I think of all the sadness and anger. The tragedy of the older gentleman in Arizona who threw himself over his wife to shield her--she survived, he didn't. The young girl. I won't even go there. The Congresswoman who kept meeting with her constituents despite threats to her life. It feels like we all know her doesn't it? I had just heard her interviewed on the radio--so confident and full of life. The vigil as the country hopes for the best. The anger, so much anger and the blame. How could this happen--again? Where did we go wrong? What can we do better? There is such a sick feeling in my gut that I can't wrap my mind around it.
I hear Elizabeth Alexander on the radio show--On Being--talking about the shimmer of words. If you remember she wrote the poem for the Inauguration of Barack Obama Praise Song for the Day. It was a long poem that in the excitement of the day emerged in glimpses. Great wonderful thoughts that I tried to follow. The question it asks:
…What if the mightiest word is love? Love beyond marital, filial, national, love that casts a widening pool of light, love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
How deep this love must be. How strong. As Alexander said this is a love that requires "deep, deep responsibilities." I remember a cold day last January. It had snowed and the ground was wet with slush. There was a special election in my state to fill the Senate seat of Ted Kennedy. I was standing outside a high school auditorium working for my candidate. Across from me was a woman who believed just as strongly in her candidate. During the quiet times we spoke--when we tried to speak of the issues, the conversation became too agitated. But there was still the common humanity of cold, wet feet, frozen fingers and the need for hot coffee and hats. And there was the unspoken knowledge that we both cared enough about the future of our country to be standing there as the sun set and our voices became hoarse. Yet after that election I felt sadness and separateness.
How do we bridge these differences? Tibbetts mentions that she spoke recently with the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain who felt we need to go from the universality of our experiences to embrace our differences. Alexander reminds that understanding the African-American history of America is important to understanding American history. There is so much to learn. But if we have all these differences--and trust me my family has these differences--how do we show this love while remaining ourselves?
In Ars Poetica #100: I Believe Alexander writes:
Poetry (here I hear myself loudest) is the human voice, and are we not of interest to each other?
But with these differences, with the anger and divisiveness that surrounds us, what does this mean? How can we understand the different histories when our words are different and even mean different things? How can we hear each other if we don't even understand the words we are using? Alexander mentions that she attended a Quaker High School--Sidwell Friends in Washington DC-- as a young woman. They began the day with a moment of silence which allowed for a clarity of thoughts and now feels that it is the silence--these tiny chunks of space--that are the essence of poetry and by implication all art. Through these unspoken events maybe we can reach each other and be of interest to each other? She uses words, images in her poetry. That clarity of thought and essence to try to reach the unspoken.
Maybe the answer is just the silence of being. The spaces between the words. I know I don't have the answers--indeed frequently I don't even ask these questions--and yet after the news of this week-end I found comfort and solace in those poems and that discussion. Maybe even glimpses of answers? And maybe even the need for more quilts.
And you--do you find answers? glimpses of answers? Did you hear this show? I would love to hear from you.