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40k for 40 days

February 24: Day 39

Day 39 - Homecoming Day

How being home and feeling at home, inside and out, and grounded connects me with Peace. How not being or feeling at home and feeling dislocated and disconnected from home can lead to unrest, unease, and even conflict.

As it happens, during the past 39 days, I've managed to push myself to reach 1600 kilometers. Over the past 6 hours, I've managed to travel more than this distance on my way home to Dublin from Madrid, and now I sit on a bus, halfway up to the North West Coast of the island of Ireland in pursuit of Inner and outer peace. My reflections continue in transit.

I may not be physically moving the pedals today, but I always feel that the mind and body do their own form of natural reflection when it's moving great distances. Particularly when it feels like it's moving towards home, from, home, or both, in my case today. I left my three wee ladies this morning just after breakfast with plenty of warm hugs and kisses and 'daddy will see you very Soon's' and made my way from my newly adopted and adapted home to my birth home and island of my ancestors' bones.

This journey always feels like a strong one to me, and today is no different. Although I may no longer have a physical house or abode that I call or feels like home as my grandparents have all passed on (my last grandparent only passed in the last 6 months) and their physical homes have been sold on, as well as the house of my parents when they separated a decade ago. They moved on to new pastures in new places, but just being on the land of this island and immersing myself in her waters, feels like home. It's in my bones, muscles, and every cell of my body and mind. I don't think I am alone in these thoughts and feelings of being home. Many have fought and died and continue to die sadly all over the world in pursuit of home, security, and belonging.

I'm attempting to connect these furious feelings and emotions about home to inner and outer peace and recognize the number of millions upon millions of people who have been forced or chosen to dislocate themselves from home for multiple different reasons, leaving huge gaps, voids and discombobulated feelings and emotions on a massive scale. As my mind zones in, I gaze around at the face of my fellow travelers, and I recognize the expression of concern as they are clearly getting information from the radio, which has been hired up. We are approaching the border that still officially divides Ireland into two separate jurisdictions. I take my earphones off to connect with what I am seeing.

I now listen to the news on the radio, which is on and capturing the ears of most on board; the news is focusing on a story about another sectarian and tragic shooting of a man, in front of his children and other children on the football team that he was coaching. As it happens, this incident took place in the very town where the bus is driving through at this moment, just 24 hours previous, and it's all just a wee bit too familiar and surreal.

I attempt to reconcile the fact that we are living in so-called peace times here. The bus moves on, the news moves on to sports, and Manchester United vs. Barcelona, but my mind does not yet move on; it stays on this theme of home and peace. Why can't home for me, also be home for you and your family, whether you call it the same name, whether you wear the same color sports jersey as me or not, worship the same God as me or not, whether you speak the same language as me or not, like the same food, share the same connection to home and your community and loved ones, or not.

Why does anyone need to die or have their life violently taken away anywhere in the world today over where and what we call home?

Having empathy and compassion for those who don't have homes at this moment or don't feel at home, geographically or in their own skin, is what I would love to focus my attention on.

And to the question about how we use all these practices and skills of self-cultivation, relating to others and then the wider concepts of interconnection and interdependence and systems, that can respect and uphold rights to dignity, rights to basic human and non-human requirements, not just survival but to live fully, with equity and justice and safely? How do we do this collectively and allow for peace to flourish in the words of MLK and every other past or present leader who shares the same vision?

The light has dimmed over the land and the river that the bus now hugs, as we enter the northern region of the island. The place I call home & feel at home in, but where there is a dark, sad, depressing, and traumatic history that needs constant lighting and lifting and healing in order for peace to be able to burn like a candle and fire inside people and out, to provide much-needed light, warmth, and direction.

I think of the words of one of the many songs from this part of the world that communicates messages of despair, hope, and a longing for peace. In recognition of all the suffering, divisions, and pain, 'an eye for an eye was all that filled their mind, another eye for another eye, till everyone was blind, there were Roses. Roses and the tears of our people run together; I don't know where the moral is, or where this song should end, but I wonder just how many wars have been fought between good friends, and those that give the orders, are not the ones to die, it's Scott and young McDonald and the likes of you and I". It's a powerful and honest song Written by a famous Irish folk singer and international peace activist, Tommy Sands. I've had the pleasure of working with Tommy and connecting with his vision of peace on a global scale, through his words and music, and I agree with his line in this song of the Roses; the Roses and the tears of our people can run together. But these can be tears of hope and healing, of joy and optimism, or continued tears of fear, deep sadness, anger, and resentment, and I believe with all my heart that this key lies with us and is a choice if and when we can only see it and feel it. 

It starts with one and joins with many. How do we allow space to continue feeling at home while allowing and facilitating others to also feel at home? I finish today's blog with the words of any other famous man from the same island that are etched into the gable end of a terraced house in West Belfast. "Our revenge can be the laughter of our children." Por qué no?


Shane O'Connor



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