Do you also have whiplash from Wars and World Cups?
News broadcasts flick from horrifying death and destruction to Ama Bokke Bokke celebrations. Division and death alternating with an inspiring team that is ‘stronger together’. One second overwhelmed with despair and then a second later high fiving the person next to us in uncontrollable excitement. We mourn the fact that there are only losers in war, as we celebrate victory in sport. This whiplash of emotion and spirit is real.
When I find myself questioning whether I should allow myself to celebrate anything at all – while people are being buried alive in rubble, I am reminded of a poem. A poem that has saved me from drowning in despair many times in my life. This poem does not deny the suffering that is awash in the world, while at the same time it refuses to allow this suffering to dilute joy and beauty that continue to exist despite everything.
May you have the stubbornness to accept your gladness…
A Brief for the Defense
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come