John Lewis at twenty-three Image courtesy WDEF.com
February 21, 1940-July 17, 2020
We can never know another’s heart, can we? We can see the traces of that heart.
It may be true that John Lewis was a shining exemplar, showing us, through his life of service, how to embody the Three Tenets.
John may not have embraced “Not Knowing” per se, but his steady, calm and loving demeanor gave him away. John was a man of deep introspection, prayer and contemplation.
He may not have used a term like “Bearing Witness”, but he needn’t have. He lived it. He faced unspeakable opposition, hatred and violence and did not blink. He faced billy clubs, dogs, vicious police and corrupt legal processes and did not turn away. He bore witness and remained strong, peaceful and awake, reminding us of the work we all need to do.
John took loving action, over and over again, for nearly sixty years. He was arrested 45 times and served us in Congress over thirty years. In 1961, at twenty-one, Lewis was one of the original thirteen Freedom Riders. A Klansman, Elwin Wilson who beat Lewis recounted in 2010, “The bus pulled in. He got out and started over there to the door.” Wilson started beating Lewis when he opened the door to a “whites only” waiting room. “I remember him laying there, and it was blood on the ground and somebody done called the police.”
In 2009, Wilson found Lewis and apologized.
Lewis accepted Wilson’s apology.
As recently as July 1st, Lewis voted “aye” for HR 2 via proxy entered by his (white) colleague, Dan Kildee of Michigan, as he was dying of pancreatic cancer.
Inspiring examples come in all forms and bodhisattvas abound.
Three bows to John Lewis.
-Geoff Shōun O’Keeffe
Originally published on Sunday, July 19th by
Eon Zen Center, Boulder, Colorado