blank'/> Mirth, Melancholy, and the Mundane: November 2015

Thursday, November 19, 2015

My hands are small, I know...

"The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference" - Elie Wiesel

This quote has been moving slowly around in my head and in my heart over the last week or so.  It is that much more poignant that it came from a man who somehow, miraculously, survived the devastation the Third Reich visited upon its own citizens in World War II.  The senseless acts in Paris and other places around the world seem a relentless barrage of darkness that threatens whatever light we live by in the micro-worlds around us.  I am an empath, and so my own heart keenly feels these things - I've often been told that I become too invested emotionally and so each tear is a floodgate to emotional wreckage.  In talking to a (male) friend, JDB recently said - as the only words of explanation he could offer - she feels things.  I can't help it and it often puts me in awkward and painful situations.  I seem to collect the injured around me and I desperately want to heal them all.  I rarely can.  Even less so when it is the world itself I want to heal.

It did not help that the events in Paris unfolded while I was sitting alone in a hotel room hundreds of miles from home.  I did what I could to avoid traveling down a stream of tears until I at least had my standard support network in place - my family, my husband, my friends, my cats.  Even the dog.  But still - the buildings lit in familiar colors for another country's flag were a monument not easily overlooked as I walked the streets of a city that I did not know.  So, my heart ached, and still aches - here in the safety of home - for those put in harms way, those who paid a price they did not ask to pay, for those who are reeling to find answers when there are none.  And part of me finds that my support network is reverberating with hatred, fear, indifference, and paranoia.  I am reminded, at each visit, of the opening stanza of a Yeats poem that just two weeks ago my students presented.  Never have the words felt so real to me.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Build walls, close the doors, throw them all away because a few might be poisoned.  I've heard the refugees compared to the Jewish population under Hitler's regime.  I've heard them compared to food.  Food.  We are at a place where we are comparing the terror, desperation, and helplessness of human beings to grapes and M&Ms.  I've heard people who feel otherwise being called bleeding hearts, being berated and insulted, simply because we do not blame the Syrian refugees for these acts of violence.  This issue is dividing the world and yet the very country that exploded in blood and broken glass has vowed that it will welcome the refugees in direct defiance.  It remembers the words placed on the base of her gift to us - La Libert√© √©clairant le monde. Liberty enlightening the world.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

It always comes back to light, doesn't it?  Paris went dark and the world lit up in solidarity.  A thousand points of light and love dotted the globe before it turned to glaring spotlights on the innocent.  But that early light brings me hope; it always does.  Those early lights - which symbolize the world's ability to set aside differences for one brief moment - are why I will never give up.  In each chapter of darkness, there are always points of light and I will always look for those. There is always good to be found in the world.  There is always hope.  And if each of us believes that we can change the world, we can.

My hands are small.  I cannot heal the world alone, but I can hold your hand. And yours. And you can hold the hand of the next person, and they the next.  In the end, only kindness matters and we - each of us - has the power to spread that kindness if we can but push through the hate and the indifference.  I know this echoes of cliche and naivete, but I will not bow down.  I will not give up. The minute I give up hope and give in to the madness of the world is another step towards the failure of the world to rise above.  Another light that has gone out.  We must have our own passionate intensity.

We can do this.  Spread light.  Give love.  Start small.  Take my hand.