Weekly Feature

2006-12-27 / Lifestyles

Bee Travel

Worldwide wishes

What we all want most for Christmas, and New Year's and any time there's a crisis in the world, is World Peace. Beauty pageant contestants aside, the desire for world peace is universal. Funny, because universally we're not so good at it. (I'm not suggesting it's easy; rather observing that our communal oars aren't evidently pulling in that direction.)

I pondered this while reading about the "wailing wall" in Jerusalem. At the Western Wall, the writer customarily tucked a small, written prayer into a crevice of the wall. Indeed, there is a web site - www.thewall.org - where you can send your prayer requests to the Western wall. The history of this practice dates to the 18th century, when a Kabbalist teacher moved to Israel with a note from his master teacher sewn into his jacket. He forgot about it. His experiences in Israel were hard and difficult. One day he remembered the note, and put it in the wall. His fortunes improved immediately, and thus began the custom. When the wall has taken in all the prayers and wishes it can accommodate, they are removed and buried. While the contents of these prayer papers are subject to speculation, one must presume world peace has made it to this wall often.

This reminded me of a site outside of Ephesus, Turkey. In a confluence of traditions, paradoxically in a country largely Muslim and at a Christian site, outside the walls of the Virgin Mary house is a bank of bushes. Attached to it are thousands of fluttering pieces of paper, upon which prayers have been written by visitors. If memory serves me, this is a practice from an Oriental religious tradition. These may be desires for good fortune, or a request to have bad fortune pass by. Either way, these prayers rise to heaven, according to the tradition, on the wind that rustles through them. World peace, surely, is among the prayers here, too.

In Japan, there is a practice at Shinto shrines where prayers or wishes are inscribed onto small wooden tablets. These are hung onto pegs that form the "Ema," rather like a "coat rack" for prayers. Certainly, these contain desires for good health, success in business, love, or wealth... I feel certain world peace is on some of these, as well. Tibetan Buddhists plant prayer flags outside their homes and places of worship. Traditionally, one finds these attached to eaves or sewn onto ropes. By virtue of the wind, the enlightened concepts represented by the icon imprinted on the flags are said to infuse the countryside with, for example, happiness or prosperity to those in the vicinity. At www.prayerflags. com, they offer a Tibetan Prayer World Peace flag inscribed in English and Tibetan with: "At this very moment for the people and the nations of the earth may not even the words - disease, family, war and suffering be heard; but rather may their moral conduct, merit, wealth and prosperity increase and may supreme good fortune and well being always arise for them." Amen. (Christine Hicks-Usta has enjoyed more than 30 years of globetrotting as a member of the travel industry in various capacities. Direct questions to her at Bee Group Newspapers, P.O. Box 150, Buffalo, N.Y. 14231-0150.)

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