I may regret this post. I believe only once in the four years of this blog have I ever posted anything political.
At the moment, though, my country the United States of America, is causing a genocide and atrocities have already been reported. We have let down and made vulnerable an ally that has protected our soldiers, taken hits for them and us and has guarded a heinous and ruthless worldwide enemy. Our soldiers have relied on the Kurds, have befriended, taught and learned from them and have now been ordered to step away while watching helplessly as they are slaughtered by Turkish forces.
Anger, shame and my own sense of helplessness preoccupies me that the US has gone down this depraved path of allowing the massacre of those who protected us.
At times like this books, the words I cherish, are often my place of refuge, rest from my own troubles as well as those outside myself and where even for a moment I can hide before tackling the stresses I know are waiting. But today the ugliness, the disappointment of this country’s brutal failure as a leader in the world and the sheer impotence of anything I could possibly do to help, has overwhelmed me. No book is a solace right now. No author’s imaginary world feels safe, if even for a moment.
But still, this is what I do. I DO expect someone wiser than me among the myriad of my books, spines straight with contents that span the ages to have something for me. So, I stand in front of my bookshelves demanding something to reach out to me, to help me find direction, healing or some sort of inspiration, hoping my neighbors or anyone walking by can’t hear, “Books, say something. Books, speak to me.”
Finally, Mary Oliver answers. I shuffle through a collection. This poem does the trick, for now. As great as she is it only feels like a temporary healing, but that is worth something.
The Buddha’s Last Instruction
“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal — a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire —
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.
Make of yourself a light, Laurie. That is all you can do.