rape, murder or forced prostitution.

From my own personal travels to India I have learned that most everything that one has read or heard about the country is patently false or at the very least, over-exaggerated. People simply repeat what everyone “knows” about the place. Our experience is that we view a place by its parts and then reach a conclusion about the place by combining those parts into a self-interpreted reality. Indeed for me, I look at many of the same things that others see, but I reach a very different interpretation of that combined reality. I suppose that I simply choose to interpret what I see in a very different light than most, that the glasses through which I peer are tinted quite differently. I have lived my whole life that way. Generally, if the world is lined up and heading in one direction, I find myself safer and happier if I head off in the opposite direction, off the beaten path as it were.

But in addition to finding out for myself what India was really like, I had another more important reason for venturing off that well traveled path. I am at that stage in my life when the desire to make a difference, to have an impact or to do something meaningful has become a driving force for action. My wife Cheryl and I are no strangers to Chalice Canada, an NGO situated on our east coast. For several years we have sponsored a number of children through them – three in Africa, one in Haiti and one in India. It came to my attention that Chalice was looking for people with certain skills or talents who might be willing to travel to their various site locations to share those abilities with others. Many years ago I developed a planning system for small businesses called “Growth By Design”. The problem with many small operations is that those who own them know how to do the work of the business, but often don’t have a clue about how to run the business. For example, there is a huge difference between being a great chef and running a successful catering business. My planning system helps business owners visualize what it is they wish to accomplish and then assists them in establishing a step-by-step framework for making it happen. Chalice encourages entrepreneurs in various regions and invited me to pilot my program in India to see if it could have application there and elsewhere.

Like Walt Whitman in his poem, I felt like I was on something of a spiritual journey. But I admit that I travelled there the first time with a combination of terror and excitement. As I indicated, I had heard so many terrible things about the country, how it was an evil assault on all the senses, the mind and the heart. I was warned to check all my sensitivities at the border, that I would be changed forever and for the worse. But I returned from India with a remarkable sense of fulfillment, calm and fully at peace. I indeed was changed forever, but for the best. Through my passage I have become a more spiritual person and I hope a spokesperson for what I regard as a very kind and very gentle nation, despite what those who maintain their walk on the beaten path may say or believe about it. Like always, I know that I walk a separate route from most, that I have taken the less travelled path and that, like poet Robert Frost, for me that has made all the difference.

One cannot help but feel close to God in India – his, her, their presence is everywhere. At every turn of the road there is a temple, mosque, church, shrine, sanctuary or votive holy place. Every meal, meeting, or event starts and ends with a prayer. Religion is very much a part of everyday life in India, but I don’t mean “organized religion”, I mean that a sense of spirituality permeates Indian society. That is not to say that what we would call “organized” religions have not played a part in India society historically, and indeed continue to do so today. The common understanding is that the organized religions of India are at war with each other.

My read on religious intolerance and sectarian violence in India is that it all takes place at organizational and governmental levels, and not amongst the common people. A large number of social scientists feel that many of these inter-religion acts of violence are institutionally supported, particularly by political parties and organizations connected to the advancement of one or more ideologies. I personally did not witness any religious intolerance or a religious divide during my visits to India. It was evident that most people were members of some religious faith and that the spirituality that their membership afforded them was part of their daily lives. I found that people were Indian first and religious second and the fact that they were Indian united them and the fact that they were religious did not divide them. In truth, it seems that the fact that everyone was spiritual in their own way brought them all together, not under a common god or belief system, but as members of a believing community.

I started these comments by defining the word passage – “the act or process of moving through, under, over, or past something on the way from one place to another.” I made a physical journey to the other side of the world, but my passage was more than that, it was one of the mind. I moved through or past the widely-held prejudices about India. I moved into a society that is spiritual in nature and where love abounds at the grass-roots level. The driver behind all of this was the fact that I traveled for a purpose. I went there to volunteer my time and talents, but as is usually the case when one embarks on such a journey, I got more in return than I gave in the first place. I went to India to discover a land. Instead, I discovered a people. I tried to help them and they in return made me a better person.

That opportunity for self-development is available to all of us and is a goal that we should be trying to instil in the younger generation. We can all help to build world peace through travel if we simply take it upon ourselves to travel with a purpose. We can each become our own private Peace Corps. We all have talents and abilities, and if we reach out and share them for the benefit of others, we will find that we can create a chain of held hands that stretches around the world. Perhaps you do not have the health or the financial ability to travel to a country like India, but I bet that there is a neighborhood in your own community that would welcome your skills. If you set the example then the spirit of volunteerism will be easier to foster among our youth. Remember the words from the old song, “If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world it would be.”

I worked with five ladies who operate a power laundry business in a small village in southern India. When I asked them if my discussions with them were of any value, one lady replied, “You showed us how to dream and you taught us how to make it happen.” That comment will remain with me for the rest of my life and has changed how I view the world and the brotherhood of man. That same opportunity is available to all of us if we just reach out a hand and take that first step.

About Brian Wrixon, Writing for Peace Adviser

Brian Wrixon, Writing for Peace Advisor

Brian Wrixon is a retired business executive who, after serving over 40 years in the financial services industry, devotes his time to creative endeavours. In addition to writing and publishing his own poetry and prose works, he has been instrumental in assisting hundreds of young and emerging authors from around the world get published, either personally or as contributors to group anthologies. Learn more about Brian’s work here.

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Stay abreast of Climate Change, Net Neutrality, and human rights activism, and learn where you can make a difference.

DoveTales Now Available In PDF Format

Writing for Peace supporters can now enjoy our beautiful journals in PDF format. Our 2013 “Occupy” and 2014 “Contrast” editions are now available for just $4.99.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013“Occupied” 2013

Book Description: A full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways.

Contributors include: Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Paula Dawn Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Manual A. López, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon,John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas

Plus 2012 Young Writers Fiction Contest Winners: Shadia Farah, 1st Place; Caroline Nawrocki, 2nd Place; Tait Rutherford, 3rd Place

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition“Contrast” 2014

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, 2014 “Contrast” edition features poetry, essays, and short stories from our 2013 Young Contest Winners, as well as established and emerging writers, and strikingly beautiful black and white photography from our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

Contributors: Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Plus 2013 Young Writers Contest Winners:

Fiction: Jordan Dalton, 1st; Nneoma Ike-Njoku, 2nd; Kasturi Pananjady, 3rd

Nonfiction: Paean Yeo, 1st; Janani Venkatesh, 2nd;  Vienna Schmitter-Schrier, 3rd

Poetry: Jessica Metzger, 1st; Peter LaBerge, 2nd; Janani Venkatesh, 3rd

 

DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition. Read our guidelines and submit here.

 

Enter Our 2015 Young Writers Contest 

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestHelp spread the word! Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our prestigious panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace

Our administration is board operated and volunteer based, so your contributions go directly towards publishing, maintaining our website, shipping DoveTales journals and participation certificates to our contributors and young writers in 24 countries, and providing modest prizes to our contest winners. We hope you will join the generous contributors who make Writing for Peace possible. Writing for Peace is  a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Make your tax-deductible donation today.

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Writing for Peace News, May 2012

DoveTales Submission Guidelines Released

Our June 1st posting begins an exciting new phase for Writing for Peace. First, we are announcing the release of the DoveTales Submission Guidelines.  DoveTales will feature our young writers’ winning stories, along with the stories, poems, essays, interviews, art and photography of established contributors. Our first issue will be published on January 1st, 2013, and will center on the theme “Occupied” – in its myriad of meanings.

Free Teen Summer Writing Workshops

Writing for Peace Wolf Writing WorkshopWe’ve also put together a terrific series of Free Teen Summer Writing Workshops, offered in libraries across Colorado’s Front Range. Young writers will focus on subtleties of the craft, while considering voice and point-of-view through the perspective of wild animals in urban environments, wolves, and other pack animals. Participants will also have the opportunity to hear stories of refugees of the human sort, and contemplate the many ways that the seeds of a story can take root and grow. Check our site periodically to catch new offerings as they appear.

Young Writers Rocky Mountain Creative Writing Day Camp

The summer workshop series will culminate in the unforgettable Young Writers Rocky Mountain Creative Writing Day Camp onWriting for Peace cowboys September 8th from 9am – 8pm at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, featuring keynote speakers John Gritts, Page Lambert, and William Haywood Henderson. The cost for this full day writing workshop is $65. There is an additional charge of $50 for the Horseback Writing Class (Poetry in the Saddle). Young writers, ages 13 – 19, delve into both the cowboy and Indian way of life, explore the written and oral traditions of these Western Americans, and the animals that were vital to both cultures. We’ll experience the late summer beauty of this working ranch nestled against the Rocky Mountains, walk a mile in another’s moccassins…and put that experience into words.

Fiction, nonfiction, or poetry…writers will explore aspects of point of view and voice, and outline future writing projects. After dinner, writers will be invited to share their work around the campfire. Space is limited, so please register early!

Writing for Peace Rocky Mountain Creative Writing Day Camp at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch

Writing for Peace Rocky Mountain Creative Writing Day Camp at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch

 

Workshop includes…

*Continental breakfast, ranch lunch, and workshop supplies

*Traditional horse painting and riding demonstration

*Poetry in the saddle (horseback writing, additional $50)

*Tractor-drawn hayride tour and ranch talk

*Cowboy poetry reading (ever read your work to a cow?)

*We’ll end our day camp with a campfire reading, pizza and roasted marshmallows!

Download the brochure and registration form here.  Writing for Peace Summer Camp Brochure

 

Contributing Advisor, Brian Wrixon

And perhaps the best news of all…

If you’ve had the opportunity to explore the Writing for Peace website, you’ve most likely come across our impressive list of Advisors. From the beginning, we’ve been blessed with advisors who were available to answer questions and guide us as we navigated through unfamiliar territory. Our growing Advisory Panel includes award-winning poets, novelists, memoirists and essayists. They are activists and entrepreneurs of immense personal integrity and determination, some who may not even consider themselves writers in the traditional sense, but their writings have played a vital role in promoting awareness and bridging the cultural divides that separate us. In addition to their important work and behind-the-scenes support for Writing for Peace, they have graciously agreed to contribute their insights and inspiration through our blog.

We are pleased to introduce our very first Contributing Advisor, Brian Wrixon. For his full biography and a links to his publications, please check out his Advisor Page.

 

Brian Wrixon, Writing for Peace AdvisorCommentary by Brian Wrixon – poet, writer, publisher, and member of Writing for Peace’s Advisory Panel

I know that Writing for Peace will play an important role in building harmony in the world. Our process is a logical one and a simple one, two, three approach  –  cultivate empathy in order to develop a foundation of compassion, and on this foundation, build peace. Using education as the driver for the process is not something new, but focusing on creative writing and gearing that focus towards our youth is what makes Writing for Peace unique. That uniqueness is what prompted me to agree when I was asked to serve on the organization’s Advisory Panel.

One of the points made on the website is that, “Writing can be a solitary occupation, but there is much to be gained by sharing your work and process with other writers.” I have experienced this firsthand in the last few months. Through Facebook, I am connected with an incredible number of authors from all over the world. I asked them to share their works with me for the purpose of publishing a series of anthologies on different themes. The response was amazing!

Our first book will be of particular interest to the members and supporters of Writing for Peace. It is called “The Poetry of War & Peace”, and features the writings of 80 poets from 20 countries. Many of these authors are young people still in school and before this book, were unpublished. What struck me most was the intensity with which they wrote. On the back cover of the book you can find the following: “Theirs is a powerful message. Their feelings run deep and their words are strong, sometimes not for the faint of heart. But then again, war and peace are not for the faint of heart either. WARNING: CONTAINS CONTENT THAT MAY CAUSE AN OUTBREAK OF PEACE!” It is no small wonder that I named our Facebook support group of 450+ writers, Poets with Voices Strong.

When I looked at Writing for Peace’s mission, the approach that they intended to take, and the value proposition that they were offering to young writers, I knew that the experience that I had with my international writers group was something that could be replicated. I look forward to working with this group and seeing that excitement grow in other young people through creative writing.

I seem to spend a lot of time working on my publishing projects, but I am first and foremost a poet. At this writing, we have published two major anthologies so far and two more are about to be released in the next month, but I still try to find time to write. I have written a lot of poetry about war, some 50 poems to be exact. They were not written to glorify war, but to foster peace. In that respect, I find myself  living in synch with the mission statement of Writing for Peace. Please allow me to share with you one of my personal favourites from my collection of war poems.

In the Morning Mist

Morning mists swirl around marble headstones

Like the spirits of the dead who play among the tombs

The call of a crow breaks the eerie silence

As a frail and bent figure approaches the grave

She places a single rose on the cold and weathered stone

Softly she speaks the words “My Love”

And lingers a moment lost in a silent prayer

As she leaves the sun shines through the mist

And illuminates the words chiseled so long ago

“A Victim of the Great War”

I have always had a great fascination for the “Great War for Civilization”, the “War to end all wars”, WW1. What a hopelessly futile waste of men and material. Thousands were killed on a daily basis in order to secure a plot of ground which would then be abandoned a few days later. Millions of men were moved about like chess pieces by commanders and generals sitting in the comfort of far away headquarters smoking cigars and sipping brandy. We never learn!

When I wrote “In the Morning Mist”, I was unsure who the frail and bent old lady was who was mourning at the grave all those many years later. Perhaps her lover or husband had not returned from the conflict. Perhaps she was a mother who had lost a son. Perhaps she was a retired nurse who still held special feelings for a young soldier who had died in her arms in a field hospital, happy to have her comfort at his death. Then I realized that she was all these women – she is the grieving woman of history personified.

I use my creative writings to express my feelings. I hope that through your involvement with Writing for Peace, you will have the same opportunity to connect with yourself and with your fellow writers.

Brian Wrixon

Burlington, Ontario, Canada

 

Copyright © 2012 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.