Slipping the book from between others on the shelf and holding the weight of its 812 pages, I felt an immense wave of gratitude for the college classrooms and teachers that dedicated the space and time to discussions of war and fear and trauma on individual as well as national and international scales. I am grateful for all of the people in my life who have encouraged a dynamic intellectual environment, both internally with regards to my individual beliefs and values and externally in conversation and dialogue with others.
One does not reach for this book in search of comfort or easy answers, but there is a safety inside any book. The opportunity to take in the words at a pace that I can process. A strange safety in the knowledge that I am the one who chooses whether to look or to look away.
One of the poems I spent time with this morning is called "What's Not in the Heart" by Abba Kovner, translated from Hebrew by Shirley Kaufman.
The second section of the poem begins:
Useless. I try now to understand that what happened
happened. We declared two minutes of silence
so silence would not grow in the windows
of our homes.
I am especially grateful for the times that I've sat across a table from friends with political and religious beliefs very different from my own, and I've listened as they opened their mind and their heart to share with me the things that matter to them. And those same friends kept their minds and hearts open as they listened to mine. And we asked questions and conversed without changing anyone's mind because the questions and conversations stimulate thought and ask me to consider my views from different perspectives.
Does this mean that I welcome the shouting images or hateful remarks against another group of people? No.
But maybe the most important thing I can offer is to not look away. To not let silence override my continued ability to think and question and turn things over in my mind. To not shy away from conversation with both those that do and do not share my beliefs about the world.
Maybe it's okay that some days that means I'm going to feel my own heart break.
Here is a link to the full poem (with slight variations from the text that I read): "What's Not in the Heart" by Abba Kovner
The photo is by Neville Nel and is used in accordance with Creative Commons Licensing Laws.