Sunday, February 18, 2007

What Others Say About Troy

Below are comments about Troy from his Friends, ending with a short article written by a supporter who lives in India, published in the Indian periodical U Can Change the World.

You can add your voice to this page by writing a letter describing why you think Troy should be free and/or the impact of his work on you. E-mail it to Maryann Gorman.
____
I became aware of Troy Chapman's situation through several articles in spiritual magazines and subscribed to his Lifeful Way publication and classwork. Although I agree that the crime Troy committed was very wrong, I also believe he has paid his debt and that the conditions of his trial leading to an astonishingly long sentence were unfair. I believe the penal system can only function under reasonable, rational punishments. Just as I believe a girl whose boyfriend hides drugs in her closet shouldn’t go to jail for 20 years, nor do I believe a young man who inadvertently kills someone in a barroom brawl deserves life in jail. Our society needs reason and consistency to function as a healthy body. And certain basic rights must exist — we deserve to be judged by an impartial body. The best motion society could now offer would be to revise Troy’s sentence to a reasonable 20-30 years and release him under probation.

I have followed Troy’s writings and have been inspired by his view on life, on death. When he writes I forget he is incarcerated; I am absorbed by the maturity of thought and wisdom of mind, and mostly his faith in God. I believe Troy should return to general society and that he would function as a spiritual leader in a country eager for just that sort of guidance.

Lesley West
West Chester, Pennsylvania

____
Troy's writing brings us the ultimate truths of religion and spirituality pared to their essence and tested by his terrible ordeal in our system of "justice." This gives them the sense of conviction needed to overcome our resistance to the too easy solutions of typical do-gooders.

He gently but firmly chides both sides of our arguments on war, politics and morality so that we begin to question whether our positions are the whole truth. He shows us that there is a "third way" beyond our limited vision of right and wrong, friend and enemy. A way of love for all — without blame, judgment and feelings of superiority toward those we disagree with.

But this way of love doesn't mean we shouldn't oppose what we feel is unjust. On the contrary, we should stand up for what we think is good and right, but in a kind way that doesn't denigrate the other and hopes to explain a new way of perceiving the issue. Without insisting that we're right or that they should agree with us, but showing respect and allowing them to make up their own mind at their own pace. This kind of interaction is educational in itself and may be a wholly new experience for them.

Thanks, Troy.

Ted Knerr
New York, New York
art-spirit.net

____
It is not very often I am asked to write a letter of a positive nature for a convicted felon.

However, 22 years of experience with the Department of Corrections dictates that I do so now.

I have known Troy Chapman for several years, within the context of the prison system. He has always conducted himself with maturity, level-headedness, compassion and patience. He is courteous toward staff and fellow inmates and diligent in his employment.

He creates no problems, only ideas, dreams and positive thoughts.

Regardless of his crime, no further good would be accomplished by his further incarceration.

Hopefully he and I will meet some day on the open side of the fence.

P.M. O’Toole
Former prison guard
Written 2001 before his retirement

____
As a wonderful by-product of my work teaching creative writing in our county jail here in Maine, I have been acquainted with Troy Chapman through his inspiring newsletters and articles. His writing has become my primary resource in conveying to the men in the jail a sense of higher purpose that transcends the predicament of incarceration. I often use Troy as an example of a person who, as a young man, made a mistake, as many of us do, though with deeper ramifications, and has worked under difficult conditions to transform his life successfully.

Not only has Troy accomplished that, but through his writing and example, he has reached out to all of us as we struggle to find meaning in our daily lives. He is a vivid example of how to be. As such, the issue of his crime and subsequent incarceration is now more than balanced by his life work. Realizing this, the need for his incarceration no longer exists, as there is no longer, for him, a need to reform, be punished, or even be rehabilitated.

Troy Chapman is a person who the state no longer needs to incarcerate. Beyond the moral and ethical considerations, the state should consider the unnecessary cost to the taxpayers for keeping Troy in prison for the remainder of his sentence. The cost to society, both in terms of prison escalating budgets, and the loss of Mr. Chapman’s full productive capacity as a member of society, is probably in the millions.

As a free man Troy could, through his work, have a major impact on prison recidivism, thus reducing further the high costs of incarceration for others. I could envision him visiting, or living, in our area, where an overflowing prison population would profit greatly from Troy’s experience and vision.

The criminal justice system, and ultimately society, would benefit greatly by a just, moral, and intelligent commutation of Troy Chapman’s sentence. The time for his release is way overdue.

Jim Bergin
Blue Hill, Maine
Creative Writing Program of Hancock County Jail and Friend

____
We [Volunteers for Hancock Jail Residents] first learned of Troy Chapman from one of his published articles. It was so remarkably simple and, at the same time, serious, that we knew it was perfect for us.

VHJR’s goal is to bring mentoring, education, and restoration to the incarcerated men and women in our county jail. We are always on the lookout for role models that the jail residents – who are mostly young – can relate to and learn from. It turns out that Troy Chapman, through his writing, has become our most effective role model.

Since that first article we have consistently used Troy Chapman’s ideas in our programs, as the basis for discussions, creative writing, and inner growth. By teaching in his uniquely profound way, Troy has managed to elicit responses when others have failed.

Troy Chapman has modeled for us a life worth living, whether in or out of prison, and has helped so many people through his exceptional way of explaining very inspiring ideas with simplicity and grace. He has been able to do this while incarcerated. Imagine, then, the possibilities of what Troy could do for people after he is released.

It is for this reason that we volunteers are adding to the groundswell of requests for Troy Chapman’s release from prison. Our world needs him on the outside, as a mentor. We need people who have given up everything and have learned to live to help the rest of us.

Troy has served his time; even more time than would be required in Maine for such a crime, and will, for the rest of his life, be attempting to right the wrongs of his earlier life by his service to others.

Thank you for going deep into your hearts to consider Troy Chapman’s sentence reduction. An early release, such as time served, would be a positive outcome, and would allow Troy to give back to his fellow citizens in even greater measure.

Judy Garvey, Director
and the volunteers of Volunteers for Hancock Jail Residents

____
I first encountered Troy Chapman when I read the article he had written, Through My Enemy’s Eyes, in the Winter 2002 Issue of Yes Magazine. I was stunned by the portrait of this man’s radical transformation from murderer to life-loving, life affirming practitioner of what some have come to call the third way in conflict resolution and conflict transformation. There was such moral clarity and so much love for all humanity radiating from this simple piece that I was awe-struck and knew that I had to make Troy’s acquaintance. This seemed especially urgent because, at the time, I was leading a seminar for men convicted of violent crimes at the Western State Reformatory at Monroe, Washington. The seminar was an inquiry into the issue of accountability in which the participants and I sought to understand why so few people who had committed violent crimes ever take responsibility for those crimes.

I wrote to Troy immediately and corresponded with him fairly regularly for about a year. I was also a subscriber to his newsletter Inspirit when it was published. I have also read Troy’s unpublished autobiography. Through the medium of letters, Troy and I have talked at length about the issues of responsibility and accountability for crimes. In particular, I wanted to know and understand how Troy had come to make such a profound transformation in his life, from a confused, angry and chemically dependent youth to the extraordinary writer, artist, musician and philosopher he is today.

Troy has become an ardent advocate of non-violent change and insists that those who commit violence must take responsibility for those acts and change themselves and change their lives; how he did this, with little or no help from the criminal justice system, is a remarkable story which the world needs to hear and understand. This is the reason I am writing this letter and advocating strongly for a review of his sentence and possibly for a commutation of his sentence by the governor.

From everything I have read that Troy has written (and granted, I have never met the man in person), I have been deeply moved and impressed by the man’s integrity, compassion and love for all human beings, even for those among us who are difficult to love. For those of us who have been hurt by violent acts, the deepest wish of our hearts is that the perpetrator can someday recognize the deep damage he or she has done and undergo a personal transformation that would result in an awakening where he or she can re-enter the human community, making right the wrongs of the past. I believe that Troy’s gifts and abilities are so unique, that he could better serve our society by living the rest of his life as a free man. I envision him studying, writing, and continuing his process of transformation and working to end violence on this planet. While he can do some of that work behind bars, surely he can do more of it and do it more effectively living freely out in society.

There is no question in my mind that Troy recognizes the utter gravity and seriousness of the crime he committed. He will regret to his dying day the foolishness and stupidity of the act he committed that led to the death of the young man in the bar that night.

I would be completely willing and proud beyond words to have Troy live in my community. I would love to have him as my friend and colleague in the peace and non-violence work that I am engaged in both here and abroad.

Joy Helmer, RN, MS
Seattle, WA

____
I first came to know of Troy Chapman in 1994 through a magazine article he had written. I was so impressed with what he had to say that I wrote him a letter, and was again impressed with what he wrote to me in response. When his thoughts became available through the Inspirit newsletter, I became a subscriber. I wrote to him again about some of his ideas in 2002, and once again his response was inspirational.

I am writing this letter for Troy Chapman to request a commutation or at least a review of his sentence because I believe his continued incarceration is serving no good purpose. I believe without any question that he has recognized the seriousness of his crime and takes responsibility for his actions. Beyond that, he has transformed his life to become an influence for good in society, an influence that would increase considerably with his release from prison. I would not only welcome him into my community, but would consider it a privilege to welcome him into my home.

Rosalie Taylor Howlett
Soquel, CA

____
When I read in the journal “Yes!” the article “Through My Enemy’s Eyes,” by Troy Chapman, I was indeed profoundly touched by it. It was just before Easter in 2002 and we used this article as a preparation for Easter amongst the co-workers and our mentally handicapped adults, whom we call Companions, at our Camphill community in southern France.

The deep insight about the human striving expressed in this article and seeing this put into a biographical context, made me certain that this man is honest and that he knows what he is talking about. I couldn’t do otherwise than to try to contact him in order to express my thanks for this beautiful, wisdom-filled description. The more I pondered about this article, the less it became understandable to me why such a person who served 20 years in prison and has gone through such a fundamental transformation in his life, should stay in prison for 60 to 90 years.

My partner Marie-Laure, who translated Troy’s article into French, and I got in touch with Troy’s partner Maryann Gorman. After some time, as we started to prepare for a journey to visit friends in the United States, the wish became ever stronger to go and see Troy in his Michigan prison.

From Good Friday to Easter Monday in 2003 Maryann, Marie-Laure and myself spent many hours talking to Troy in his prison.

It became indeed a deeply moving experience, reinforced by the Easter mood, the festival of Death and Resurrection, or that of dying and becoming.

As I didn’t expect before arriving, there was an understanding and a facility in conversing straight from the start. Troy is a tremendous creative person who wants to ennoble the grey which is around him in prison through his paintings and music and to help calm people who get easily entangled with each other.

For sure, both Marie-Laure and I have realised that Troy has worked hard on himself and has changed a lot. Today, he is a very well educated man, sensitive, intelligent and very alive. His interest toward others makes us think that he probably would be very useful in helping others, such as socially disturbed youngsters. All his experiences in life, especially the difficult ones, may be particularly helpful on one hand to understand these youngsters and on the other to show them how one can transform oneself. The social life of today harbours many people with problems and we feel that his life experience is a positive potential which should be used for it.

Taking all this in consideration, it will be understandable that we would like to shake Troy’s hand outside the prison walls. Can you help us with this?

Hubert Genz
Provence, France

____
I am writing this letter on behalf of Troy Chapman who is seeking review of his sentence.

I began corresponding with Troy several years ago after reading an article by him in YES magazine.

Based on the correspondence and the things I have learned and read about Troy, I find him to be an amazing man. To have the commitment to reach out and encourage love and optimism, under the circumstances he is in, I find amazing. Only a man with incredible courage could do what he is doing.

Based on what I read, he appears to clearly understand the horror of his crime and is sincerely remorseful. He has now served 20 years to think about it. I work as a parole officer in Minnesota where he well may have been out in 6 years. Granted that may be not enough but I see 20 years as more than enough for this man. I would see him as a tremendous asset to our society as a free man and strongly urge you to release him.

Joe Mayer
St. Paul, MN

____
I am a teacher and a writer who is presently incarcerated in the Arizona prison system, and am writing on behalf of Troy Chapman who is presently in the Kinross Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, Michigan.

Mr. Chapman’s writings reveal his wisdom and kind heart. He has the ability to use words to allow us all to think a little bit more about who we are and how we live our lives. After every piece of his I read, I am again awed by his ability to maintain an optimistic attitude and to reach his hand and heart out to others despite the environment he finds himself in.

Upon release, his intention would be to teach, write and help others in every way that he can, using his own life as an example.

If the purpose of his incarceration is punishment, his time has already been served. If the purpose lies in the lesson to be learned from his actions, it has long since been learned. If the purpose lies in making him a contributing member of society, he has far surpassed what any of us could expect of him. The world has a lot to learn from Troy Chapman.

Please grant this very special person the ability to make a difference in the outside world. You will not be disappointed in him.

Charles “Tom” Brown
140237
ASPC-Lewis
Buckeye, Arizona

____
I lived with Troy. Having spent eight years incarcerated in the Michigan Department of Corrections, I spent three of those years, not only at the same institution, but sharing the same living quarters with Troy.

We spent a great deal of time together. Aside from sharing the room, we shared many of the same interests and aspirations, including music, personal healing, and the journey of spiritual awakening. In an environment nearly void of anything conducive to personal healing and development, Troy was a blessing — a light in the darkness.

Since my release in 2000, we have continued to correspond. Troy’s letters and the articles he’s written for “Inspirit” newsletter have continued to be a source of emotional and spiritual nourishment for me.

In an environment where many people turned out not to be as they appeared, my time with Troy proved him not only to be unfaltering in his resolve to heal and amend his life, but also his heartfelt commitment to assist others on their journey, and deep compassion for all that is life — from the smallest creature to the largest global conflict. It also revealed to me a man whose intellect and spirit deepened with each “door” that opened.

There is a need for prisons, or, at least, a need to interrupt the behaviors of certain people. Both Troy and I arrived at that point in our lives. Without detailing my particular evaluation of the prison system, I know the insane whirlwind that was my life, and the harm I caused to other ceased, the healing began, and I and society are healthier. My personal transformation actually occurred and was solidified several years before my release.

Just as a judge considers numerous factors in determining the length of a criminal sentence, society, as a whole, would greatly benefit from a “conscious” prison system that is based on necessity rather than legal technicalities, emotionally charged issues, and political agendas.

The Troy Chapman that required incarceration so many years ago does not exist. Only the lingerings of a legal document and a physical body. A deeply intelligent, spiritual, and compassionate human being, with the same name, remains in prison today.

Brad Ayotte
Johannesburg, MI

____
It defies normal intellect and reason and humanity that someone of Troy Chapman's noble and sagacious spirit remains behind the confines of prison walls, and yet he still rises! He still gives, he still inspires, he still moves our spirit, he still soars above the world's inability to embrace the change that's needed in the treatment of human beings today, he still thrives above and beyond the "prison of self.”

Thank you, Troy, for all your ineffable contributions to the endless number of souls over the past years; words are not adequate to describe the depth and priceless gifts you honor us (and anyone who crosses your path) with.

Carol Dahlen
Las Vegas, NV

____
I know of Troy Chapman through my friend, Ron Carlson, who died in August 2002, in Gladstone, Mich. Ron had visited Troy at Kinross Correctional Facility at least five times that I remember, and those visits averaged five hours or so each time. They developed a friendship during those visits, and Ron told me that he wouldn't hesitate having Troy come to live with him, if it were possible. A good judge of character, Ron saw the genuine goodness in Troy. On his own, he was moved to write the governor of Michigan, the superintendent of prisons, the parole board, and “60 Minutes” TV program, in hopes of having Troy's harsh sentence reviewed, but nothing positive resulted from those efforts.

My first connection with Troy, was through the published article he wrote, that Ron had sent me. It was entitled "Why I Love My Jailers." It was profound. It was and is the writing of one who was deeply searching for the way to love his enemies as Jesus taught. How could he love those who had such contempt for him, he wondered? Finally it dawned on him; he would love his jailers because he has the need to love! I believe that Troy Chapman has served enough time for what appears to be manslaughter, and should be set free, as the new man he's become.

Richard Gross
Grants Pass, Oregon

____
This is a request to review the sentence of Troy Chapman and to allow him to return to society.

I have never had the pleasure of meeting Troy Chapman. I learned of him through my recent friend, Maryann Gorman, many years after his incarceration.

Maryann told me of an article written by Troy that was published in the magazine, Yes! When I read the article, I was struck by his lack of self-pity, his admission to his crime and his focus on sharing thoughts of living a considerate life. I was amazed by his acts of compassion toward his ‘fellow man.’

Troy chose to deal with the endless, restricted time imposed by his sentence by using it. He used it to think deeply and truthfully – to look at the fact that he was in prison for killing another human being. The fact that he reacted to a situation, rather than responding to it and was now paying for that lapse in judgment. It has to have been gut-wrenchingly hard. But he owned up to his crime to himself; and he has since taken responsibility for it, publicly, through his writings.

During the past several years, with Maryann’s able production of a monthly newsletter (The Lifeful Way), Troy’s continuing articles of inspiration and self-discovery have been read and responded to by a worldwide audience. He has shared his ideas with cellmates in a group setting, once permission was granted by prison administration to do so.

I have benefited personally from Troy’s own points of view, and his encouragement to look at things from various perspectives. He has structured ways for a person to review his or her current approach to living by seeing areas of automatic behavior that leave us less-than-best, and to choose better strategies. This is how Troy has continued to spend most of his time.

When I learned the details of Troy’s crime by asking Maryann, I placed them, mentally, next to the kind of man I perceive Troy to be. I am convinced that this man’s basic character is in direct opposition to that of a murderer. I feel that this killing was the result of an appalling, sudden twist of an event. That Troy did not set out to take his victim’s life, but made a tragic error in judgment.

I believe that for these 20-plus years of incarceration, Troy has trained himself to think before acting and is truly committed to this objective. This is the kind of person I would want in my own community.

I urge you to review his case and look at the possibility of giving him back to Society. He has much to give us.

Janice Moore
Narberth, PA

____
Last summer, I bought a Norwegian magazine called “Flux,” where Troy Chapman’s article "Through My Enemy's Eyes" was one of the main articles (translated into Norwegian).

The first time I read the article, I found it amazing that a man could change as Troy did, and obtain such insight and wisdom under such conditions. Since then, I have read the article many times (and also most of the articles on Troy’s Web sites). Troy’s experiences and viewpoints has made a deep and lasting impression on me.

I must admit that it took some time before I understood what the "third way" really is all about. You see, I had to experience by first hand what it really means to look into my own self (the bitter pill...), face my fear, anger, envy and so on, and accept my part of the misery in my own surroundings. Underneath my fear and anger, I have found the same treasure as Troy did: inner peace, and a love that can embrace anyone, not just the loving ones. As this personal experience and insight is quite new to me, I often slip back to misery and sorrow. But I know — by heart — that the third way is always there, even if I sometimes forget it, or can't see it, and it makes life so much clearer and meaningful.

I have also read the article out loud for people who are close to me, and told them about Troy's situation, and I will continue sharing Troy's way and wisdom with others.

When it comes to Troy’s situation, I think that it is unfair and sad that such a spirit should be locked into a prison. It doesn't make sense any longer; the judge was wrong when he assumed that there was no hope for rehabilitation. As many others have mentioned, Troy has transformed himself into a new person, who has no reason to be in prison — apart from giving love and inspiration to the jailers and other inmates he lives together with.

Mariann Gunderson
Sandnes, Norway



____
FROM SORROW TO FREEDOM

Article by Neeraja Raghavan in U Can Change the World, Indian periodical (published 2003)

How does a person sentenced to life imprisonment feel? Especially if the judge, while pronouncing his sentence, tells him that there is no hope for his rehabilitation?

Troy Chapman was sentenced to life imprisonment in just such a manner, for having killed a man in a bar fight when he was twenty years of age. In his own words, he was, at that time “on an insane roller coaster of addiction, violence and despair”. Sorrow must surely have engulfed the young man, taking him into a deep, dark abyss. Surely he must have felt that there was no point in living life any more?

Over the past few months, I have been in correspondence with Troy Chapman (now a man of thirty nine), through e-mail. Sitting in his prison in Michigan, Troy writes out letters that are mailed to his friend in Pennsylvania, and she, in turn, types them out on her computer and e-mails them to me. I have been the lucky recipient of inspiring, moving and heart-warming letters from a man who should, by all ‘normal’ expectations, have given up hope in life and living, but is, in fact, far freer and far more at peace with himself than those of us who are not in prison.

He has brought home to me that we are, in fact, effectively imprisoned by our past, and that here is a man who could well have been as effectively imprisoned by the horrible memory of his crime, or by the terrible prospect of living the rest of his life in prison, but who broke free of his past as well as his future, and who leads a life that is fresher than many.

It all began with an article (from YES! Magazine) that came my way: Through My Enemy's Eyes. Written by Troy Chapman in 2001, from prison, it spoke of his inner journey during the last sixteen years while he was serving his sentence. It spoke of his utter despondency initially, when the judge made the above pronouncement. In Troy’s words: “No hope. If he was right there was no point in going on, and I quite logically considered taking my own life. But in the end I determined that the judge could not be right and I would live on. I don’t mean I decided merely not to die, but to be really alive from that point on, to embrace life and find some meaning and truth I could live by and for.”

Then, as he confronted his own sorrow, he consciously turned away from it. Working on himself with ruthless tenacity, he weeded out the inner enemy by recognizing the outer enemy as actually dwelling deep within him! “I was being pulled by the future but also pushed by the past. My crime, and later my sentence, stood at the center of all my examinations. Slowly I came to understand my need for redemption and true atonement. I realized that nothing could atone for what I’d become better than simply turning away from it with my whole being, and this is what I did. I repented in action. I changed.”

One of my first questions to Troy was: Troy, how did you manage to do all this alone? For, it seems to me, that that is the universally identifiable characteristic about sorrow. One feels so utterly alone. His answer was characteristic in its unexpectedness. From a man in prison, I received a reply:

First let me correct your perception that I did it alone. I certainly didn't. There were many helpers from both sides --both the spiritual world and the physical world. There were people who loved me, prayed for me; others who did real things for me, took care of me and wrote me letters, let me know I wasn't forgotten; there were others who only spoke to me through the centuries in their writings. Then there is, of course, the Spirit that nursed me. This is still true today. None of us can make it alone.

How did he release himself from a horrible past when so many of us are still imprisoned by ours? How free of it he now seemed…how did he do it? Again, his answer:

Never underestimate the power of your role in things. I understand what you say about people "out there" being imprisoned, but never think that I have any power that you do not.

How did he overcome rage? A man who could experience it in such tremendous proportions, so as to take another’s life? How was he now free of it? His answer is:

You asked about my ability to overcome rage. No, it wasn't easy but it could have been and I see that now. Maybe that's what you see in my writing. It could have been easy had I been given sacred knowledge — indeed, the rage would never have come in the first place. I recently came upon something in meditation that seems to be the next step for me, where I'm being pushed to go. It is that I am not a human being in the universe but rather the universe being human. This is what occurred to me: It is that the universe knows exactly how to be human but I do not. To say, "I am trying to overcome anger," or "I am trying to be a better person," is to lock yourself into a losing battle. You cannot do these things — you don't know how and can never learn. The "I" and the "you" are the problem. The self is a fictional character. I've known this intellectually from Eastern teachers for a long time, yet I always had trouble with it because if I am not “me” who am I? The answer given is that I don't exist, but this goes against my own experience, so the teaching of the self-as-fiction became, at least for me, nothing more than a mystical riddle.

I am something because I'm here. The question is, what? The answer that makes sense to me is that I am the universe being human, just as trees are the universe being trees, and peacocks on your campus are the universe being peacocks. The universe knows how to be a peacock doesn't it? Well, it also knows how to be human — if we would get out of the way and let it.

How does this work in real life? When you're angry, that's you trying to be human and take over the job of the universe — a pretty tall order. Try just reminding yourself that you're getting in the way and that the universe knows how to be happy in you. It knows how to laugh, to hold a hand, to be at peace, and compassionate. It is very wise — just look what it's done in the rest of creation. Why do we mistrust it so? The intelligent universe wants to express itself in Neeraja Raghavan. Isn't that a wonderful thing? Would this expression be anger, or is that coming from us? The universe isn't angry. Just try asking yourself as often as you can throughout the day, "Am I letting the universe be human in me right now? Am I letting it write this letter? Am I letting it respond to this difficult person? Am I letting it respond to my past experiences?" Again, it knows well how to be human. Listen to it and tell me if your anger doesn't go away. But don't try to "make" it go away. Don't try to do any good or bad — that's just "you" asserting yourself in a different direction — it's the same as the anger. Let me know what happens.

“Is there beauty in your life? Do you see the sun and the birds and the trees?” I had asked, imagining dull grey stone walls of a cold prison. His answer was touching:

I do enjoy the birds and flowers and the sun. This prison is much better than any I've been to. We have small animals in the yard and trees, and a big garden. It's often cold and windy here, but I don't mind that. It makes me appreciate the warm days better.

An interesting excerpt that describes his realization of the profound effect of all that we think and do, goes like this:

I try to remember that all of my actions have profound effects. In prison people are taught that they don't matter and this affects everything they do, ultimately leading to unconscious attitudes and apathy and ultimately to more crime. If we could realize that everything we do matters — even though we may never get to see the results — we would pay more attention and be more intentional. Gandhi was such a beautiful example of this and his treatment of and response to the English was a model for all the world. It's a personal model for me. I am still sad that others saw things so differently and decided to split India into Muslims and Hindus. And now, the tensions between Pakistan and India are sad.

What is your day like, Troy? I asked. And his answer was:

My days are simple, usually. I spend mornings writing and meditating. In the afternoons I walk and do other things. I have various activities and am involved with the church here.

Troy is an artist, a songwriter and a musician. Within this man are the same desires to celebrate life for its fullness, enjoy its beauty and revel in freedom. So many forces and a single horrific event have led him into the place that he is now in. Yet, the manner in which he is dealing with the consequences that Life has handed him, makes me wonder how many of us can do this with the consequences that we, too, have to face of our own actions, in our own lives.

For isn’t that really the essence of sorrow? To resist the present? Either by dwelling on painful memories of the past, or by worrying about a terrible future?

If a man sentenced to die in prison can live in the present with so many forces pulling him to do exactly the opposite, why, then can’t we, “free” people do the same? Does it need a tremendous crisis (like being sentenced to a life in prison) to make us do all that inner work? Why can’t we take the opportunities that come our way in so many little crises of life?

In Troy’s own words, his inner journey was catalysed by a simple exhaustion with his eternal anger: “The catalyst for this change was nothing more noble than exhaustion. I was simply tired of being angry all the time, tired of waking up every morning to a battle. I needed some rest. This need led me away from moral certitude. I developed the ability to see things through the eyes of my enemies.” Having seen his outer enemy as a human being, just like himself, Troy was now in the awkward position of being in a battlefield with no enemy to fight!

With gentle humour, Troy describes his movement from the field of duality to what he calls “the third side.” “What then is left to fight for?” he asks. “What does an out-of-work activist do? Well…God is hiring and God is on the third side. Not the prisoner’s or the jailer’s side. Not the pro-choice or the pro-life side. Not the Left or the Right.”

In the typical whirlpool of opposites that most of us are caught, here is a voice from one who refused to get sucked into sorrow. Troy’s life and his piercing words of conviction are testimony to the power of the human spirit to conquer even the most unimaginable sorrow. For more of Troy’s writings, please visit http://sacredmatters.blogspot.com.

No comments: