July 2nd, 11pm. – I’m just in from a really good yoga class with my inspirational friend Sunny Jacobs who happens to live in Connemara. I first read about Sunny several years ago in the Sunday Tribune newspaper. There was a photo of this beaming smile and it drew me in to her incredible words of love, life and forgiveness. At the age of 28 American born Sunny was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people. She ended up spending nearly 17 years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit, while her partner was killed by the electric chair. Sunny’s parents died in a plane crash when she was in prison and her kids ended up in foster care.
Through yoga and meditation she survived against all the odds and managed to fight her way out of prison by revealing a cover-up in her case. Her story is documented in her book Stolen Time and in the movie and play The Exonerated, which has featured Susan Sarandon, Brooke Sheilds and others playing Sunny. She has even played herself in some of the plays. Sunny is now 64 and since her release she’s been a global inspiration for forgiveness and has been travelling the world teaching compassion while campaigning against the death penalty with her husband Peter who was also previously on death row. Little did I know back then that I’d have the honour of getting to know Sunny, all because I gave her a bunch of a flowers before a talk she gave at a Trailblaze event in Dublin a couple of years ago.
I needed the yoga class. I was a bit more stressed than I realised. The last few days have been a bit nuts. I didn’t plan well enough for this trip. I had to finish off other projects, set up web stuff, get some recording equipment and sort all these fiddly things that I didn’t give myself time to do. I suppose going away for a month does require a bit more planning than I allowed for. In the end I’ve been way too busy for my own liking and the yoga, combined with a Kinesiology session earlier in the day from my mother, really brought me back to myself, rooted me to the ground again, helped with some serious back pain I’m experiencing, and left me feeling calmer, stronger and more ready to rock for the month ahead.
Earlier today I was on iRadio, did another interview with Tipp FM and arranged one for tomorrow morning around 9.30am with Mid West Radio. I also got news that my Mandela article is going to be in this week’s Sunday Times, which I’m really happy about because I’ve been thinking a lot about the messages of Mandela recently. He represents a model of wholesome leadership that is so rare these days in this world of spin and double speak. I’m also thinking of Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange who were on my mind when I was talking to Toner Quinn earlier today. Toner is a great writer, publisher and musician living in Connemara. We got chatting about the need for action beyond just talking, and even listening. We were exploring why there hasn’t been a groundswell of activism among Irish people given the abuses that we are enduring.
A common theme seemed to emerge from our conversation and that is fear. Ultimately those that stick their neck out traditionally have been ridiculed, attacked, slandered, taken to court, locked up, and risk their reputation, income, health and family. Either in a small scale in local communities or on a national level, depending on the threat they represent to the status quo and to the local or national (or international) power brokers. I wonder is it an underlying unspoken sense that we all have. I wonder what I would do if was 22 year old Bradley Manning and witnessed war crimes whilst serving in Iraq? Would I become a fearless whistleblower and risk my freedom or would I turn the other cheek and try to find a place in my mind to make peace with that?
Are we really afraid to really stand up for what we believe in? Are we prepared to act or do we just find ways of processing or compartmentalising the injustices we endure?
I know I am guilty in that regard in so many ways. Too often I’ve failed to speak out or really challenge something that was wrong. I’ve joined the moral maze of complicity by turning a blind eye or not following my instinct on a person, company or a decision. I can’t fully answer this one and I’m not sure anyone can but I do believe that conversation, discussion and debate is part of the solution. We need to find ways beyond the narrow media debate to hear each other out, to connect with each other, and to find ways to work together and act together beyond the limitations of political ideology.
I have to be honest that the web, admin, media, conversations, health focus and yoga all meant I didn’t do much travelling today. That on top of it raining like a bleak winter’s day left me feeling a bit guilty and afraid to ‘fess up’ to you all that I haven’t been as adventurous today as I planned to be. Still, one of the lessons I’m continually trying to learn is to slow down. I tend to go at a 100 miles an hour and then end up wrecked. I rest up and repeat the vicious cycle. It’s like a boom and bust cycle in the same way our economy is run. It’s stupid really. Time for a sustainable eco system so I’m forgiving myself for my slower pace today.
Really looking forward to heading deeper into Connemara tomorrow and then maybe on to Mayo and the land of Enda Kenny, Shell oil, Michael Davitt, and the children of Lír.
Here’s hopin’ for a sunnier day tomorrow.
Hope helpers – a huge thank you!
Before I forget I want to say that I have been honestly blown away by the donations I am receiving online, some of them anonymously. I am seriously humbled and grateful. I’m completely skint and trusting I will be provided for so this support is really really valuable. THANK YOU anonymous person x 3, Dan O’Neill, Margaret Dorgan, Mary Cunningham, Andrew Madden, Caroline Price, Stephen Cawley, Kieran Clifford, Seán Óg McKiernan, Ann Keenaghan, the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland staff, Mari Kennedy, Grace Gerry, Geraldine Keane, Larry O’Connell, Eoin Ward, Ruth & Simon & Oisín O Mahony/Brown, Sunny and Peter, and Clare Kiernan. And to others who have been helpign out along the way including Alice Kennelly, Clare Herbert, Muireannn De Barry, David Patterson, Ross, Lydia Campbell Kiernan, Breffni Clarke, Caitriona Quirke and others I”m forgetting to mention. You are all brilliant! And so too my wonderful fiancé for her love and support – Susan Quirke/Susie Q.