In the lead article in this Fall 2022 issue of Parabola, journalist Lisa Teasley writes of being “the only Black person in the room” and how for years that undermined her sense of belonging. To be denied this basic human need, an incomparable source of meaning, can be devastating—as evidenced also in Linda A. Curtis’s remembrance here of being shunned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“What is the solution?’ asks Teasley. Many paths to belonging surface within these pages. There is a celebration by author Gilbert Friend-Jones of the spiritual companions he has found in a Benedictine monastery. Author and poet Mark Nepo inspires us to renew mind, heart, and body in order to “reconnect to the miracle of life.” Professor of dance Holly Lau explains how she found belonging in a most surprising place, at Memphis Grizzlies basketball games.
There is a universal understanding among our contributors that we all belong somewhere. As philosopher Glenn Aparicio Parry illuminates in his interview here, the earth itself embraces us and vibrates through us. Locked in a prison cell, Oscar Wilde yearns for Nature, “whose sweet rains fall on just and unjust unlike.” Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev explores biblical covenant to show that God and humanity belong to one another, while Parabola’s digital editor, Surnaí Molloy, demonstrates how she, and thus we, can make any place our own through attention and heart.
An ultimate odyssey of belonging is that of Issan Dorsey, remembered here in a compelling excerpt from David Schneider’s book Street Zen. Once a drag queen, gay prostitute, junkie, and commune leader, Issan took LSD, found Buddhism, and rose to the abbotship of San Francisco’s Hartford Street Zen Center. Rather than reject his past, he accepted it with compassion, founding a major AIDS hospice at the center.
Issan belonged. So do we all. May this issue help you find and sustain your place in our world.
We at Parabola mourn the passing of our senior editor and good friend Christopher Bamford (1943-2022).
table of contents
The Only Black Person in the Room Lisa Teasley
What that means and how that feels
Issan Ascends to the Mountain Seat David Schneider
The former drag queen/prostitute/drug addict finds
The Night of the Hessian Soldier Tracy Cochran
A haunted inn inspires deeper questions
Coming Home Gilbert Friend-Jones
Companionship among the Benedictines
East Hill Farm Jonathan James
A leap of faith into an “intentional” community
Returning to the Center Mark Nepo
Becoming who we are
Arrernte Land Karen Lethlean
A child visits her ancestral land
Shunned Linda A. Curtis
Excommunicated from the Jehovah’s Witnesses
How to Think about Thinking Alan Watts
The spiritual pioneer on enjoying mind and life
To Hold One’s Own Surnaí Molloy
Making the world her own
The Hermit Who Became Pope Mary A. Osborne
The strange and wonderful odyssey of Peter Morrone
Covenant: A New Understanding Nahum Ward-Lev
How God and humanity belong to one another
This Vibrating Land David R. Kopacz, M.D.
An inspiring conversation with philosopher and educator Glenn Aparicio Parry
This Wicked Vice Benedict of Nursia
Saint Benedict on personal belongings
Zen and the Basketball Arena Holly Lau
Embracing team spirit
The Village Henry David Thoreau
Not all his time was spent at Walden Pond
She Will Hang the Night with Stars Oscar Wilde
From his prison cell, he dreams of Nature’s solace
Incandescent: The Love Story of Surya, God of the Sun,
and Sajana, the Cosmic Architect’s Daughter Retold by Nartana Premachandra
Anonymous / Hindu
Sunset Rainer Maria Rilke
Song of Myself Walt Whitman
A Birthday Christina Rossetti
Allah Wa Ana Ameen Rihani
When thou shalt be dispos’d to set me light William Shakespeare
This is my letter to the World Emily Dickinson
Time is a Mother Ocean Vuong / reviewed by Z.G. Tomazewski