nonviolence library and other summer tales
It’s summer time! What does that mean to you?
There’s something about summer and reading that go together for me. As a child, I remember the excitement of getting my first library card. It was summer and each week we went to the library to borrow and return books. It was the type of lending system where the borrower just wrote her name on a card in an envelope glued to the book, and the librarian kept the card in a long wooden box, placing it back in the book when it was returned. Old school.
summer time reading lists
Then in junior and senior high school, at the end of the school year, the English teachers shared the list of books or short stories we would read during the next year. Kids were welcome to read ahead over summer. I always read the next year’s books, some I borrowed from the library and some I bought. But I only read the ones that enticed me some how. There were always some on the list, with I don’t know what exactly, dusty covers, or small I print, or a dreadful title that I only read when they were assigned. And when I did, guess what? Some were good, which goes to show — don’t judge a book by its cover.
Even this summer I set myself a reading list. There’s only two books on it. I figured I’d read these and then see what sort of book I felt like. The current books are – “Wherever you go, there you are” by Jon Kabat Zinn and “Estás aquí” (“You are here”) by Thich Nhat Hanh.
how’s my summer reading going?
Confession: I have read very little this summer. I have been in bed early, as I rise early, but often I feel on “word overload”. I don’t usually want to read before I go to sleep. I have been focusing primarily on the book. Yes, The Book. The little Zapatista book. So I spend all day with words. And writing, and reading, and reading writing.
Plus I have discovered a new Spanish tv series which has me hooked – Cuéntame como pasó (link in English). The series is historic, cleverly sketching the macro-level of what’s going on in Spain at the end of the Franco era and overlaying this atmosphere and story of those tense, uncertain, fast-changing days onto the microcosm of a typical Spanish family of the time. Those episodes are about an hour-long, just long enough disconnect at the end of the day, and one reason why I’m reading less this summer.
lula and the Dharma of Dogs
While I am not reading cover to cover with zeal as I sometimes do, one book I’ve picked up a few times this summer is the Dharma of Dogs, which I wrote about in Dog Teachers a few posts ago, and which you’ll probably hear about again because it’s good!
And because I’m reading it bit by bit. The chapters are touching and thought-provoking. They warrent slow reading. Time for the words to sink in and for the heart and mind to make meaning.
I bought the Dharma of Dogs for a friend a few month’s back. It was a retirement gift, and as his one year anniversary of retirement is coming up, I thought it a good time to tell you a bit about this friend and his dedication to books. Well, to be precise his dedication to nurturing and growing a specialist nonviolence library to share the skills and understanding of nonviolence for social change.
First the library.
I encountered the Turning the Tide (TTT) nonviolence library for the first time when I visited Friends House in London in December 2006. I was there to chat with staff about becoming a TTT trainer, or Resource Person-RP as volunteers were then known. At that time TTT occupied a small, rectangular corner office with one large window, and one of the long walls was complete floor to ceiling with books on shelves – the Turning the Tide nonviolence library. It has classics and historic tracts by Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Gene Sharp; books about campaigns and people’s struggles; d-i-y guides and handbooks; and titles on spirituality and activism, and much more. It was and is a very special collection of books and a great resource for Turning the Tide trainers.
“In the Tiger’s Mouth – a resource for social movements everywhere”
One of the first books I borrowed was “In the Tiger’s Mouth: An empowerment guide for social action” by Katrina Shields. I was new to TTT and Steve, (Voilà! my friend) the colleague holding the TTT work, recommended the book as a sample of the sort of content and way of working that TTT subscribes to. The book was useful, and shortly after borrowing it, I bought my own copy. I’ve turned to the book many times over the years for my own personal development and for designing workshop activities for groups. I too recommend the book.
First published in 1994, “In the Tiger’s Mouth” is still in print and relevant. If you’re looking to do some personal work and step up your game of being the change you wish to see in the world, then this book is for you. Shields is Australian and using local campaign and community examples and simple language, she takes the reader through each step of the social action process, from waking up to figuring out what changes need to take place and how to work with others to do that, all the while avoiding burnout.
Embedded within the text are exercises that invite self-discovery and personal-growth, appropriate for readers just thinking about how to take social action for the first time, or in a new way. The content too is for collective consideration and offers tools and suggestions for how groups can work together effectively and in healthy ways. In fact the last chapter, Practical Help, offers suggestions about how the use the book on your own and in groups.
One final hurrah for this book. The copy I have is a pleasure to hold, read and use; it’s large (28 cm X 22.5 cm); not too long, just 160 pages; the print is normal-sized and well laid-out with clear titles in bold, lots of white space and thought-provoking drawings. “In the Tiger’s Mouth” is a resource and gift for social movements everywhere, and I’m grateful it is amongst the collection of the TTT nonviolence library.
regenerative activism, sustainable organizing
You may know that I left London and TTT work in 2016, and since then I have been facilitating workshops about personal sustainability and wrapping that around doing social change work for the long-haul. It’s a thread of work promoted by the Ulex Project in Catalonia called Regenerative activism, and Sustainable Organising. Whenever I’m preparing for a course, (and the next one is in September) I find myself reaching for “In the Tiger’s Mouth” which makes me smile and fondly remember Steve and the Turning the Tide nonviolence library.
Gratitude for Steve’s efforts for the library
The library is the result of gifts and donations of books over the years; authors and publishers too sometimes send books with a request for a review. As best as I remember it, Steve also had a small budget, about £50, each year for new additions to the library. It is an impressive big-yet-little library considering its humble and sporadic acquisition plan and a treasure and great resource for TTT trainers seeking to develop a greater understanding of all facets of nonviolence.
“Dharma of Dogs” for the TTT library
I’m donating a copy of the “Dharma of Dogs” to the TTT library to honour Steve’s effort to maintain the library all these years and to celebrate its on-going existence and function.
Stories about our dogs – the hilarious, ridiculous, sweet, scary and sad – were part of the everyday conversations that Steve and I shared sitting side by side for eight years. So as acknowledgement of Steve, the library and dogs as agents of nonviolent change, I donate a book, “The Dharma of Dogs: Our best friends as spiritual teachers”, edited by Tami Simon to the TTT library. This book explores our relationship with dogs, how they teach us about unconditional love, connecting with nature, facing our fears, and much more.
Last year I suffered the loss of my dog-companion of nearly 14 years, and the essays in this book have been a comfort to me. Steve, too, knows the joy and heartbreak journey it is to share your life with a dog. This is a book he’d also enjoy.
The essays in “The Dharma of Dogs” are authored by contemporary spiritual teachers and thinkers and invite us to reflect on the love, humour, solace, inspiration, and insight the dogs in our life bring to our attention. Naturally dogs invite us on a path of greater connection to nature, to others and ourselves, elements which contribute to healthy, resilient, restorative and nonviolent communities. Essays in “The Dharma of dogs” touch on all three of those points in different ways and it is just the sort of quirky addition that makes the TTT nonviolence library unique and eclectic. “A specialists’ library” the librarian who cataloged the library commented.
Thank you, Steve, for your years of service to TTT and for growing this glorious library.
want to know more?
Tami Simon, editor of the Dharma of Dogs interview about the book
Turning the Tide — tools and training for nonviolent social action