Friday, April 07, 2006

Strange pilgrimage

I remember using this phrase to a dear friend in the midst of self-doubts about her life. It certainly applies to her, but maybe also universally: life here really seems to me like a strange pilgrimage. Strange in the sense that we can have no idea of the destination, in all likelihood there actually is no worthwhile destination. The story of humanity has so far been a story of irrational aggression, injustice and cruelty. We witness and are subject to random death, and any happiness here is transitory, brief, as are our lives. Our moment is so soon over. The world is a shocking, fearful experience, our dreams far exceed our capabilities. Irrational, hostile and narrow structures block our way in every direction. Moreover, these structures in themselves are not the deepest tragedy – that is the fact that it is ourselves that naturally create them: history is not only a crime, it is a punishment for a crime. Our capability for cruelty and injustice seems boundless, our panicky, fearful reflexes uncontrollable. And yet: there are the dreams, there are the hopes, the witnesses to crimes – a certain permanent innocence, abused surely, but still real. The limitless visions co-exist with the narrow and cruel reality where we have only luck and circumstance to protect whatever temporary warmth we have been able to create. Yet, the warmth, the possibility for the warmth is there in every moment. The landscape itself is ice cold and deadly dangerous but it has moments of great beauty and harmony. No doubt we shall never arrive to any true home, but surely the journey is fundamentally worthful.

I realize the image seems overly romantic: try to repeat this hopeful message to a person being endlessly tortured, to people with lives destroyed or permanently distorted. Only luck and circumstance protect us here. Even in the stable and rich West sickness, crime and relative poverty will eternally hunt for their victims - any family, any person is vulnerable. A romantic image yes, but it still does ring true, unsentimental: the tapestry is immense, the polyphony hardly comprehensible. Along with all the suffering and aggression, we do have much wisdom and mercy: they co-exist with torture, with lives destroyed and disfigured, and they do reach for justice, eternally, most often without power, of course, but hope and truth will even so exist even in the deepest torture chambers, even in the darkest moments. Every crime here is committed by every person, every act of kindness is universal to all. Maybe one day the balance will finally tip, and protection, warmth and justice will be established for all. This hope will always remain no matter what catastrophes we may yet encounter.

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