Current Issue

Parabola Volume 42, No. 4, Winter 2017-2018: FamiliesParabola Volume 42, No. 4, Winter 2017-2018: Families

“If you think you’re enlightened go spend a week with your family,” says the popular spiritual teacher Ram Dass. Yet this Winter 2017-2018 issue of Parabola shows how family life itself can be a means to awaken.

Capable of achieving the highest state of meditation, Sufi master Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee writes here that he found another teacher in his willful toddler son. “His freedom to express his will touched an unconscious wound,” writes Vaughan-Lee, who found himself lashing out in anger at the little boy because the “rules of my childhood had never allowed me to express such freedom.” The anger eased as he became conscious of the buried hurt that obscured his love.

Our families show us who we are. In pieces by the great primatologist Jane Goodall and by elephant expert Eleanor O’Hanlon, we see that this is true in the animal kingdom as well as the human. Not only do chimpanzees feel and express a range of emotions, including violence as well as compassion, writes Goodall, but together they express “what I can only describe as a sense of awe at the wonder of nature.” O’Hanlon describes the extended family dynamics of desert elephants, who demonstrate extraordinary care and responsibility for each other. “In their eyes was knowledge, borne through generations of their ancestors,” she writes, “of how to live and walk in beauty and harmlessness on the Earth.”

Our true family isn’t necessarily to be found among our closest relatives. This issue explores the way a healing connection and a deepened sense of meaning and possibility can sometimes be found among fellow seekers and kindred spirits. In these pages, we discover “families” found in a monastery, in a rag-tag tribe called the Juggalos, and in the circle of warmth and inspiration around a Palestinian rapper in the grim Shuafat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem.

May this issue show you how we are all related, all of us sharing this Earth and the elements that make up this creation, including our capacity to connect.

—Tracy Cochran

Cover DescriptionTaos Pueblo-Moonlight. Eanger Irving Couse, 1914. Oil on canvas. New Mexico Museum of Art

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Table of Contents

ESSAYS AND CONVERSATIONS

Bishop Desmond Tutu, You Don’t Choose Your Family: A reflection

Jane Goodall, DBE, Why Are We Here?: The great primatologist explores life’s deepest questions

Tracy Cochran, You Would Run For Your Life: A mother and daughter trace their roots to the Vikings—and to those they conquered

Eleanor O’Hanlon, Remarkable Beings: Family life and death among the elephants

Mark Nepo, The Great Teacher: Memories and meditations on essential matters

Kenneth Krushel, Refugee Camp Alchemy: A Palestinian rapper rings hope

Nipun Mehta, I Was Being Healed: A conversation with Buddhist nun and singing star Ani Choying Dromla

Amy Barnes, The World Families of Appalachia: Teaching literacy through the King James Bible

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, The First Responsibility: Raising a family, a young Sufi learns difficult lessons

Kitty Stryker, Family, Faith, and Faygo: Bonding among the Juggalos

Bayo Akomolafe, A Letter to my Daughter: A daughter is born, a healer makes a prophecy

Adele Kafian, The Last Days of Katherine Mansfield: The acclaimed writer finds a home at G.I. Gurdjieff’s Prieuré

Betsy Cornwell, A True Story: A young mother ponders truth and lies

Rabbi Shai Held, The Face of Guests as the Face of God: Why did Abraham leave God to greet three strangers?

Hugh Lofting, He Was Very Fond of Animals: How Dr. Doolittle found his calling

EPICYCLE

The Way of the Householder | Anonymous / Hindu
Retold by Rama Devagupta

POEMS

Winners of the 2017 Poetry of the Sacred Contest

Nicole Rollender, How I Learned To Pray

Kathryn Ridall, Sacred Love

Jessica Jacobs, Sleepwalkers in the Garden

Pat Brisson, The Cleverness of Seeds

ENDPOINT