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Deep Listening under All War and Catastrophe

Deep Listening under All War and Catastrophe

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the February 24, 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, a startling escalation of Russian ambitions to seize Ukrainian territory that began a decade before. 

Because I’ve been reading Adam Hochschild’s American Midnight: The Great War, A Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis, I’ve been re-learning of our government’s virulent vilifying of all German people during World War I. (Not just Germany’s Kaiser and his soldiers but our own German citizens.) Contrasted with our relying on Germany now as an ally in support of Ukraine, just a few generations after relying on Russia as an ally against Germany in World War II. 

My head starts to spin and my heart starts to despair as I contemplate how quickly loyalties flip from war to war, from generation to generation (Japan now our ally despite Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima; Buddhists now the genocidal threat to Muslims in Myanmar despite the deep teachings of peace and compassion of the Buddha.)

The underlying common humanity can get so lost under the tragedies and travesties of war, hatred, greed, corruption. (Dare we name it? Mental illness.) 

I take refuge in the sentiments below of Quiet Psalm by Silvio Machado, returning us to the deep listening, heart to heart, that will help us recover our clear seeing and a path forward to all that binds us together in our human-ness. 

And sometimes taking a break from reading the history of war to reading of the compassionate efforts of scientists and indigenous residents to research and protect the endangered tree kangaroos of Papua New Guinea, Yes, kangaroos, about 20 inches long with a 21 inch tail, living 80 feet up in the trees of the cloud forests in the 10,000 foot mountains of Papua New Guinea. Remote, inaccessible, adorable, endangered. And the cooperation between western naturalists and local residents expert in tracking and capturing the kangaroos to be measured, radio collared, and released within an hour. I get encouraged that people so different from each other in history and culture can work together to save a different precious species on our planet. 

Quiet Psalm

Let there be a quiet that falls like grace,

over all of us:

over our hands

which have slowly become guns,

our teeth, now daggers,

and over our hearts,

which explode with the suicide bombs.

Let us take ourselves back

to the first time we saw each other

on the Fertile Crescent,

where we drew water to drink

from the same river,

or back to the first playground

where you asked, What’s your name?

and I responded, I am you.

Let us follow this unmentioned history

back in time so that we may see

that the suffering of one

is the suffering of all,

and furthermore,

the responsibility.

Let us gather up our missiles,

our shrapnel, our tanks,

our nuclear threats, and our hatred

and ask:

How could I have thought

to use these against you?

And let there be a quiet that falls over us like grace,

as we stand dumbed by the asking.

And then

let there be a Listening

for the deepest of answers.

~ Silvio Machado ~