Clarence Jordan, 1912-1969
As part of the class I’m currently taking on white awareness and developing racial literacy, we were asked to put together a short presentation highlighting a white ally (a white person who supported racial equality or worked on behalf of black people in some way). It could be someone alive and active in this area today or someone from the past. In doing an online search, I chose Clarence Jordan.
In the spirit of shining light on the simple and profound truth of how good people abound in the world (past & present), I thought I’d share the report I put together, which I’ll be offering to my class tomorrow. The way I see it: we can all use some good-people-medicine and stand to be reminded about the power of heartfelt and authentic determination to do well by others.
Clarence Jordan was a white Baptist preacher who was described as a man with the zeal of a missionary. He was born in 1912 in Talbotton GA, and died of a heart attack at age 57, in 1969.
He graduated from Ag-college and then went on to seminary, where he earned a PhD in the Greek New Testament (and if I remember right, he only read the bible in Greek).
While at seminary, he met Florence Kroeger and they soon married and went on to have 4 children.
Clarence was a man of many interests and talents. I watched an interview where someone said that you didn’t want to mess with him – not because of his stature or powers of intimidation but because he was a man who bore the truth and lived diligently with his moral code in a way that few others did.
In 1942, Clarence founded Koinonia Farm (KF) in southwest GA, which was situated on 440-acres. Koinonia means: communion or fellowship, which in the 5th book of the New Testament is applied to the earliest Christian community.
When I clacked in the title of this post: Three Roads Converge, I thought I’d tie in three threads that have been thrumming through my life as of late. But then as I started thinking more about it, I realized that it’s more like 5 of 6 threads that have woven themselves together in the past week, prompting my call to pen this post.
On Monday, I had a meeting with an OI (Order of Interbeing) pre-aspirant friend of mine, where we decided to start a practice of working closely with the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings together, which serve as the foundation of our Buddhist tradition. I shared with her that prior to my having been ordained into the Order – back in 2007 – I took it upon myself to work with each one of the trainings for the span of one-week. I read one training every day for 7 days and then would go onto the next one, equating to a 14-week practice. After reading each training, I would then journal about my thoughts/practice/experience with the training. This practice was very nourishing for me and allowed me the opportunity to look and work deeply with each training, one at a time.
Since she liked this idea and was interested in doing it, I extended the offer of having her and I do it together. Our plan is to focus on one training every 2-weeks, so that when next we meet, which will be once a month, we’ll share with each other our journal entries and what came up for us, centered around two of the trainings.
Since this was week #1, here’s the first of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings that I’ve been working with this past week, and will continue practicing with through the next week:
The First Mindfulness Training: Openness
Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. We are committed to seeing the Buddhist teachings as guiding means that help us develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for. We understand that fanaticism in its many forms is the result of perceiving things in a dualistic and discriminative manner. We will train ourselves to look at everything with openness and the insight of interbeing in order to transform dogmatism and violence in ourselves and in the world.
To read all 14, please click here.
This morning, in an effort to whittle the pile down, I took one book off of the growing stack perched above my side of the bed, with the intention of returning it to the library from whence it came.
14 books remain, which is a number high enough to make anyone ponder my intentions for being able to make my way through them all.
In the mix sits the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Dharma of the Princess Bride, and two books by Bill Bryson.
Sometimes when I’m laying underneath the shelf that supports their hulking weight, I imagine being suddenly visited by them all, when the dark-stained rectangle of pine makes the well-timed, conscious decision to give up its thankless role as propper-upper of things and heaves them all off with one push of breath onto my head, chest, and stomach.
The book I am most actively reading, however, sits on the coffee table in the living room.
It’s been quite the week.
A week I could (and did) summarize by the title of this post: Words matter.
At the start of the week on Monday, we had an especially lovely evening at our local sangha, Be Here Now. It was one of those nights where the sharing was really genuine and heartfelt, we had a large group (over 30 people), and we had someone join us who’d just moved to town and was so grateful for having found our group and to feel so welcomed and right at home with us.
On Tuesday, I attended a forum on hate crimes on the UM campus (see previous post).
On Thursday, I attended a public talk on campus given by Christian Picciolini, founder of the Free Radicals Project and author of White American Youth: My Descent Into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement – and How I Got Out.
Unlike the Hate Crimes Forum I attended on Tuesday night, the seats were well-packed. While there were a mixture of ages in the audience, UM students occupied the largest demographic and I took great pleasure in being surrounded by 7 others in my close proximity who donned notebooks on their laps in lieu of cell phones.
And last night, I helped organize an event called Word of Mouth at our local Roxy theater here in Missoula. An evening which celebrated the art of creative self-expression through wordsmithing. We had 3 spoken word poets (myself included), 3 storytellers, and 3 standup comics take the stage, each with 10-minutes, for a 2-hour show that was simply fantastic. The show started at 7:00 and by 6:30 all 119 seats were sold out. Dozens of folks were turned away at the door – which speaks to me of the great need for continuing to offer these types of events.
Collage pic of all the WOM performers in the show last night