Journal, January 28, 1970 (continued)
Then we began the trip to New York City. We arrived at about 5:30 and it was dark.
At 8:00 pm we went to the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center (65th floor). We had a fantastic view of the city! Hank Newenhouse was entertaining us there for dinner. First we had shrimp and crab, then broth, then a huge piece of extremely high quality beef, followed by Baked Alaska, covered with flaming alcohol.
Then we went to Greenwich Village. Finally back at the Grand Central YMCA at 12:30. Ron Ellyson and I were rooming together there.
January 29, 1970
Next morning, Thursday, January 29, we had meeting for worship at Quaker House at 9:00. Then we heard about the Quaker U.N. program and got some background information about Latin America. We walked to and had a tour of the United Nations building. After lunch Juan Pascoe spoke to us about the UN Development Program.
At 3:30 we were very fortunate to get to see a meeting of the Security Council, which actually didn’t begin until 5:00, when were supposed to visit the Museum of Modern Art. But Ron and I stayed until 7:10 at the UN. The Council was talking about Namibia (S.W. Africa). We heard the Russian ambassador charge the U.S. and NATO of supplying arms and equipment to Namibia.
After a quick bite at the Y, Ron and I started walking to Greenwich Village, about 32 blocks away. There we saw the plays “Adaptation” and “Next”. Then the two of us walked back to the Y.
January 30, 1970
Today after meeting for worship at the Y we spoke with Mr. Álvaro de Soto, 3rd Secretary of the Peru Mission to the UN. His main point was that the Latin American countries have to develop their trade in such a way as to develop their own economy instead of exporting and therefore always being economically and politically dependent.
Then we spoke with Mr. Eduardo Schjimm, Press Attaché of the Mission of Chile. I enjoyed and agreed with his main proposition, that experiencing social conditions is the only way to understand them. He also said establishments were too short-sighted.
Then Mr. James Knight told us about the International Labor Organization (ILO). One of the things ILO does is to encourage governments to use men instead of machines whenever possible.
Then Richard Garza presented a “revolutionary” view of the development of Latin America. He said that the U.S. didn’t want to develop, or let Latin American develop itself, as this would endanger its economy, which is the U.S.’s primary interest.
We had an evaluation in the evening. Then Ron and I spent most of the evening walking through New York City as last night. We talked to an elevator operator and doorkeeper at the Newsweek building. A nice guy. Temperature down to 20 degrees.
January 31, 1970
First we visited the ocean liner, New Amsterdam. It was disgusting to see such lavish luxury. Then we went on the Staten Island Ferry. Then through Chinatown and Harlem to Phoenix House, where we spent three hours, mainly with James Cromwell, who started the Phoenix House concept and is in charge of education. Former drug addicts live with and help people who have just quit drugs, not only to stay off drugs, but to discover why the person resorted to drugs in the first place. Everyone is given a crew-promoted when attitude has changed. Everyone was extremely friendly and interested in us. This program of really getting to know people and help them discover the root of their problems can be applied to anyone with any problem, not just drug addiction.
This evening we visited an Ashram, in which there was chanting (I don’t believe in), silent meditation, and teaching that one must search oneself, not rely on the external.
One of the high points of the trip occurred yesterday afternoon. We visit the United Nations Meditation Room–A Room of Quiet. Dag Hammarskjöld wrote the following text to be distributed to the visitors of the room:
“We all have within us a center of stillness surrounded by silence.
This house, dedicated to work and debate in the service of peace, should have one room dedicated to silence in the outward sense and stillness in the inner sense.
It has been the aim to create in this small room a place where the doors may be open to the infinite lands of thought and prayer.
People of many faiths will meet here, and for that reason none of the symbols to which we are accustomed in our meditation could be used.
However, there are simple things which speak to us all with the same language. We have sought for such things and we believe that we have found them in the shaft of light striking the shimmering surface of solid rock.
So, in the middle of the room we see a symbol of how, daily, the light of the skies gives life to the earth on which we stand, a symbol to many of us of how the light of the spirit gives life to matter.
But the stone in the middle of the room has more to tell us. We may see it as an altar, empty not because there is no God, not because it is an altar to an unknown god, but because it is dedicated to the God whom man worships under many names and in many forms.
The stone in the middle of the room reminds us also of the firm and permanent in a world of movement and change. The block of iron ore has the weight and solidity of the everlasting. It is a reminder of that cornerstone of endurance and faith on which all human endeavour must be based.
The material of the stone leads our thoughts to the necessity for choice between destruction and construction, between war and peace. Of iron man has forged his swords, of iron he has also made his ploughshares. Of iron he has constructed tanks, but of iron he has likewise built homes for man. The block of iron ore is part of the wealth we have inherited on this earth of ours. How are we to use it?
The shaft of light strikes the stone in a room of utter simplicity. There are no other symbols, there is nothing to distract our attention or to break in on the stillness within ourselves. When our eyes travel from these symbols to the front wall, they meet a simple pattern opening up the room to the harmony, freedom and balance of space.
There is an ancient saying that the sense of a vessel is not in its shell but in the void. So it is with this room. It is for those who come here to fill the void with what they find in their center of stillness.”
As I said, my visit to this room was the high point of the trip. I had become very interested in the United Nations and in Dag Hammarskjöld. I bought several books in New York City, one on human rights, world economy, Che Guevara, a spiritual portrait of Dag Hammarskjöld, and a copy of his book Markings.
One special dedication to the Meditation Room is to Dag Hammarskjöld:
“The moment I entered the room I was awed not only by the structure-the shaft of light, the iron block and the painting, but also by a strong spirit I felt in the room. It seemed that all the forces dedicated to peace and humanity had gathered in this one place to meditate and rest. And I was greatly inspired to try to continue my efforts, little as they often seem, toward peace and human rights.”
This evening, just now, 9:45, I walked into the New York Grand Central Station. As I reached for the handle, another man (a black man) did also. I stepped back to let him in, but he said, “excuse me, you go on ahead.” I went in and he repeated, “excuse me” and I nodded, but he said again, “excuse me”. I stopped to see what he wanted. He said, “excuse me, first for startling you, you were meditating”. I nodded, then he asked a question and when I replied I didn’t know the answer, he said “thank you”, and left. I was very impressed with his courtesy and more with his comment about my meditating. I hadn’t myself realized that that was what I was doing. This was a beautiful experience with which to end my visit to New York City.
United Nations Meditation Room