Introduction to These Essays

Gene Knudsen Hoffman — 1997

we are simply 
to make gentle
our bruised world,
to be compassionate,
to have time left over,
to go the way
of God’s foolishness
Sr. Mary Evelyn Jegen

These papers are written from a Western perspective and correspond to one of the Buddha’s great teachings: “Everything must contain a flaw; perfection is closure.”  My psychology is transpersonal; my spirituality is Quaker Universalist; my species is human, hence fallible. These papers are imperfect.

They are also the fruit of a lifetime effort to achieve personal healing and peaceful relationships. They reflect over 40 years of working for peaceful coexistence in my family, my community, my country and the world. 

I have worked on many projects in many countries.  In 1956 I sued the State of California to remove the loyalty oath from the personal property tax form. I won. In the same year we began practicing racial integration by moving into an area in Pasadena where the school’s population was 10% white, 20% Asian and Latino, and 70% Afro-American.  It was a rich experience for us all, my husband, me, and our seven children.  In 1980, when my children were grown, I worked with the Fellowship of Reconciliation outside my home.  I created its US/USSR Reconciliation Program which sought to “put a human face on the Soviets.”  Since 1989, my work has been Israeli-Palestinian Reconciliation, using Compassionate Listening as the tool.  This was lonely work – I had difficulty communicating my vision.

Things have changed!  In 1996, under the leadership of Leah Green, EarthSteward’s Network took up Compassionate Listening as a tool of its work in the Middle East.  In 1997, the Fellowship of Reconciliation in the U.S. added Compassionate listening to its programs under the stewardship of Judith Thompson.

These essays are composed of reflections on my search for the causes of violence in our painful world, the discoveries made during that search, and some ways we might deliver ourselves from violence.  I believe I have described flashes of some significant new insights on the path to harmlessness and peace.

I hope these papers will lead to new understandings of both the difficulties and glories in the practice of reconciliation, and that they will open new possibilities for experimenting with it.  In my writing I try to leave a blank page for readers. On it I hope you will write further steps toward the royal goal of Reconciliation. These essays have their origins in my own suffering and pain.

                                    Gene Knudsen Hoffman
                                    Santa Barbara, California, USA – 1997

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