Today I enjoyed the productivity of a snow day - read a book, baked banana bread, sat on the back porch enjoying the snow falling with a cup of tea, and now I am writing my first blog of the new year.
The snow blankets the ground in silence. All but the birds are still and quiet. It's a wonderful time to breathe. Tomorrow we should have a snow day from school. Our seniors deserve a respectable day of snow. When they were born, 18 years ago, we had a huge snowstorm on February 9. If only my students could have another just like that winter to usher them out of their senior year. Their last of 13 years in public school has been lackluster.
The greatest achievement of childhood, graduation, has for some been an early option to just get out and ending the disappointment early. There's no great celebration of gathering together with classmates in pep rallies or dressing up for dances. Life has kicked the fair concept out of bounds and the game doesn't make sense anymore.
Our class is finishing up Heart of Darkness. We've been talking about the journey to the empty hollowness where reason is out the window and rash violence is designed to quench lusty appetites for control. The quote we keep going back to states,
"The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking away from those
who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves is not
a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only.
An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretense but an idea; and an unselfish
belief in the idea - something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer
a sacrifice to...."
Joseph Conrad wrote these words reacting to the raping of the Belgium Congo he witnessed. The surprising nature of a human's capability to cruelty over another is timeless. While written 100 years ago, the relevance shows itself today. Scary is the language of late. I look out into the current state of silence, and can't help but wonder if the silence is really peace or just waiting for the storm.
I met an amazing man, a survivor of the Holocaust. He shared that it wasn't the German government that ruled havoc in Poland against the Jews. It was neighbors. The German government only gave permission, but neighbors are the ones who hauled a man they had lived next to for years into the street and killed with a hose forced down his throat.
Neighbors, who are meant to love one another, hold great responsibility to be watchful: not for the permission to do harm, but for the opportunity to look out for one another, to take care of each other.
Conversation is needed. A time of healing must come, but not through silencing and fear. Show me true acts of kindness, and I will listen much more readily. Show me the beauty of selfless love, and I will come to stand by your side. Show me you're willing to work hard, and I will believe what you say. Only then can we value and respect each other. Only then will we find space and time to breathe and reset ourselves. May our lives once again make sense through quiet reflection and individual commitment to do good rather than not.