In the South Park Blocks, between Jefferson and Columbia is a large granite sculpture entitled Peace Chant. In May of 1985, this block was renamed Peace Plaza. This is the only block in the South Park Block that is not somehow dedicated to war.
On February 15 the Portland Buddhist Peace Fellowship participated in an inter-faith rededication of this Peace Plaza, and we heard the call from one of the speakers to continue using this plaza for peace: to remember peace and speak of peace, and recognize each other as peacemakers when we meet here.
Portland Buddhist Peace Fellowship is answering that call, and announces that beginnning February 27th, we will have a meditation vigil for peace here, every Thursday, at noon.
We hope you will join us in this reflective demonstration for peace, not war. All beings are welcome, and are encouraged to participate with seated or walking meditation. Bring your own cushion, chair, or mat to sit on. Also near the Peace Chant sculpture are the Shalom Stones, one of which will be useful as a place to sit.
We had our first vigil on February 27th. First let me say I've been to the South Park blocks many times, but until the interfaith rededication, I didn't know about this one being the Peace Plaza. Sad to say, the sculptures went unnoticed by me. (Did you ever notice how you can go down a street for years and there's still some little architectural detail that you never noticed before?) So my first real introduction to the sculptures was at the candlelight vigil on February 15th, and that was at night. It was nice to get a good look at them.
While I was setting up, an interested passerby asked if I knew the symbolism of the stones. I told him I only knew the one was called the Peace Chant, and the others the Shalom Stones. Since the Shalom Stones are scattered and 'lying down', he suggested maybe 'falling down'. I don't know. The Peace Chant is hard to figure out too. It is a tall pillar. There are some parallel horizontal lines near the top, makes me think of a measured cadence in music, like a chant. In contrast, other parts of the pillar are rough stone and have freer lines, perhaps to contrast or bring forth a natural tension between the two concepts, peace and chant. There's also a square corner chiseled into the rough stone. Perhaps these contrasts point to delineation and non-delineation. Hardness and softness. Natural and constructed. Us and them. Self and other. Self and no-self.
Perhaps the usefulness of the Shalom Stones give a deeper glimpse into their symbolism. One is quite useful for sitting on (and 8 people can sit around it's edges comfortably) and the other too high for sitting but just right for leaning as one talks and connects with another. Incidentally it makes a nice impromptu altar. Since the founders hoped this plaza could be a gathering place for peace, I think it may be no accident that people can cluster around these stones, play on them, climb, lean on them, sit.
There were seven of us for this first Peace Plaza vigil. This is a nice space for it. It's not quite as busy as Pioneer Courthouse Square, but there are still a number of people around. It's nice to have the granite stone to sit on, but it is colder than the air, I recommend bringing something to sit on. I imagine the brick sidewalk might be warmer, for those on zafus. As far as I know, there isn't any restriction about bringing chairs to this park, unlike at Pioneer Courthouse Square. Oh wait, there were 8 beings... one participant brought her dog.