October 31, 2002 - Halloween Stories

Aaron: Good evening. My blessings and love to you all and a warm welcome. This night has many traditional meanings in different cultures. The Day of the Dead, a day when people offer their loving wishes to dead loved ones and ancestors. In some traditions they make diverse offerings to appease these spirits, which is more of a fear-based teaching. In others they simply celebrate the lives of those who have gone on.. It's interesting that this tradition has established itself in so many different cultures, and often at a time of fall harvest, a time of the autumn moon. Actually, tonight there is a full or almost full moon for Halloween, a rarity, because you celebrate this by the calendar and not the moon cycles. But in most cultures it was celebrated in the time of the autumn full moon after the equinox.

I think it picked up that slant of ghosts and goblins because of its connection with the dead and a celebration or offering to the dead. In respect to that, beings often created altars or decorations that involved bones or other symbols of death.

But of course, your culture is afraid of death. Sometimes it's good to play with that which you fear, to dress up as spooks, to pretend. It helps with the fear: the fear of the supernatural, the fear of the unknown, which is not in your control.. You realize that each of you participate in that unknown. This human expression of your being is only a small part of you. Each of you, my dear ones, has been a ghost many times! I note with a smile that you are gathered here to hear a ghost, "my spook friend", as a friend sometimes calls me.

Am I spooky? I suppose to some people I would be spooky, a disembodied voice. So your celebration of Halloween helps to make you more comfortable with that which is beyond your immediate physical understanding. You dress up in spooky costumes and you ask me to tell you scary stories.

In the past few days Barbara has asked me to share with her some of the more frightening stories. We realized together that while there are many horrible events that happened to beings I was in different lifetimes, most of them don't have that much of a moral to them. I could tell you about a lifetime in which I was buried alive. I was terrified and of course I died, which was rather uncomfortable at the moment that it happened. What's the use of telling of it? In one way or another we all die and die again. There are experiences of terrible cruelty both to and from myself. Again, what's the point of recounting them?

There are a few remaining stories that I haven't told that do seem to have a reason for telling. As always, these Halloween stories reflect experiences of past beings that I was, not of Aaron but of the karmic ancestors of Aaron.

There are 2 stories, perhaps 3 that I'd like to share tonight, depending on how our time goes. I want to save a lot of time tonight for your questions since we're not meeting every week. There have been so many questions coming in by email, letter, and telephone.

The first one connects to the story I told last year about fear and the nature of fear, and the overcoming or transcendence of fear. It's an interesting story.

I was a very young man, an adolescent, living on a distant continent a very long time ago. My friends and I liked to explore in the forests and mountains and especially in a magnificent, immense cave that meandered its way through the mountain near our home. There were no flashlights in those days. We wrapped material around a stick, dipped it in tallow, the fat from sheep, and lit it as a torch.

We had all explored the beginnings of the cave, the main rooms nearest the entrance, those just behind, above and below. With just several torches, one couldn't see very far. We wanted to get in close behind the rocks and climbed up and over to find the crevices that led into new passageways. Even in those days, over a thousand years ago, there were rules given to children by their parents. Our rule was that we might only explore in a group. The meaning of the term "group" was never specified, but we understood it meant 3 or 4 or 5 or more of us.

Three of us went into the cave that day, all 3 of us adolescent boys. One of my friends that day had come although he felt quite sick, just a cold but he was coughing, sneezing, quite uncomfortable. After about an hour he said, "I need to go back out. I don't feel well." We were just a passageway or two away from the main cavern, a place we had been many times and we had no worry for him, and did not escort him to the entrance. We knew he could find his way out. In theory, we were supposed to go with him since only 2 of us would be left. But being young boys we didn't pay much attention to those rules because we had just found an exciting new passageway we had never seen before. I at the lead began to climb down it. It was a steep descent, possible only with the rope. Not rope as you know it but rope made up of hand-tied vine..

I came to the bottom and then my friend came down. We left our rope tied in such a way that it was accessible for our climb back up. We had more of this rope with us; not a lot, but some. There was an underground stream. I could hear the sound of it but not see it. We decided we would go find it, see if it had any pools attached to it, which fascinated us.

I don't remember all of what happened next. We walked around a sharp corner, crawled through a very narrow opening into a very large chamber, and there were what seemed a million bats flying around my head. I was not afraid of bats but their presence was so dense and unexpected that they startled me. Without looking carefully I took a quick step backwards, slipped and felt myself sliding down a long narrow chute, bumping head and limbs as I went down, screaming out my pain until thud, I hit the bottom.

At first, my friend, who had been behind me but was still in that small entranceway to this large chamber, didn't know where I had gone. And I at the time was unconscious, not able to warn him. My torch, of course, had fallen with me and gone out.

He had the wisdom at least not to stomp his way around but stood his space and called my name repeatedly. He was frightened. He was terrified. But he called me patiently and finally, semi-conscious though I was, I heard his voice and responded. I had the wit about me to say, "Stop! I have fallen down a steep hole"

Looking with his torch he finally found the opening and lowered his rope down but he could not reach me. By the light of his torch I could see him above me, see the rope coming half way down. He could not just go and get the other rope or we would have no exit out of the other chamber. It was clear there was only one option: he had to leave me there, to go and get help. And we had only one torch. I could not find my torch and there was no way to relight it if I found it.

Ah, rules! Finally our parents' rules made a little sense! And so, with our mutual agreement, he departed, leaving me there, bruised, bleeding, alone in the deepest darkness I have ever known. Then I felt a breeze against me, presumably the breeze created by the motion of a bat or some other creature flying past. There were eerie noises: creaking, groaning, and chirping. Do you know what imagination can do when alone in the dark, with no watch, of course, no idea of how many hours had passed? No food, no water. It was very clear that I could not pick up and move. I did not know what crevice/crevasse might lie just beyond me. Nothing to do but sit there.

At a certain point I fell asleep. I awoke; I slept; I awoke again. I crept a few feet from where I was sitting and urinated. I shivered. I cried.

What was most terrible was what my imagination did with the darkness and the silence. At that time I did not have the spiritual training in that life to see the stories that my imagination was creating and come back to the direct experience of sitting down, cold and hungry, on the floor of the cave. The bare experience would have been enough. What was I afraid of? If I were going to die, I would die. I would probably die of cold or thirst, an unpleasant death. But I died so many times sitting on that cold floor, with so many stories of fear, of dread, of unknown creatures coming out of the darkness to devour me each time I heard a small crunching or other noise.

I knew how many times I had slept but not for how long. And of course it was not a comfortable sleep. I grew up in that cave, in that lifetime. I aged from boy to man and from man to maturity. It was a very difficult passage. Somewhere between the 2nd and the 3rd sleep I made the decision not to allow my mind to wander into the terrible stories that it devised, and they were terrible. The culture I lived in believed in the existence of all kinds of demons and I imagined them all coming to devour me. Nobody had ever taught me vipassana at that time, there was just the decision to be with my breath, to be with my body, to let go of each story, to note it as a story.

The more I did that, the easier it got. My body was still in pain and I was increasingly thirsty. I shivered when I sat but was in too much pain to move. The sounds still startled me. Now and then came the brush of some small creature against my skin. But these were all quite bearable, the shivering just shivering. The cold , I had known cold many times. I had known darkness though never for so long a period as this. I had sat in cramped quarters, been damp; been injured. Through those hours it became so clear that my suffering was related only to my imagination and that I had a choice.

And so the time passed, what it turned out later was a day and night and the beginning of the next day, first, stoic and on guard, then exhausted, then weeping, then angry, and finally calm, quiet. Truly I found a deep peace and the silence that had seemed so horrible began to feel very rich. The small rustlings, slithers and dripping and other sounds, no longer felt menacing.

Eventually of course they came for me, my friend, my angry father and another man, with enough rope to pull me out. I tolerated my father's scolding very gladly, seeing his welcoming form carrying a torch and climbing down a rope to get me. I was injured enough that they literally had to tie the rope around me and pull me up and carry me out. I was never afraid again in that lifetime. It's not a cure for fear that I would recommend to you, to go and sit helpless in the bottom of a cave in the dark, but it certainly did cure me.

Many of you are feeling helpless right now. Your world attacked by fear and hatred. You are sitting in your own dark place, not sure how you might respond skillfully to protect yourself and your loved ones and to offer kindness, compassion, and also a firm no to those who would terrorize you.

I've spoken many thoughts in the past 6 weeks but one that I would add to it is, don't get carried away by your imagination. Be present. Be present with whatever threats your world may face, and indeed it does face threats, not just threats brought on by terrorists but threats created by your own carelessness through many decades. There are threats to the ozone layer, threats to the water and forests, the threat of nuclear annihilation, threats of disease, of famine. But my dear ones these are not new. There has always been threat of disease, threat of some kind of disaster. The nature of these has changed. For example, now you have atomic power, nuclear power. With so many travelers, you have less control over the spread of certain highly deadly germs. You can't begin to imagine how many times you have died of hunger, of disease, of natural disaster and war. The question is not when you will die or how you will die but how you will live. And the only progress that humankind will make is if you live with love.

It is not loving to get swept away by all the dire threats of disaster. Certainly you must take reasonable precaution. You take such care by not walking through dark alleys in cities. You don't drive the wrong way on a highway. There are never any guarantees about how long your life will be, or whether it will end in a comfortable way. To me the word terrorism bears as its most direct meaning the ability to inspire terror. If they terrify you, they've succeeded. If they lead you into their negativity, pushing you to live your life in fear, they've succeeded. If they do not terrify you, regardless of the real damage they may do, they have failed. This is up to you. Do you want to live until the time of your death, whether it's a day or 5 decades from now, or do you want to die now and live the rest of your life as dead?

Watch how the mind plays with terror and know that you have a choice. Stay in your breath and your body and, whatever the experience is, just be with it.

Barbara had an interesting experience. The week after the attack on the World Trade Center she first had to fly. On the first flight, her mind kept spinning out into terrible scenes. Hijackers taking over the plane, grisly deaths. I asked her finally, "Are you going to be more dead if the plane is plowed into a building than if it simply crashed on the ground? Are you going to be more dead if the plane is crashed into a building than if you die into a car accident next week or die of some disease a year from now?"

She saw then that her fear was not of death so much as loss of control, helplessness. She saw that if hijackers overtook the plane, and there was absolutely no possible way to reclaim that plane, that it would be possible to die at peace. And then the flight no longer was frightening. It would be as it would be.

So this is what I want to say to you. Get to know your fear, what it's about. Is it about pain, helplessness, and rage about that helplessness? Face that fear. Move through it. Find that within you, which is strong and unafraid, which can face even that worst situation with love, and then live your lives with as much kindness as you can, and with appropriate precaution. Then terrorists will not win, not these terrorists nor any of those beings throughout the world who find satisfaction in the abuse of others.

Some of you are probably feeling, "Enough moralizing! Let's hear another story."

The being I was was a young man in his 20s who lived with tribesmen in a culture that was primitive by your standards. We didn't think of ourselves as primitive. We were on the whole a hunting society. The men hunted meat and the women gathered fruits and nuts, plants and roots. We traveled with the seasons, moving north in the summer and south in the winter. When hunting was scarce, we moved. Because we were constantly on the move, we did not know our neighbors as you might know the people in the next town, but most of us were peaceful people.

There was a tribe, though, that lived quite a ways to the east of us, an area that was more arid. Perhaps because of hardship in their lives they were quite feisty and arrogant. They took what was not theirs. We did not hoard our food although we would cache enough meat for the most severe part of winter. But if they had asked we would have given of what we had. They came in and took it. They killed to take what we would have given.

We did not care to fight. We knew we could always find enough food. When our scouts gave us word that they were coming, we stepped aside, simply vacated the village. Let them take what they wanted. In so doing they did not harm us but we did feed their greed. I see now that we did not say no to them for many decades. Some of the young men in our tribe grew to hate these people but the tribal elders taught peace and deep reverence and respect to beings.

Finally they came once and surprised us. Unlike the past when we had warning and moved out, they simply appeared there in the night and killed a number of people. They took many of the women, elders and children as hostage and moved into our shelters.. Some of us escaped into the forests. We knew these forests, they were our home. They who came from the more arid land to the east did not know the forests. But they had our families in their control and there were not enough of us to go in and fight for our families even if we had wanted to. I say that last because we really did not want to. It was so deeply taught us in our culture to have reverence for living things. We took animals when we hunted with respect for the animal, never more than what we needed.

What to do? We decided to haunt them. We had a kind of powder in certain places in the soil that gave off an illumination. We used it as part of our ceremonial apparel and put stripes of it on ourselves. We dusted a few of us with this powder and late in the night we crept up to the encampment where our enemy now were and began to call in very strange voices, "You have killed us and we return to haunt you until you repent!"

The men came running out of the shelters. "Who is there? What is that?" They saw, here and there in the trees, these fleeting bits of iridescent bodies moving through the trees, and the strange voices. They were superstitious. We scared them. They built up the fire.

During the night one of us crept in carrying decayed remains taken from a recent grave, (with permission of that ancestor) laid out these bones by their fire, just left them there. Then before dawn we began to call again, "Look by your fire of what may become of you!" They came out and saw the bones.

"What do you want? "they said.

"We want a living sacrifice. In the woods there is... , and we described a tree in a clearing . "Bring out the eldest woman and man. Do not harm them but give them to us. Tie them to the tree. "Of course our poor kinfolk did not know what we were doing and they were a bit afraid. But the eldest man and woman were brought out, tied to the tree. The haunting voices said , "Leave now. Go back and sleep".

We came for them during the night and they were very happy to see us. Actually had suspected what we might be up to. We left nothing but a pile of bones so that when they came back in the morning, the elders they had left were gone and in their place were bones. The next day we asked for children. And so on, until there was nobody left in the village except those who had pillaged us.

"We want more children!" we told them.

"We don't have any more children."

"You must bring us more children. We need children."

They thought we were eating them, some kind of horrible monster devouring these beings.

"If you have no children, bring us the youngest of yourselves."

That night we found a terrified young warrior, weeping, tied to the tree.

Silently, those who wore powder so that they glowed in the moonlight, untied this warrior. We led him into a glade away from camp "We are the spirits of those you have killed."., h was told, "We will put you in the pit to fatten you up to eat you."

"No!" he wept. "No!"

"The only way we will release you is if you repent of the evil you have done in taking from others. If we release you, you must go back and tell your comrades that they must not harm the families of the people that we were any more (we continued to present ourselves as spirits). "We are the dead remains of our families and we protect our families. You cannot kill us because we are already dead. Go back and warn the others."

So we let him go and he went back. For about a week we demanded one warrior a night. Each one we terrified and sent back to warn the others. "You must never come to these woods again. You must never harm our people again or the spirits of the dead will destroy you." An elder died and that night we actually brought his wrapped corpse to the clearing, feet showing from the wrapping, and let the captive watch us eat from an animal cooked over the fire, which he mistook for the corpse of one of his comrades.

Perhaps it sounds a bit cruel but I'd say that killing them would have been harsher and would have simply led to a stronger force of retaliation. By the end of a week these men had packed up and left, gone back to the eastern plains where they had come from, and they never returned. Finally after so many decades of putting up with their brutality of our fading into the forests and leaving our winter's food, our robes and so forth, finally we were free of them. We basically scared them into departure.

This again relates back to your situation. There are always those in the world who will be jealous of you, angry with you, want what you have, reach out violently to take what you have. If you know in your heart that if they asked nicely you would share it, then greed is not your motivation for refusal and it is time to say no to them from a place of compassion. If you simply kill them, for each one that you kill 2 more will come back filled with more hatred. If you give them everything, they may take until there is none left and your own loved ones die. What options are available?

People have been asking me this past month, "What does it mean to say no with compassion? How do I do that?" I would be happy to talk more about that tonight. But I just want to leave you with this story. For me this is a very compassionate saying of no. We did feel compassion for them. That poor first lad who pictured himself a warrior was so terrified that he soiled his pants. We were ghosts, the creatures of his most terrible nightmares. And yet in that guise we taught a lesson.

Now, you cannot stop the terrorists by posing as ghosts. Whether it's Al-Qaeda or simply an abusive neighbor; what does it mean to say no with compassion? What is fair and skillful to use for the no-saying? If you terrify someone, is that harm? I think it depends in what spirit you use that terror. If you terrify them to manipulate them and control them, so that they will enslave themselves to you and serve you, this is a form of harm. If you terrify them in order to teach them a certain degree of respect so that of their own free will they choose to leave you alone, that's not harm.

The kind of terror I talk about is not about accumulating rifles and attack dogs. It's not about burning people's homes or acting in ways that are unusually cruel, threatening their families. I think what terrifies a coward more than anything is courage. It is awakening him to the awareness that his terror cannot force you to do what he says, that you are not afraid of him and will not submit to his terrorism. I think in your world now, the strongest voice to terrorism is that kind of courage, the courage to continue to offer love, generosity, basic freedom for which this country has stood, into the world, not to become what your enemy is. You must be so careful not to limit the freedoms, which make you the people that you are.

Of course people will take advantage of you. If you give people access to your country, for example, rather than closing the borders, harm may come in. Do you love the freedom to live your lives in service to beings, to live your lives with love, enough to be willing to take risks to maintain that freedom? Put in another way, if you found yourself on that airplane with 4 hijackers who had stood up, no guns, just knives, and said, "We're taking over the plane," and if you were seated in the row behind one, could you act to throw your blanket over, to grab his wrist, and do whatever is necessary to allow your fellow passengers time also to stop these beings? Are you willing to take the risk to say no, rather than hide yourself away?

Compassionate response is not about personal safety. As long as that is your primary concern, you're going to continue to be victims of terrorism. This is about something so much bigger, which is to find the love to say to beings who would control you that they may not do this. Nobody may force you, abuse you, harm you and others. Compassion says that even at risk of your own life you will say no to such action. But not in such a way that will harm them.

Here it gets tricky. I don't want to get into a debate about non-harm, here. Each of you has to decide for yourselves if you had that gun if you would pull the trigger to stop another from harming others. There's no right or wrong to that. The question is not so much what you do as whether it comes from a place of love or fear. In so many lifetimes I have discovered that there is always a way to communicate with someone if you will but trouble yourself to find that way. Unless a person is entirely delusional in his mind there is always an access to his heart but it takes enormous patience, love, and willingness to risk your own safety to open that pathway of love.

Those who fled from us spooks in the forests did not rob us any more. . They did stop harming others and maybe that was a service to them because when they found they could no longer come to the western forests and take what they wanted, . they developed more agriculture, more ways of being self-sufficient where they were. Our actions led them to the paths of peace.

I thank you for your attention. After your break I'd be very happy to hear your questions. I pause.

Q: Aaron talks a great deal about former lives. There are so many different theories about that. What of us gets reborn?

Aaron: I am Aaron. R, I don't know how to answer that in a way that suits your language. I can say that the karmic stream gets reborn. That is both the wholesome and unwholesome karma. But that's insufficient. If we're speaking of a being for whom there is no unwholesome karma remaining, nothing that leads into rebirth, that being may still offer the intention to rebirth in service to beings. A certain aspect of each body gets reborn. It's not the same physical body, not the same emotional or mental body but if there are distortions in the physical body, for example, and karmic energy distortions related to those physical body distortions that will show up in another body.

If you have a weakness in some area of the body, for instance, died in a terrible accident in which your leg was hacked off, and there was much rage and anguish about the loss of the leg, there will be certain distortions in the energetic flow. The new body reflects those distortions at the cellular level so there will be an inherent weakness in that place in the new body.

The same thing happens at the emotional and mental level. If there is a certain kind of wrinkle that leads you to blame others for your situation, that karmic knot will be reborn. The new being, regardless of the childhood situation, will literally come into birth with the ground for that distortion which may or may not become predominant depending upon the growth process. If it doesn't become predominant, that doesn't mean it's resolved, it may just be set aside and come up again in another lifetime.

So, the physical, emotional and mental distortions come into the future births and also that which is wholesome. It's never lost. If you have truly learned compassion, not to hate, blame and judge others, not to be abused by others either, but to truly understand their situation and not judge them for their hurting behavior, that compassion or any other wholesome stream of karma is also reborn.

I would add one more thing: the spirit body of course is not reborn, it simply continues. It continues in and out of the incarnate state. This is not a soul in the Christian tradition, because what you envision as the soul includes the emotional and mental bodies. What I'm thinking of transcends all these lower bodies. It is the place where, when you're there and I'm there, we're in the same place. But of course since it is eternal, it never comes and never goes. We all rest there, in a sense, so it's not reborn. It just is.

But this is also not quite the same as Jung's collective unconscious. We need to be careful when I say, "When you're there and I'm there, we're in the same place" because each being is unique and has its own experience of that essence through the physical, emotional, and mental body. When those slip away, in meditation for example, then this pure awareness is what is left.

For another answer, energy itself is what is reborn, or rather the distortions in the energy of the various bodies. The distortion creates a stickiness that perpetuates the karmic stream. The primary distortion is the delusion of a separate self. That distortion is necessary for the formation of any other distortion. Once that notion of self is present, then the particular form of the karma will be shaped by the distortions of the various bodies.

I pause.

Q: So essentially we never die? Our consciousness never dies?

Barbara: I'm paraphrasing Aaron. He's saying, consciousness is also a conditioned aspect of being. So long as one is rooted in the conditioned self, consciousness seems to die. It moves in and out of the incarnate and discarnate phases of being. But at a certain point awareness ceases to identify with consciousness as self. Then consciousness is finally seen just as something like form, a physical form, a thought, sometimes an energetic form, all based on conditions. When the conditions fall away, the form ceases.

On one level, then, we never die. We just move into another phase of being. On another level, consciousness will be aware of the death of the body. On a third level, resting in pure awareness, all the skandhas (form, feeling, thought, perception and consciousness) are seen as conditioned. Awareness is not "my" awareness. At the level of pure awareness there can be no more "me". He pauses.

Q: Thank you. It's still a mystery.

Barbara: Aaron says, Good, there have got to be some mysteries. He says, if everything were resolved, what would you do next?

Q: Could you talk a little bit about the bombings as they get more and more intensified?

Aaron: I am Aaron. I can only say that each bombing that is done with the purpose to punish, to manipulate, to hurt, this will bear a return karmic repercussion of continued pain and fear. What methods might there be to say no without doing harm?

This is a question of world karma. Beings in Afghanistan, in Palestine, Israel and Iran have voiced concerns for years to which others in the world have not listened. The question is not whether their concerns are legitimate, not whether, for example, Israel should or should not exist or who should control Palestine The issue is that you have created an oppositional stance of right and wrong. Did so, did not. And the effort has been to prove that one side or the other was right rather than to make any attempt to hear each other.

Your country has participated in that karmic circumstance, creating the atmosphere of right/wrong and the situation where nations could hear each other. The fear and hatred that erupted from not being heard exploded into your World Trade Center and Pentagon. I do not justify such action but I do understand that it is simply the result of past attitudes, of fear left to fester unattended, not treated in the beginning stages in an appropriate way. It is a result of inequality with the world's resources not attended appropriately, a result of human suffering not attended. It is never right to hurt another person regardless of the degree of lack of being heard or the enormity of suffering, but when we look at these acts, we see they are results and that all beings throughout the world have participated in the conditions that created these results. When one sees that, the following question must be raised: In order to balance my own karma of contractedness, fear, greed, hatred, which has supported my own views and refused to hear others, and therefore helped to create the climate of violence, what can I do which will both support the compassionate saying of no to those who would kill others for their own ends, and also contribute finally to a climate of possibility for hearing.

I do not have an answer. Bombing may be a way of saying no to abuse but it does not enhance the possibilities for hearing. Some have argued and they may be right, I can't say, that it has reached a point where one must say no to this abuse in a forceful way, control the forces that create such terrorism, and then reach out a hand of peace, listening later, creating a climate where beings may hear each other. But you must also understand that the more you bomb the harder it will be later to create the climate of hearing.

The Dalai Lama has said that in some ways his people helped to create the conditions out of which the Chinese invaded, that they did not consider the needs and philosophy of the Chinese, but tried to separate themselves. He has also acknowledged there was unwholesome energy in Tibet, beings taking advantage of others. His path has been to not retaliate in any physical way against the Chinese. In fact, recently at a conference when political leaders were speaking about economic sanctions that might influence the Chinese, he said no, because it could create hurt, need and starvation for Tibetans and Chinese. (can't hear; nonviolent resistance) My own belief is that in the long run, nonviolence is of most benefit, but temporarily one will probably suffer more to follow such a path. Whatever path you follow, you will bear the fruit. If you bomb Afghanistan, you will bear the fruit of that bombing. Both the fruit, perhaps, of scaring away or splitting up the terrorists and lessening their power and also the fruits of hatred.

I don't know if there are enough people of adequate spiritual stature in the world ready to go in and convey the message that terrorism must stop in a non-violent way and at the risk of personal danger or death. If there are not and the decision is made to use violence, you simply need to know that the whole world will bear the results of that violence. I pause.

Barbara: For over a year, Aaron kept asking me about those e-mail petitions about the plight of women in Afghanistan. A new one would arrive, I'd read it and say "Oh, I've signed that petition already." He would say, "Well, you're not going to do anything about it?" "I've already signed the petition." And he'd reply, "If it was your birth sister there, would you do something?", "Yes." "What would you do?" "I don't know but I'd do something." He once said, "What if 10,000 women from all over the world simply came to Afghanistan, came into neighboring countries and all marched in together, and said, "We're here to support our Afghanistan sisters. You can't abuse them in this way." He said certainly a number of these women would have gotten killed but how many of them could they kill before the whole world said no?

Q: Does he actually think that would have worked?

Barbara: What does "worked" mean? Would people die? Yes. They're dying now. He says, many people would have been killed but in the end probably fewer would dead than what may happen now and in the coming years. There would be deaths but all those everyday people in Afghanistan would have stopped hating the free countries of the world and begun to look to them for leadership and support and to understand that they had a voice in their own futures and did not have to tolerate such abuse.

Q: Certainly he has sources of information I do not, but based on the little I have known about Afghanistan society I would have presumed that neither the society as a whole or even necessarily the women would have understood or appreciated 10,000 Western women invading their country and announcing what they should be doing for their women-kind.

Barbara: He says the message would have had to be delivered without a political slap, not saying, "Change your government," simply saying no government may literally kill its people. Parents with starving children would appreciate such a message. He says don't think "invasion" but "visit", one of concern to focus the world's eyes on injustice and bring the hope of resolution.

Q: But in a country with a controlled press and closed borders, how would that have happened in a practical sense?

Barbara: He says, 6 years ago it could have happened. A year ago it couldn't have happened. At that point where the borders were not so closed, it could have happened. And he said it would have needed to be a worldwide effort, not just American but worldwide. He suggested maybe a group of women only over 60, "grandmothers of the world unite!" The participants could have been women who have lived much of their lives and would be willing to die for this if necessary, to create peace in the world. He says, how many young men can repeatedly shoot the grandmothers of the world before they suddenly really can't do it any more?

He is saying now this is not about political systems or the kind of economic model a country has. This is simply about human freedom and abuse, that women were being literally shot and buried alive in mass graves. Women who had no husband to support them and no means of work were literally starving and their children were starving. The world as a whole needed to say no to this. He says it's the same kind of no that needed saying to Hitler's Germany 5 years before WWII started and nobody was saying no.

Q: And in Germany I believe it could have worked but I'm not convinced in Afghanistan.

Barbara: Aaron says he doesn't know if it would have worked. He's saying one doesn't do it because it would work. One does it because one has to.

Q: OK, that I accept, that the effort could have happened. But I don't see from what I know the assumption that it would have been successful.

Barbara: He is saying that the Afghanistan's leaders are politically and financially astute. If the world saw them shooting thousands of grandmothers and said, "We're not going to trade with you any more," created economic barriers, and really took a stand, …

(remaining Q&A omitted)

Copyright © 2001 by Barbara Brodsky