IN A DARK TIME

151115104721-01-1115-paris-attack-reaction-super-169“In a dark time the eye begins to see.”  – Theodore Roethke

Anyone who would say that we are not, globally, going through dark times is either in serious need of therapy or so deep in denial that no amount of therapy would help. It is in these times that we discover much about ourselves, and about others. What is profound about Roethke’s quote is that he doesn’t identify what the eye begins to see, only that it does. On a very fundamental level, we choose how we want to react in times of trauma and crisis. And in doing so, we are choosing who we want to be.

I watched an interview last night that Anderson Cooper did with a young couple who survived the bloodbath in the Paris concert hall. When he asked the girl if she felt hatred toward the terrorists, she emphatically and pointedly said, “No.” She said she didn’t even want to think about them or devote any time or energy to them; rather, she said, she wanted to pledge that she and her boyfriend would live loving and positive lives, focusing on all the people whose hearts bled for them, who have reached out to them, whose goodness is greater than the evil embodied by the terrorists. There are more good people out there, she said, than there are monsters. She and her boyfriend are choosing, in this dark time, to see light…light in other people and light in themselves. They went through an unimaginable nightmare. They watched people being slaughtered around them; they walked through the blood of strangers and heard the last moans of people who should have had decades of life still ahead of them. And yet they refuse to hate.

By contrast, I overheard a man this morning saying to his friend, “If you go to a sports event with thousands of people there, how do you know if some of those Muslims…” I didn’t linger to hear the rest of the sentence. All I needed to hear was “some of those Muslims.” We are at a dangerous fork in the road right now. We can unfairly (and tragically) lump terrorists in with all Muslims or we can take a lesson from the young woman who, after surviving a night of terror, speaks of her survival as a responsibility. A responsibility to live a life that defies hatred and prejudice, and to focus instead on the light that many people are willing to shine into the darkness. Those people do outnumber the men and women who have deadened their souls. It’s important that we remember that.

In this dark time, our eyes will begin to see the truth about who we are and who we want to be. Our eyes will begin to see through tears, and past our anger at the atrocities some human beings are capable of. Our eyes will peer through the darkness and find light — in ourselves and in others. And we’ll realize just how big an army of people that is. That’s how the world will change.

2 Responses to IN A DARK TIME

  1. David Marks says:

    How can we best comment on such poignant words, Patti? This piece is poetically visited and delivered, and in a nation which prides itself on the freedom of choice, I choose to see the peoples of the world as brothers and sisters, and I refute the notion that Muslims are evil. Racism, xenophobia, and violence are byproducts of hate. I would much prefer to love, to build bridges, not walls, and to allow our home to serve as a haven to those who suffer. Thank you, Patti.

  2. Dan Black says:

    A beautifully written reminder that without darkness there can be no light.

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