This morning I got up just in time to see a wee line of light begin to appear over the horizon, entering at the edge of the dark sky, less light and the sky darker than the photo I share. It was barely there but after first noticing only darkness, it took my breath away when it showed itself.
I talked to my cat and said, “Look, Cilla. There is light even in the darkness. Let’s hold on to this.” As we ate our respective breakfasts together, I watched the light grow and was reminded that it is always there, it is always here.
Over the past week I have heard and read the words of friends, former colleagues, those in positions of leadership in spiritual communities, as well as specialists in history.
Most of all, I have taken significant time to hear from my heart, putting aside most of what I had otherwise planned but on which I could not focus, except to walk in nature and listen to music. Both feed my soul.
I have spent time at the metaphorical wells that never fail to nourish me with wisdom, comfort, and grounding guidance. They remind me to dip and keep dipping so as to not rush to think I have an answer or “the” answer or even close to right words. I have gone to my bookshelves to seek perspectives from writers for whom I have deep respect and are from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences far beyond my limited ones.
I echo so many who have struggled to know what to say. I know how important words are.
Even without war we all remember words, or lack of them, that have hurt us to our core and for which the process of letting go can feel like or take a lifetime.
I have also spoken the words that others might still be trying to let go of or forget. The dark sides of being human. Our individual lives that are not connected to the whole of the world.
And then there is the world, all of humanity.
This is a time in the world when it feels like words cannot begin to contain the depth of sorrow, of grieving, of myriad emotions that accompany loss that is more than any of us can comprehend in what is taking place in Israel and Gaza.
It is a new grief added to the ones already present. The deaths, loss of homes, hostage taking, and the lack of basic needs to survive.
I know some will disagree with me but as I have read, it is clear that some who are members of terrorist groups have been forced to join, taken hostage in a different way. I cannot imagine their own terror.
This is the latest event that comes out of human ________. There is not one word; there are many or maybe none that work, a word or word that has not yet been created. The whole situation has unfolded and continues to unfold with unimaginable, incomprehensible acts of humans toward humans. Again.
I know, deeply care for, and love people who are from both heritages. I want to listen, to hear, to feel in whatever way I can their thoughts, acknowledge them and simply be present and with. It is not for anyone who is suffering to be my teachers.
I hear the longing for peace that is in everyone’s core even in the depth of sorrow and anger and perhaps supporting war. There is still longing for peace.
This new incomprehensible (the word I keep returning to) situation can easily diminish attention to the events continuing to occur around the world that have existed for months or years but are no longer the headlines. They begin to fade from our consciousness because we cannot hold everything at one time and are easily pulled to the newest news. I am grateful for humanitarian organizations that keep what already is and has been in front of me, so I do not forget.
I think of the inhumanity in this country, not given as much visibility, in fact forgotten because the actions do not feel like they have the same personal impact or international impact. And because we are too busy with our daily lives to pay attention or speak up, or simply do not care enough. It all feels like too much.
I am guilty, complicit by my silence.
Prior to the Israel-Gaza situation I already felt, sensed in my body, too much to comprehend.
There have been the recent occurrences of nature that wiped out thousands of lives and homes in a matter of hours – earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes. Those events alone are overwhelming. I see photos where no machinery is available, people desperately trying to move tons of rubble, often with bare hands, hoping to find someone still alive. I look at the weight and depth of building materials and my heart aches. I wonder who might be under all those stones, people, and treasured pets too.
Just a couple of weeks before this latest international occurrence I finished reading a remarkable book by the exquisite writer, Timothy Egan – A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith. It was a spellbinding read, one of beauty on so many levels and seeing through his eyes those he encountered as he spent 10 weeks on the pilgrimage.
It is also a book that was raw, raw like a fresh cut, in its reflection of how much of Christian history is deeply disturbing, something he did not gloss over – wars, atrocities committed by some who are still held as respected theologians, silence during the Holocaust, sexual abuse and more. As one reviewer said, the book “speaks to the devastation that follows in the wake of an unholy alliance between religion and politics.”
Why do I even bring this book up? Because I was brought to a deeper awareness off how my own background with its doctrines and dogma often does not want to acknowledge the atrocities and instead offers platitudes that put off honest questions and confrontation, that truly made me wonder what I, for part of my life, bought into that was ignored or smoothed over or even worse, accepted as part of God’s plan.
The book had been weaving through my mind since closing the cover, so the initial attack on Israel felt like it was adding pages to the book, even if in a different religious and cultural context, and I wanted to scream, “Noooooo… we cannot do this again and again and again.”
I end with this. A couple of days ago I heard this question: How do we hold each other up in the darkness?
How do we? How do I?
How do we/I find light through the cracks and offer it to and share it with one another now?
How can we/I allow for our imperfection and not knowing?
How do we/I surround each other with a gigantic cape of hope, of believing that someday peace will win, committing to that end, even if not in our lifetime?
Truly believing and working toward it, seeing one another in all of our gorgeous diversity that comes from so many places and imprints that make us who we are. And as many ways we can all contribute to a solution on the continuum from quietly to vociferously.
How can we/I do this without judging one another by our assumptions if we do not hear or see exactly what we wish for?
How do we/I commit to taking time to look at our own biases, cultural stories that undoubtedly clash with others’ stories, and examine what does not serve us if we are to participate in the mending?
How can we/I be willing to shift and change and include?
How can we/I meet each other at the wells that nourish, such as the well of belonging or trust or forgiveness or kindness or co-creation or story? To share, to listen, to find what uplifts, what in a very real way even saves us.
We/I cannot give up on the uplifting part and being ok with the paradox of joy and sorrow existing in the same moments. It is essential to our wellbeing.
Most of all, how do we/I extend love, a word that may feel overused or spoken as a simple answer but is at its purest what we all long for?
Genuine, honest love can never be over-given. It is not necessarily easy. It calls forth courage and vulnerability, knowing it is never going to be perfectly “done.”
But to dip deeply from it, accessing all of its available droplets to comfort, sustain, learn, be with, and fill the cracks of our souls and of this world. It will make a difference, even if with just one person who is waiting and yearning to receive. One by one, doing this together, composing a new symphony for this life.