Afternoon shadows stretch from tree to tree, and I am sitting beneath their shelter. The radio thrums with the passion of Rachmaninov; my feet waggle automatically to my favorite passages.
Bliss . . . The concerto soars to its conclusion.
And then the news intrudes. From the sublime to the ridiculous? No, no―not ridiculous! Vicious. More and ever more, death is becoming a mordant and morbid exposition, an endless parade of phantasmagoria. From every quarter of the globe comes word of new atrocity, new frenzies of violence and hatred. From far-away, unpronounceable places, from our comfortable suburbs and, of course, at the bleakest cores of our communities, where despair so often spreads on a turbulent tide.
Anger spews from mouth to mouth, group to group to city to nation―and bursts like wildfire from the barrels of guns. Such pervasive violence, such undeclared, personal or group vendettas were virtually unheard of some decades ago, beyond the nation's battlefields―and not or never on such a scale as this.
We humans are a haunted race . . . .
But it has always been there, been here. Within us all. Christ said as much when He walked alongside us. He saw through the thin veneer of our inherent goodness, our presumed civility―saw how humanity behaves when the heat is turned up, when the pressure is turned on, when the "spigot" is turned off.
It is, now, "the best of times―the worst of times."
In a world of technological miracles and legislated manners, we still look in the mirror and see, shadowed as they are, the savages who dwell within us. We die for each other; we lay down our lives for each other―when we believe in Life.
We kill each other―when our souls have died, when we are afraid of death.
We do either, daily, in small ways, with a quick, instinctive impetus that either creates or destroys. All that we carry, all we have nurtured within us will tell its tale.
Violence. The children . . .
The faces of children are the hardest part. We want to gather up the little ones―the innocents, the real victims―gather them in our arms, shelter them, kiss their cheeks, rock them until the fear leaves their eyes.
Oh, the children! When, or if they grow up, they may well kill each other.
Jeremiah wept over Jerusalem long before Christ came to invade it with His wash of tears:
"’Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the Lord.
He went on talking to Jeremiah, to us: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."
Only beneath His cool shadow do we find surcease from our heated hearts and ways. Here upon this small and Spartan ranch there is a peace that can only be called luxury. Often during the days I remind myself of this privilege. And when the guilt for being here, for having this, engulfs me―and it sometimes does, when so many have so little―I walk out upon the meadow, where I can see for a great distance. It helps. I stand silent, overwhelmed with the pain I see, yearning over life upon this heated earth, willing such a peace as this upon the world.
Willing a Sabbath rest upon the world.
"Peace, peace . . . ." It will not come easily, such a Sabbath.
Above me the branches fidget lightly; their shadows dance easily, back and forth, across my outstretched legs. On the radio, the concerto rises and falls in its lessening and strengthening, like a turbulence of thunder . . . .
Like a fervent storm come down upon the airwaves.
Like a great and lovely storm, a cleansing.
This blog is an excerpt from Judith Deem Dupree's first non-fiction book, Sky Mesa Journal, which just released from Wipf and Stock Publishers.
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