- Japanese liquor ad
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
- Matthew 5:9
|H A R V A R D|
(William James Hall is the white tower visible in the mid-distance at the right.)
Over the summer of 1982, I studied Introductory Japanese at Harvard.
It was my great good fortune to make the acquaintance of another student there, a man from Japan who was a Ph.D. candidate at Yale, and who was working on his French over the summer. Kazashi's special interest was William James, and so Cambridge, MA, was full of attractions for him.
Kazashi was very generous in listening to me talk about my progress with Japanese -- and he was tireless in explaining facets of Japanese culture and language to me. And I would try to reciprocate by drawing his attention to aspects of American culture he might not be aware of.
I remember another evening when we were departing the Union, and I said, "Hey, I seem to remember there's a concert tonight -- this cellist I've heard about -- he's supposed to be quite good." So we walked down to Memorial Hall, only to encounter a line snaking up around the law school, perhaps about a quarter of a mile. Apparently some other people had also heard that Yo-yo Ma was supposed to be "quite good."
* * * * *
After that summer, Kazashi and I stayed in touch as much as we could. But I was in the U.S., and he was in Japan, and before I knew it many years had gone by without either of us hearing from the other.
It wasn't until about 2005 or so, when I was fooling around with Google one day, that I said, "Gee, I bet you could even track down someone like Kazashi with this thing!"
|Kazashi and colleague on site in Iraq,|
investigating depleted uranium contamination.
Soon, Kazashi was able to visit the U.S. again, and we had the opportunity to renew our friendship. He told me about his work: "When I obtained a position at a university, it turned out to be in Hiroshima," I remember Kazashi telling me. "So it was very natural that I became connected with the peace movement. I became a peace worker."
Those words -- "I became a peace worker" -- stuck with me. What might it mean for someone to become "a peace worker"? At the time I was not involved in activism at all. Could it really be that people were called to this work the way Kazashi described? It was quite clear to me that he had devoted himself -- heart, mind, body, and soul -- to this work.
Kazashi and I have done some things together since then -- I've taken him for meetings here in the U.S. and helped with proofreading English; he's helped share information from me in Japan -- but the biggest impact of our renewed friendship has certainly been those five words: "I became a peace worker"
* * * * *
I often wonder about the words of the Sermon on the Mount -- such as "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" -- and I wonder how one could be expected to have taken them when they were first uttered. Is it possible for me to hear those words with fresh ears?
|Sadao Watanabe, Sermon on the Mount|
Do we need to hear those words in a somewhat more idiomatic or contextual way? Is it possible that "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" sounded to those listeners back then something like ". . . it turns out . . . very natural . . . one becomes . . . a peace worker" ?
* * * * *
As Barack Obama meets with Japanese leaders today on the first stop of his Asia tour, and works to advance the American strategic "pivot" to Asia, I wonder if there is a way to turn from what sometimes feels like an irresistible American attraction to military power.
Will the story of the decades ahead be told in terms of the U.S. Pacific fleet and command of the seas?
Will it be all about lining up allies and facing down China?
I am thinking of Kazashi and asking, "How about a pivot toward peacemaking?"
Hundreds of thousands of pounds of "depleted uranium" (DU) have been aerosolized and dispersed by being used in armor piercing munitions by U.S. forces in Iraq. DU emits alpha radiation and does not decay for hundreds of thousands of years, and in its aerosolized form is subject to uptake by many parts of the human body. It will be years, decades, or more, before the health consequences can be fully understood.)
(See DU: Will we ever be able to say "We're done here" ? )
(See Renouncing War: An Opportunity Not To Be Missed )
(See Our Dark Beacon: Prayer Vigil for Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 5, 2012)
(See Nov 21-23, 2015 in Hiroshima: World Nuclear Victims Forum -- I'll Be There )