Chip, chip, chip. Against all odds.

Peace Advocate December 2022

Watch webinar on the Golden Rule here!

By John Bach

The new voyage of the Golden Rule around the Great Loop [insert link] to hundreds of American towns and cities on behalf of nuclear disarmament reawakes in me an image from Vietnam, an image that highlights the persistence and faithfulness that is so needed in these woeful times.  And I also want to share some sentiments regarding resurrection that came to mind when thinking about the rebirth of the “Golden Rule.”  

I am indebted to my friend, mentor, and fellow jailbird, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, who introduced me to the Vietnamese image of the egg and the rock. In order to confront the task they saw set before them during the American war in Southeast Asia, the Vietnamese would patiently explain that it was their job to use the Vietnamese egg to break the American rock.  They would pause and then say, “Chip, chip, chip.”

Well, of course, this idea sounds preposterous.  As any child knows, you can’t break a rock with an egg.  Yet consider the images:  the egg, surely one of the frailest things in the universe, is nevertheless filled with miraculous and magnificent potentiality, with explosions of color and growth and movement; to eat, breathe, excrete, fertilize, move, communicate, nourish others, and live in balance with nature.

And now consider the rock:  inert, grey, unimaginative, incapable of not much other than crushing… a prisoner of its own ungainly mass. In spite of the implausibility, Vietnamese eggs have broken rocks for a thousand years and have grown stronger in the process—through centuries of hurling against: Chinese aggression; colonization by the French; a brutal occupation by the Japanese during WWII; the French again; and then a savage war by what Dr. King called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world”— the government of the United States. Those eggs produced a very long trail of very large broken rocks. “Chip, chip, chip,” the Vietnamese would say with a life-affirming glint in their eyes.  

Now let’s see if we can detect any modern examples of this most liberating endeavor against all odds.  How about a 30’ wooden sailboat, utterly human-scale and low-tech, setting forth with faith and commitment, determined to get in the way of the ongoing nuclear tests in the South Pacific, tests that continued the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, poisoning natives and the land upon which they lived. This sailboat, the Golden Rule, confronted the rocks of a new geological epoch, an epoch that threatens to be the last for the human family, and that indeed may wipe out almost all life on earth.

Compare the “Golden Rule” with, for example, nuclear powered aircraft carriers, behemoths costing billions of dollars, staffed by thousands of sailors amid a culture of death, sexual abuse, racism, environment degradation, and unimaginable destruction.  A death star.  As you consider these eggs and rocks, please believe this: we are not called to be necessarily successful… only to be faithful, to do what is right.

I ask you to think about the boat’s quest from the point of view of whales and dolphins. Also please think about the raising from the briny deep, and rehabilitation of the “Golden Rule” and the theme of resurrection for the boat that refused to remain sunk, with a little (or a lot) of help from its friends.  I suggest that the continuing struggle toward social justice and freedom (what the Quakers call “moving toward the Light”) is a form of resurrection. Indeed, the refusal to let the forces that are orientated to death and suppression and profit and greed have the last word is a form not only of resurrection, but redemption as well.  The frail little egg triumphs in its refusal to stop chipping away. It’s the power of life over death, the refusal to let the void have the final word.  Have political or spiritual persecutions and assassinations ever silenced the messages of peace and social justice by suppressing the messengers?

Crews of Golden Rule have been arrested and jailed but are sailing again. Think of your own sources of inspiration, courage, and hope, and do so on a regular basis.  Shadrock, Meeshak, and Abedigo in the fiery furnace; Daniel in the lions’ den, Socrates, Jesus of Nazareth, the Quaker martyrs (who went to the gallows, it was said, as though going to a picnic), Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas; Dr. King; Malcolm X.  The list is almost endless. We name them and keep their spirits enfleshed, in the manner of our sisters and brothers in Central and South America who say “Presenté” after the recitation of fallen comrades, or the Native Americans who say “may-tak-we-ah-sin” — “All my Relations” to summon strength and guidance from those who have come before. Chip, chip, chip.

And in naming them and doing home — re-membering them, literally — we incorporate them back as members of our Beloved Community.  We add to the small green weeds cracking the concrete and the dream of the oasis crowding out the desert.  People on the move, moving out of bondage and heading toward the promised land of their own making. Sometimes, even sailing there. It’s the power of Life over Death.  In our refusal to let them die (or stay submerged), we resurrect their vision.  And most of all, by following in their footsteps (or wake),we are keepin’ on, keepin’ on.  Resurrection.

The last breath is not extinguished by the imperial cross or the colonial lash; the witness is not silenced by the executioner’s bullet, the hangman’s noose, the racist’s ax-handle, the assassin’s blade.  Nor by governmental lies, media neglect, the process by which the powers and principalities filter all great movements:  by ignoring them; then ridiculing them; then violently opposing them; and finally accepting them as self-evident after a great deal of struggle and sacrifice.

Against all odds, embrace the egg to break the rock. Chip, chip chip. And ships ahoy!