Blaming others for violence

I have been thinking about my choreographic project… how to choreograph something about non-violence….

I was chatting with a colleague at work and she told me about her trip to Israel with her mother. Her mom had gotten ill, and they had taken a pilgrimage. When I was a young teenager my grandparents took my family with them to Israel for a week.

We went to a place called Yad Vashem (which Fani is reminding me means ‘hand of god’.) Yad Vashem is Israel’s Holocaust Museum/Memorial. The last room I was in was a large dim room, with a candle burning in the ground. When I left the room, it was back into the bright middle-east sunlight. My grandfather was on the far side of a small open plaza. It was the only time I saw him cry.

image of Yad Vashem

He fled Germany in the late thirties, and met my grandmother – who had fled Austria – in New York city. He lost many friends, and some family. 

He felt so bad for surviving.

I told my colleague this, and we also talked about the woman who cut my hair last week – who was Palestinian. I felt this flare of  embarrassment when I identified myself as jewish to the hairdresser.

We need to stop blaming other people for violence. It’s important that we accept the challenge of opposing violence. I’m still not sure how to go about it, but I think a way for me to address non-violence would be to create some dance that asks us (the dancers) to stop blaming others for violence.


How Sweet it is to Die for One’s Homeland

I remember when I first read the following poem, by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918.) Owen spent the entirety of his ‘adult’ life fighting in World War I, and died in the final days.

This poem describes being in a gas attack, and watching a friend die in front of him. The phrase Dulce Et Decorum Est, Pro Patria Mori translates roughly as, ‘How sweet and just it is to die for the motherland.’

Dulce Et Decorum Est

By Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devils sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro Patria Mori.

image of Owen and his regiment

A Word for Love: Bloom

flower band

One of my college professors once told me that the Alaskan Inuit have a hundred and twelve words for snow. This now reminds me that this culture is poor in the words that we have for love. We dont communicate gracefully about this subject. That same professor wrote that good design – as in architecture – is a marker of good thought. “Architecture is crystallized pedagogy,” is what Dr. Orr said.

Our modern American culture is amazingly clear about some very complex things (microchips, genetic engineering, even dance) and yet very fuzzy about love. Our words, our architecture, for love are poorly developed, which is a good sign that we dont think well about this subject.

Inuit culture was rich in its appreciation for what surrounded them. And though love surrounds all of us here -even in the lower 48 – we are encouraged today to notice commerce. My understanding of the words “success”, “wealth”, and “rich”, is strangely tied to commerce.


To love is to risk. But as with many things, to do nothing – not to love – is an even greater risk. I had a younger first cousin, my fathers only sisters second youngest. He died when I was eight, he seven. He was a kind, otherworldly boy. We buried Rafael in the wood lot on their farm, and planted a tree on his grave. A few years later, my great-grandmother died. Though she was 104 years old, it was still awful when she died. Just as it was when Rafi died. And theres nothing that I can do about that.

I hate to be Hallmark, but death is a part of life. When you need to control things in order to feel comfortable, you have a hard time appreciating the things that you cant change. I watched the movie Pay it Forward again the other night. I always cry at the end. The song “calling all angels” when the community brings flowers to Helen Hunt’s house just does me in. The movie reminds me that people place flowers in mourning

We place flowers in mourning. But flowers are a birth. They bloom. Why do we use them at death? Is it to make ourselves feel better with their bright colors? Or is it to remind us that even in death there is life? Maybe we are letting the flowers remind us that even in death, the mourned individual still blooms. Whatever once bloomed in them is beautiful, still.

Every flower withers. Whethe we notice it was ever there, whether we see the bloom again or not, everyone who has lost a loved-one knows that while remembering beauty is painful, forgetting beauty is worse. Society as a whole seems befuddled by love in life, but in death we know our love is a flower.

Love is expressed not one way, not two ways, but in 6 billion human ways, and innumerable non-human ways, including with the letters B – L – O – O – M. The only thing we can control is whether we notice and encourage our own bloom, and the blooms around us.

all the lonely people, where do they all come from?

[original written 10/5/06. this version 8/9/08 – Both, Copyright Robert Bettmann]