A message from Alice Paul to the women of the future

Dear Women of the Future,

Wake up girls! There is too much at risk to be napping or resting on our laurels!! Do you not realize how much we who went before you have sacrificed? Do you not realize how long and hard we labored to build the foundations for women’s rights upon which you now stand?

But wait, this is not the tone I intended to take. I do not mean to be a shrew or a nagging elder, but to shine a light on the wealth of opportunities within which you bask. I mean to encourage you to invest in those opportunities, to develop them, to see them grow and multiply.

To those whom much is given, from them much is expected. I know this. I was a child of wealth and opportunity, born in Mount Lauren Township, New Jersey in 1885. I was able to attend Swarthmore College and then I completed my postgraduate studies at the New York School of Social Work. I was even able to study social work further in England where I participated in the women’s suffrage movement. Oh how that shaped and sharpened my skills on protesting tactics. When I returned to the US, I earned a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, rounding out my credentials. But more importantly, I soon joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association and eventually started my own organization, the National Woman’s Party.

All in all, I have devoted my life to the cause of women’s equality. There are goals yet to be achieved, but our achievements warrant celebration. In 1878 we introduced an amendment to the United States constitution to grant women suffrage, which is to give women the right to vote. In 1878, we women of America proclaimed that America was not a democracy, not when twenty million women are denied the right to vote.

We worked long and hard to gain attention and support for our cause. We organized protests outside the White House, which had never been done before. Our group became known as the Silent Sentinels. We continued our protests continued even when the country was preparing for World War I. After all, when you put your hand to the plow, you can’t put it down until you get to the end of the row. Many of us were jailed multiple times during the protests, we went on hunger strike, and some of us were force fed via a tube. But our determination for equality eventually gained public and political support.

We kept at our work until the amendment was passed by the House of Representatives on May 21, 1919, by the Senate on June 4, 1919. Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin ratified the amendment within days.  By March 1920 35 states had ratified the amendment, but a core of southern states rejected it. It came down to Tennessee. And the outlook was not good. The vote in the state legislature was 48 to 48. A tie. One representative was yet to vote – Harry T. Burn, a 23 year old Republican, who was known to oppose the amendment. But, his mother wrote to him:  “Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt (Carried Chapman Catt) put the ‘rat’ in ratification.” He honored his mother’s wish, voted yes, and the 19th Amendment was ratified by the required 36 states on August 18, 1920, and certified on August 26, 1920.

The Nineteenth Amendment simply says: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

I have long believed that there really is nothing complicated about ordinary equality. So, once the vote was secured, we took up the work for a women’s Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution. I could not help but take the next step in our journey to equality out of a feeling of loyalty to our own sex and an enthusiasm to have every degradation that was put upon our sex removed.  I know if we get freedom for women, then they are probably going to do a lot of things that I wish they wouldn’t do. But it seems to me that isn’t our business to say what they should do with it. It is our business to see that they get it. It is not for me to judge the choices of other women, after all, courage in women is often mistaken for insanity. 

Dear women of the future, it is time for you to put your hearts, minds and hands to the plow, to take up the work of women’s equality.  How much longer must women wait to get their liberty? Let us have the rights we deserve.

(the above includes a number of quotes from Alice Paul, woven together and elaborated with words from my heart.)

A woman starts to get on a bus

All too often we see something – or part of something – and are so very certain that we know what we saw and what it all means.  The other day I found this story at “Mirth and Motivation” and it kind of made me think . . .

So, the story goes that in a midsized town in the middle of a state a lady started to get on a bus. She looked at the bus driver, didn’t say a word and gestured to his by sticking her thumb on her nose and waving her fingers at the driver.  The driver acknowledged the lady, turned to her and used both hands in the same type of gesture and waved all his fingers at her.

The woman then held her right arm out at the driver and chopped at it a few times with her left hand. Then the driver put his left hand on his right bicep and jerked his right arm up in a fist at her.

The woman then cupped both of her hands under her breasts and lifted gently. In response the driver placed both of his hands at his crotch and gently lifted up.

Then the woman frowned, ran a finger up between her derriere, and got off the bus.

Another woman sitting in the front row of the bus watched the whole exchange in stunned silence.  Finally she said to the driver, “That was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen on a public bus! What the hell were you doing?”

The driver glowered at her and said, “Listen lady, that woman was a deaf-mute. She asked me if the bus went to 5th Street. I said no, we go to 10th Street. She asked if we make many stops. I told her that this was the express. She asked if we go by the dairy, and I told her we go by the ballpark. Then she said ‘Shit, I’m on the wrong bus!’ and she got off the bus. I don’t know what you thought was so disgusting, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder!”

Have you found Jesus?

Cape Cod is blessed with an abundance of folks from England and Ireland. And, with an abundance of Irish pubs to quench the mighty thirsts of those who cherish fond memories of the local pubs back home. Patrick O’Shea’s is a wonderful place that greets you like family when you walk in the door. One night just as we were leaving there a few fellows came tumbling out behind us. They were having a rollicking grand time of it, to the point where I was not so sure I wanted to be driving on the same roads that they were, so, I was relieved to see them walking off somewhere.

Now the Cape is a strolling place – in places. But, O’Shea’s sits right on route 28, one of the three major road on the Cape, and there is not a lot of strolling done along it. But, our fellows set off in the general direction of the Bass River, and my curiosity was peaked, so we followed along a bit behind them.

Indeed, they were headed to the river, stumbling and laughing as they walked. As we got closer to the river, I could see the Reverend from the local Baptist Church holding some kind of prayer meeting by the river. Now, for sure I was going to follow and check this all out.

Well, as the boys got closer to the bank, one of them took a tumble, and rolled right into the Bass River. And there was the Reverend knee deep in the river baptizing folks from his congregation. And our fellow from O’Shea’s splashed and splattered and wound up at the Reverend’s feet. The good Reverend somehow was taking all of this extra splashing in stride. In fact as our fellow came up for air, the Reverend grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, dunked him back into the river, pulled him up and asked him, “My son, have you found Jesus?” And the fellow said, “No, sir, I have not.”

The Reverend kept his hold on him, dunked him back into the water, and it seemed to me he held him there a tad longer, then pulled him up and asked, “Son, have you found Jesus?” Our fellow was now sputtering a bit, but got out, “No, sir, I have not.”

The Reverend tightened his grip on our fellow, dunked him back in the water, and gave him a bit of a shake while he had the guy underwater, pulled him back up and asked again, “Son, Have you found Jesus yet?” By now, our good fellow was sputtering and gasping for air as he replied, “Sir I have not. Are you sure this is the spot where he went under?”


Ah, yes.


And that reminded me of another time when we were coming out from the Stop and Shop grocery store. It was a bit foggy and dark, and there was a woman looking for something under one of the (far too few) street lights. We could see she was distressed, so we went over and asked if we could help. She thanked us profusely and said yes, she had dropped her car keys, and had been looking for them for fifteen or twenty minutes and just couldn’t find them. She had looked all around under the light, and asked if we wouldn’t mind looking with her. So we scoured the area, but found nothing.

After a bit, I had this flash of insight, and remembered that when I lost something, my mother would have me retrace my steps as I searched for it. So, I asked the woman if she could remember when she last had the keys. She brightened, and said, “Oh, yes, I had them in my had and was getting ready to open my car door, when I dropped them.”

I must have gotten a quizzical look on my face, because I did not see a car under the light. With my last remaining shred of social work skill, I repeated, “Your car?”

And she replied, “yes, it’s parked right over there” as she pointed to a car parked a few yards away off in the shadows outside the halo of brightness from the lights.

“But, if you dropped the keys over there, why are you looking for them here?” I asked her.

She looked at me as if I was some kind of dolt, and said, “Why, silly, it’s so dark over there no one could ever find anything! I just came over here by the light were it is easier to see.”


Hmmm…these stories kind of make me think (once I stop laughing). Words. Of course we know what they mean. Well, at least I know what they mean to me. But when you hear them, I suspect they could mean a whole other set of meanings. “Have you found Jesus?” Have you found the meaning in your life? Who knew he was lost!

Just how often do we find ourselves searching for love in all the wrong places? Searching for something when it is right there in our hearts and homes – if only we would open our hearts and eyes and really see.

It’s not always easy to work out the meaning of work

Back at the Cloister of the good Sisters of Mary Magdalene, the glow of postulantcy is beginning to tarnish for our bright eyed Sister Beatrix. She has just completed a novena to her patron saint, the beloved Beatrix Potter, but alas, Sister Beatrix continues to suffer the frustration of feeling put upon to do too much work.

Indeed, each day the good Sister Beatrix sets out to weed the extensive beds of vegetables and flowers that feed the bodies and spirits of the cloistered nuns as well as the homeless families in a nearby shelter. Each day Mother Magdalene watches the elegant poetry of Sister Beatrix’s movements as she moves along the rows of plants pulling and gathering the weeds, and then carrying them off to the mulch plies. And, Mother Magdalene also notices the frustration growing on Sister Beatrix’s face each day. To watch the young sister’s action is to see poetry in motion. To observe her countenance is to feel the growing length of the hard rows she must hoe.

One day, Mother Magdalene calls Sister Beatrix into her office. Mother Magdalene proposes to Sister Beatrix that instead of sweating and toiling in the gardens, each day she will come to the cloister infirmary where Sister Honora is recuperating. Sister Honora who is 90 some years old is essentially blind and quite deaf, but she remains devout in her spiritual practices when her health allows. As she is the only sister in the infirmary at the moment, she is also a bit lonely. Mother Magdalene proposes to Sister Beatrix that she spend a few hours in the infirmary each day, demonstrating to Sister Honora the movements of pulling, gathering and mulching the weeds. The infirmary is air conditioned, so Sister Beatrix enthusiastically jumps at the offer.

The very next day, during the cloister work period, Sister Beatrix goes to the infirmary, and begins her now ritualized movements of pulling weeds, gathering them, and then hauling the imaginary weeds off to an area she envisions as a mulch pile. The relief that she feels is immense! The infirmary is air conditioned. Imaginary weeds weigh nothing. The rows are as short as she chooses. It is an easy row to hoe, a sweet deal indeed!

Sister Bridget’s euphoria continues for a week or so. And then a sense of listlessness begins to creep up on her, overshadowing her new found joy with a feeling of being becalmed in shallow waters. What is she doing? Sister Honora sleeps through her visits. And even when she is awake, Sister Honora hardly notices her. What is the point of this, really? At least when she was outside in the heat, she was accomplishing something, she was engaged in the muddy substance of reality, making a difference in her world, helping to feed the Sisters in some small way. And then Sister Beatrix started to laugh. She got it! When she was in the gardens, she was doing something, something that mattered, something she could put her heart and soul into. When she was walking through the motions in the infirmary, she was merely walking through the motions. . . and so, Sister Beatrix requested an interview with Mother Magdalene, and requested her old job back, and she returned to weeding the gardens having found the heart in her path.

May the rows that we hoe be just challenging enough to keep us focused and engaged. May we all find work with meaning and purpose. May we all find and follow a path with heart!

Thinking about Great Expectations

What can you expect from a fellow whose school career ended after a mere three months and ended with his teacher describing him as addled? What, really can you expect from a fellow who was home schooled by his mother with much of his reading focused on two books? Really, what can you expect from a fellow who moved from job to job, only to be fired from each?

Imagine someone so pig headed that he would get an idea in his head, and when the idea did not come to fruition after one thousand experimental attempts, the fellow just tried another thousand or two thousand or even three thousand times more!

I suspect that today we would label this addled fellow with attention deficit disorder and/or maybe obsessive compulsive disorder. Certainly the guy had some kind of dis-order.

And, truth be told, this fellow has indeed been labeled by many – this fellow Thomas Alva Edison, is the guy the world calls ‘the wizard of Menlo Park.’ He was probalby one of the greatest inventors our world has ever known. Over the course of his life, Thomas Alva Edison registered 1,093 patents. His inventions include the phonograph, the electric generator, fuel cell technology, a kinetographic camera making motion pictures possible, the alkaline battery, improved cement production, improvements on the telephone, and improvements on the electric light bulb to make it practical, Many of Edison’s inventions were improvements on earlier inventions that were interesting but not practical. Thomas Edison frequently said “I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”

When Edison was asked about the many thousands of failed experiments in his laboratories, he is quoted as saying, “We have not failed, we have discovered many ways not to make whatever is the focus of our experiment.” Through his persistence through his many failures, which he understood as steps in the path to success, Thomas Edison worked his way up from being an impoverished, uneducated railroad worker to one of the most famous and financially successful men. In his lifetime, Edison became a working man’s folk hero. As history looks back on his contributions, Edison is credited with building the framework for modern technology and society in the age of electricity.

Yes, Edison held over a thousand patents, and produced many commercially successful inventions. And all of that was built on the foundation of thousands and thousands of failures. One of the keys to it all was his confident vision that success was on the horizon and he and his team were working their way along the path toward their goal. As one of my teachers once said to me, “You have not failed so much as you have begun to succeed.”

Be clear on your vision. Be true to your dream. Know that the road toward your goal is likely to be a long and winding road. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow. Do your best. Learn each day. Treasure your frustrations as signposts for new areas to learning and growth. Edison brought us a framework for technology and electricity. We can be the vanguard ushering in a future of justice and human rights.

Experiencing Justice with The Lady and the Tramp

The most basic principle of social work practice is to have a clear goal. After all (maybe before all!) if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?!? So, what is justice like? How does it look, feel, smell, sound, taste? What is human dignity like?

Well, on some level we all have a visceral, personal answer to that. Most of us can identify a moment or two in our lives when things just felt right. When all was right with the world, when we did something good for someone else, or maybe when someone did something for us. Now, I’m not talking about winning the lottery grand, but just those moments when things were nice and you found yourself hoping life could go on forever like that. So, go ahead, conjure up one of those moments and bask in it! Recollect how you were feeling, the smells associated with it, the taste it left in your mouth, the sounds around you, the setting and scenery. Bask in all of it for a few moments. Niceness, it is lovely. And that is how I would like everyone to experience fairness and dignity.

And then there is this guy Anthony deMello who offers us this story about a homeless man in London. The man, let’s call him Nigel, has been walking the streets of London all day. He is exhausted, and as night comes on, he finds himself on the bank of the River Thames. It has been a particularly difficult day for Nigel, panhandling has not gone well, he was continually rousted by the constabulary so that he was not even able to secure a bit of bread for himself. He is looking forward to a night’s sleep and a fresh start to the day tomorrow, hoping at least it won’t be raining. Just as he is settling in and about to fall asleep the lights of a car sweep over him, and a chauffeur driven Bentley pulls up near him. A very attractive woman steps out of the car and asks, “Sir, are you intending to spend the night here?” Nigel says, “yes.” And the woman, let’s call her Sofia, replies, “I will not conscience that. You will come with me to my home where you will have a decent meal and spend a comfortable night.” And Sofia insists that Nigel join her in the car, and they ride through London to her mansion. When they arrive at the mansion, Carson ushers them into the mansion. Sofia says, “Carson, please take Nigel to the servants quarters and help him settle in. Be sure that he is treated well and that he has everything he needs to be comfortable this evening.” After a time Sofia goes by to check on Nigel. She sees a bit of light from under his door, and so she knocks on it. Nigel invites her into the room, and Sofia asks, “Is everything alright, Nigel? Did you have a good meal?” Nigel responds, “My lady, I’ve never had a better meal in my life.” “Then are you warm enough?” “Yes, my Lady, the bed is comfortable and warm and lovely.” “Then maybe you need some company to help you to relax and sleep.” And as Nigel moves over just a bit to make some room for Sofia, he falls into the Thames.

Now, when I read DeMello’s version of this story I burst out laughing. I did not see that coming, not at all. But it makes sense. Harboring illusions will not get us justice or respect for dignity. Dreaming may help us to envision a better future, but putting our shoulders to the wheel is what will lay the foundation today for a better tomorrow. So, wake up, drink the coffee, and do some work! We are not required to finish the work, but neither are we free to desist from it!!

And then, because it’s me, I started to think a bit more about the story. And I started to wonder, what if the genders were reversed. What if Nigel were Nancy? What if Sofia were Samuel? How would the fantasy play out? I suppose if it were a gothic romance version Nancy would still be dreaming of her hero Samuel coming to save her. But would even she be dreaming of him crawling into her bed? What if Nancy were a feminist, how would her fantasy play out? If you were homeless, what would make you want to scrunch over in bed? If it were me, I would be dreaming of a warm bed, a decent light, and a good book. But then that’s me.

Ah, and the point of the story was, after all, to wake up, drink the coffee and do the work!

Surrounded by water and dying of thirst

You know the values clarification game where you are asked to imagine yourself on a raft with 6 or 8 other people? Typically the scenario gives you a brief character sketch for each of the other people, and you are then pushed to decide who you would throw out of the raft in order to save the lives of those who remain. The rationale usually involves something like a lack of clean drinking water or a shortage of food, and of course there is no knowing when or if any of you will be rescued. Well, this raft story is not that one.

 In his book ‘Awareness’ Anthony deMello tells the story of a group of people who are marooned on a raft off the coast of Brazil. Here’s my version:

 One sunny afternoon in Brazil Marta, Enrico and a small group of their friends set out for a lovely afternoon on the waters of the Amazon, dallying away the day. Somehow, they lost their paddle and so could no longer control the direction of the raft. The waters of the river carried them out to the ocean, and there they were, trapped and unprepared. What had been a lazy, lovely day now became a life and death situation. They had no food or water with them. The current was carrying them farther and farther out into the ocean. They knew they were immanently going to die if they did not get some help. And in the heat of sun, they were suffering the effects of dehydration. And they were surrounded by water they dare not drink. The one think that they knew for sure was that to drink the salt water of the ocean.  They knew that drinking ocean water would only make them thirstier. They had all grown up hearing about tourists who drank ocean water and came away with headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. No ocean water was no help for their dehydration, that they knew. Surrounded by water and they were dying of thirst.

 But, here is what they did not know: the rush of Amazon River water that carried them out into the ocean still surrounded them. The Amazon flows out into the ocean with such ferocity, that it carries a stream of fresh water out into the ocean. There are estimates that up to 100 miles from the mouth of the Amazon in the Atlantic Ocean you can dip out some fresh water. But the paddlers knew what they knew and they were not about to take the risk of even tasting the water around them.

 All too often we are like Marta, Enrico and their friends. We know what we know, and we are not about to be disabused of our knowledge by taking the risk of being open to new perspectives or alternative.  Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me! Ah, yes, but we can be brainwashed by the blinders that platitude imposes. 

 All too often our vision, our dreams are limited by the blinders of fear and mistrust.  April fool’s day is approaching. And this year, I propose that we should all take a risk and be fools for love! Let us move out into the world with hearts open to the joy and freedom of love. For one day (then maybe more), let’s take a risk and approach each other with the foolish freedom of heart that young puppies carry when they meet someone new! Imagine the sweetness and joy of a world where love and justice flowed with the power of the Amazon? Where love and justice were carried for miles into the ocean of fear? Let’s all try it for a day and see what happens?


Chiyono and the bottomless bucket

 “If you are as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, you still will not escape slander! Get thee to a nunnery, go!” Around 1600, by way of William Shakespeare’s pen, that was Hamlet’s advice to Ophelia. A continent away in Japan, and 300 years earlier in 1290, Chiyono found herself facing similar options. So, Chiyono set off to the nunnery, to the Zen temple in Hiromi where she was accepted to work as a servant.  Chiyono journeyed to the temple (and agreed to work there as a servant if that was the only way in) because she wanted to attain enlightenment (for the new agers or feminists among you, think empowerment).  For years – years and years even – Chiyono worked faithfully, diligently moping and cleaning, chopping wood and carrying water for the nuns at the temple. And through all those years her desire to attain enlightenment never wavered.

Chiyono would listen and watch the nuns from a distance. She emulated their sitting posture and practice each evening when her work was done. Chiyono sat facing the wall in her room, quietly breathing, quietly chanting the words she heard the nuns saying. And, over the days, weeks and years, nothing happened. Persistently Chiyono practiced what she observed, and still nothing happened, she could feel no progress towards enlightenment.  Eventually, Chiyono summoned up her courage asked one of the older nuns, “Sister would you please tell me the principles of your practice? How can I attain enlightenment?”

The elder nun looked at Chiyono and recognized her as the woman who cooked and cleaned, who chopped wood and carried the water. The nun was a woman of wisdom and compassion and so she said to her, “In your search for enlightenment, you must not cease your effort. The Buddha tells us that at the end of all our exploring we will arrive where we started, and shall know the place for the first time (who knew that T.S Elliot was quoting the Buddha!?!). Enlightenment is not words; it is looking deeply into your own heart, into your own mind, and nurturing the compassion for all sentient beings, the compassion that is always already there.  Each of us is complete and perfect just as we are. But each of us is best by desires for what we don’t have, and by fears of loosing what we hold dear. We are deluded into thinking that we can hold off changes that we foresee; but changes will happen, indeed that there will be change is the only constant. Let go of your delusions. That is the way of Zen. Practice this diligently as you walk, as you work, as you move through each day.” (Ah, new agers and feminists among you, think empowerment here too! Each of us is complete and perfect just as we are; each of us is fully powerful and need only learn to exercise and manifest our unique strengths, skills and powers.)

And Chiyono took the elder sisters words to heart and practiced letting go of her attachments even as she moped the floors and cleaned the lavatories, even as she chopped wood and carried water.  She moved through her days with one pointed focus and determination. As she worked and practiced her letting go, she became ever more compassionate in her encounters with the other nuns in the temple. As she moved through the days, where once she might have felt some resentment for the younger nuns who were free to sit in meditation throughout the day, now Chiyono saw her own work as actions of caring in support of the other’s practice.

One evening Chiyono was carrying her bucket to the well to bring back some water to the kitchen. As she carried her bucket, the bottom which was held on by bamboo strips fell out, and the reflection of the moon in the water vanished. In that instant Chiyono touched enlightenment. This is her enlightenment poem

With this and that I tried to keep the bucket together
And then the bottom fell out.
Where water does not collect
The moon does not dwell.

            For all of that I like the story about Chiyono for the first two lines of her enlightenment poem: “With this and that I tried to keep the bucket together, and then the bottom fell out.” For her, when the bottom fell out she saw through to enlightenment. That resonates for me as I think about how hard we all try to keep it together, wrapping our lives with bobby pins and bubble gum to hold the pieces together. And for us too, maybe only when things fall apart will we find our way to living lives that allow respect for all sentient beings (and isn’t that just what lived human rights are about?) to live lives that respect all sentient beings, all of them. (It is the all of them part that seems to particularly trip me up. It is so much easier to be fully respectful of people I like, people who agree with me.)

            So, I find myself wondering –  what will I see, what will you see, when the bottom falls out, and we have enough compassion for ourselves to remember to look through to the other side.

The Old Wisdom by Jane Goodall

It’s been a little while since I shared a poem here. This one from Jane Goodall just seemed right for a cold winter afternoon. But that may be because it IS a cold winter afternoon as I am writing this. I suspect it would be quite wonderful for a soft spring day, a balmy summer day or a brisk autumn day as well. 

And yes, Jane Goodall is known to the world as a primatologist, she is also a poet. Have a read?


 By Jane Goodall

In Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues

When the night wind makes the pine trees creak
And the pale clouds glide across the dark sky,
Go out my child, go out and seek
Your soul: The Eternal I.
For all the grasses rustling at your feet
And every flaming star that glitters high
Above you, close up and meet
In you: The Eternal I.
Yes, my child, go out into the world; walk slow
And silent, comprehending all, and by and by
Your soul, the Universe, will know
Itself: the Eternal I.

 Thay Nhat Hahn writes about the interdependence of all that is. As I think about interdependence, as I read Goodall’s poem, I can’t help but think that if we all knew and remembered, literally re-memberd that we are all part of the warp and weft of the same fabric, then calls for social justice and for respect of human dignity would be moot. 

maybe the Beatles said it best?  . . .
I am she
as you are she
as you are me
And we are all together . . .
and we ARE all together, inextricably interconnected and interdependent. 
and justice? well … “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” Dr. Martin Luther King
and “Everyone does better when EVERYONE does better.”  Jim Hightower.
we are all together. in you, in me, in us all, the eternal. let us all pledge to work for the well being of all sentient beings, until there is compassion and justice for us all, everyone of us.

A Fable about Salt and Love


Once upon a time there was a land that was ruled by man who was both king and father. The king had three daughters and loved them each in turn. As he watched them moving through his castle and court yards, the king noticed that while he love each of his daughters, he loved each of his daughters somewhat differently. He began to wonder about this odd quality of love. Being a king as well as a father, the king had also recently begun to wonder about which of his daughters he would entrust with his kingdom. And so one day he summoned the three young women to him, and he asked each of them how they loved him.  


 “My dearest king and father,” replied Elizabeth Barrett, the oldest daughter, “I love you to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, I love you more than words can express.”  The king and father was filled with joy and was very pleased when he heard these words from his eldest daughter.


Bonny Anne, the middle daughter said, “I love you like the sun that gives us light and warmth and life. I love you more than my heart can hold.”  And now too the king and father was filled with joy and was very pleased when he heard these words from his Bonny Anne.  Then he turned to Salannia, his youngest daughter and asked her to tell him how much she loved him.


“Dear father, my king,” she answered, “I love you as much as salt . . .”


Before Salannia could continue the king, overcome with disappointment and dismay, interrupted her and shouted, “As salt! You say you love me like salt! The most common and simple spice in my kingdom! If only you might have said saffron, which is rare and precious, or honey, which is sweet, I would have been pleased! But salt! That is the same thing as saying that you do not love me at all!”


In his anger the king had Salannia ushered out the door and he banned her from ever appearing before him again. The king then proclaimed Elizabeth Barrett, his eldest daughter, would be heir to the throne.  When Bonny Anne, the middle daughter, learned of this, she was outraged that her father neglected to establish a role of power for her within the kingdom, and she set out to sea and became a pirate queen of the oceans.


And Salannia, the youngest daughter, left the kingdom in sadness. She walked for days and days, and eventually she came to another castle where she secured a job in the kitchen.  In a short time Salannia’s skill became known throughout the castle. Her reputation as a chef was recognized by the servants and by the Lord of the castle himself, and soon she became the head chef. 


And life went on in the kingdom with each of the daughters taking up her new life responsibilities and becoming ever more sure of herself in the world. After a time the Lord’s of the castle where Salannia was head chef announced that son was to be married. All the Lords and Ladies from the neighboring lands were invited to the feast, and of course Salannia’s father was to be among the guests. Salannia and her staff worked for days to prepare the feast. As they cooked, Salannia saw to it that only she prepared the foods that were to be served to her father – and she ensured that not a touch, not a hint, not one grain of salt came near the food that her father was to eat.


Course after course of sumptuous foods were served to the guests. All of the guests praised the excellence of the food, one after another proclaiming that they had never tasted food as delicious as that which they enjoyed that evening. All the guests, that is, except Salannia’s father. He alone could hardly swallow a bite of the food, while the food was beautiful to look at, it was very nearly inedible. When he heard the other guests reveling in the brilliance of the dishes, he could contain himself no longer and demanded to speak to the cook. “What have you done to my food? It looks wonderful, but it has no flavor or taste? I cannot even bear to swallow it.!


“My dearest king and father,” Salannia replied, “You exiled me from your home when I told you that I loved you as much as salt. And so today you have no salt in your food. Just as the food at this feast is dull and pointless without salt, so too my life is dull and meaningless without you.”


As he heard these words from his daughter, the king relented and repented. He begged his daughter to forgive him, and he welcomed her back home, where he established her as co-queen with his eldest daughter. And together they ruled happily ever after.




And what does all of this have to do with justice? If justice is fairness – and it may well be much more than that, but it is at least that – then fairness and respect require listening carefully to each other. Fairness and respect require hearing the full meaning of what each person means to say, and then pausing long enough to understand the meaning of what each person is saying from within their own context. At least that if we will be worth our own salt, if we mean to be the salt of the earth, otherwise we will just be rubbing salt in each other’s wounds 😉