For love of Paris and a more compassionate world (Part 2)

Pont-Neuf, by Olivier Dulieu

Impressive 21st-century technological advances notwithstanding, we have no reasons at present believe our modern global version of the Tower of Babel is about to crumble and then reconstruct itself any time soon. Terrorists, warlords, and state governments alike would do best to include within their strategic plans sufficient measures of sanity beyond the impulses to attempt to coerce each other into unlikely forms of submission.

Different values and worldviews do not have to mean inevitable violence or conflict. They can mean greater enrichment of each other’s lives. Leadership theorist Max De Pree wrote as truthfully as anyone has when he stated, “We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion” (Leadership is an Art). That holds true in modern times whether you propose to be a leader of young malleable individuals eager to become catalysts for positive change or of more established groups dedicated to securing a specific legacy. What matters, above all else, is that everybody matters.

Diversity is an aspect of human existence that cannot be eradicated by terrorism or war or self-consuming hatred. It can only be conquered by recognizing and claiming the wealth of values it represents for all. The situation would be quite different if the violent extremism which has come to characterize anarchistic terrorism and government-sanctioned warfare actually resolved anything. The problem is they do not. Advances are claimed on one front and then annihilation — physical, mental, and spiritual — witnessed on another. Global poverty, disempowering illiteracy, health crises, and human trafficking linger like the ultimate toxic nuclear radiation. The hearts of infants beat their last, blood dries on abandoned corpses, and souls take their leave of now useless broken bones.

Of Love and Bridges

The 13th-century Sufi mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi, whose poetry in Persian has been translated into superb English versions by the 21st-century American poet Coleman Barks, told us that “Love is the bridge between you and everything.” Those are marvelous words to contemplate when struggling to make sense of the avoidable carnage in Paris, Syria, Nigeria, Mali, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Equally marvelous to contemplate is the confluence of sensibilities that has bypassed time, space, and nationality to make Barks’ name virtually synonymous with that of Rumi’s.

Paris in particular is known in part for its many bridges and is legendary as a place that evokes mesmerizing creative expressions of love, in both the greatest of artists and the most ordinary men and women. However, if the idea of loving those whom you have been taught to recognize as your enemies is too overwhelming, consider more deeply the likelihood that we are all much more alike than we are unalike.

Individual cultures and ideologies have their appropriate uses but none of them erase or replace the universal experiences common to all human beings. What civilization does not contain within its histories tales of sons, daughters, husbands, and wives who have been lost to conflict, and whose deaths left gaping voids that could be filled with nothing but grief? In what land do people not hope that the coming New Year will bring with it fewer reasons to bow before fear or despair and greater inspiration applied to an empowered sense of hope and dignity? The more healing options do not have to be dragged into a disposal bin designed for unrealistic dreams and desires.

A Messy and Complicated Concept

The four letters that spell out the word “love” — or five (amour) in French, seven (Кохання) in Ukrainian, or six (upendo) in Swahili — can indeed add up to a messy and complicated concept. Nevertheless, whatever danger it (love, amour, Кохання, upendo) might pose to human existence is far less fatal than strapping bombs next to one’s heart as if they were newly earned wings. Nor is it more lethally addictive than the apparent rush that comes from investing billions in war machines and prisons instead of committing the same to much-needed medical research and education programs.

Consider that pain and bewilderment at some point in the course of individual lives knocks people sobbing to their wretched knees no matter where those lives may have originated. Consider that universal agonies, common challenges, and simple human dignity make each of us worthy of some degree of compassion.

Imagine that the strength and resources which may be claimed through communication and reconciliation are far greater and much more sustainable than any likely to come from ignoring everything that binds the fate of one to that of another. The acknowledgement of a single possibility can change everything. It can heal a wounded city like Paris or restore humankind’s faith in what is best within us all.

Aberjhani, co-author Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance and of Elemental The Power of Illuminated Love

@ 20 November 20, 2015 Bright Skylark Literary Productions