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Two Hands of Nonviolence

Donna Eyestone
On Cooperation (September 2022)

Dear Editor: I am writing to thank David Albert for his article, “Gandhi’s Smile,” in the July/August 2022 issue of Western Friend. I have been studying the life and work of Barbara Deming, and Albert’s article resonated with those studies. Like Gandhi, Deming addressed ways we can make use of the positive energy that anger brings, while not allowing ourselves to become overcome by its force. She used a “two hands” metaphor to help describe the tension that many of us feel in moments like the one we are living in now.

Deming explains that the first hand is firmly held up, palm facing forward to stay “Stop what you are doing. I refuse to honor the role you are choosing to play. I refuse to obey you. I refuse to cooperate with your demands. I refuse to build the walls and the bombs. I refuse to pay for the guns. With this hand I will even interfere with the wrong you are doing. I want to disrupt the easy pattern of your life.”

At the same time, her second hand is outstretched, palm up in a gesture of friendship saying “I won’t let go of you or cast you out of the human race. I have faith that you can make a better choice than the one you are making now, and I’ll be here when you are ready. Like it or not, we are part of one another.”

Along with David Albert’s words about Gandhi, Deming’s powerful words continue to provide me hope and courage for the struggle ahead.  Albert says that Quakers “seek the Light [that] shines through the walls.” I am grateful for this metaphor. With our collective strength we shall continue with one hand to expand the existing “chinks in the wall,” and with the other hand, create entirely new possibilities on how to shine through.

– Donna Eyestone, Berkeley Friends Meeting (PacYM)

Nonviolence Gandhi Barbara Deming

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