Throughout the long
months of protest and argument leading to this war, and through all the
images of carnage we witnessed, we have tried to feel our solidarity with
all the innocent victims of war: the Iraqi civilians and children, the
Iraqi conscripts, and the US and British soldiers sent to liberate them.
We believed there were wiser and more compassionate ways to address the
dangers of Saddam’s regime. But we were not listened to, and now the
wounds and killings have been done, and continue.
In the process of all
this our hearts stretched, and opened, and now are broken. These feelings
of pain are our allies. They have helped us recognize in our souls what we
knew before in our minds, that there is no “other”. We are inside this
human-ness, inside the soul of humanity in the same way everyone else is.
There is no where to step back from it. Our customary sense of personal
boundaries is not the whole truth.
I use the word “soul” on
purpose. To me soul means that space in us in which we experience our
connection to everything else, to every being. My soul bonds me to every
other struggling soul in this drama of the Iraq war, from President Bush
to the newly-made orphan falling from her mother’s arms. We are not
separate, we are family.
To feel this connection
is a great gift. It makes our lives awake and in touch. But it also
carries a price, the price of grief when members of our human family
suffer and die. And so our hearts break as we see images of the dead and
maimed. At a certain point we don’t know how to hold this sadness and we
turn away, or make ourselves numb. Soon we are troubled by our numbness
and our turning away, yet we don’t know what else to do. In an unconscious
attempt to take on the suffering, some of us become vulnerable to illness,
I believe there is
something we can do, though it may not appear to change anything
We can honour the
suffering we witness by giving ourselves time to grieve. We can stop
turning the pages for a moment, stop watching the next CNN report, stop
attending to the next thing, and let there be silence in our house. Let
the sadness in. Grieve. Grieve in whatever way we feel to. It may be for
only a few moments, or it may be longer, but let us give it the time it
takes, and as often as we feel the grief arise in us let us honour it.
And then we might try
doing one more thing. Whether you are religious or not, it is very likely
that if you were sitting with a family member who was dying you would want
to soothe them in any way you could to help make their passing graceful
and free from fear. Perhaps you would caress their forehead, or sing a
quiet song, or repeat a prayer over and over. Whatever you would do,
imagine what would be the quality of your heart during those moments as
your loved one dies and you help them release in peace.
This quality of heart
is, I believe, what we have to touch in ourselves and offer up to those
children, women, and men in our common soul who have been wounded or died
in a state of great distress during this war. They are here, inside us,
with their confusion and fear and half-finished goodbyes as a missile hits
their car or their house falls on them or flames sear their body. I think
we need to go to them in our heart’s imagination and offer our most
sincere tenderness and love. Help them, by our tender presence, to let go
in peace. If it’s true we are all part of one soul, this gesture may be
more than just a gesture. It may be the most relevant act for peace we can
make at this moment, in our own soul as well as theirs. And then we will
be peaceful enough and strong enough to turn to the path ahead.
LETTER FROM THE ROAD, 17
ELIAS AMIDON, COLORADO