Sing Comfort to Me

Digital illustration: Wild Daisies 1Sweet is the Song

However cold and sharp the wind may be,

As wild and deep as darkness ever falls,

From utmost edges of the storm still calls

A song that stills, that draws and comforts me—

Though battles rage, the world in sorrow drowns,

And trials threaten life and hope and light,

That gracious call still guides me through the night

As long as I will listen to its sounds—

No danger is so great, no ill so dire,

Nor pestilence and terror so extreme,

That it cannot be mended by the stream

Of melody from that angelic choir—

Now when amid the depths of dark and pain,

I’ll listen for that heavenly refrain.Digital illustration: Wild Daisies 2

Fixity

“Why?” is a beautiful question, even though it terrifies most of us. A wise soul once said that the opposite of faith is not doubt but certitude. When we grow too attached to a belief and its perfect correctness, we disallow not only our own reexamination of that belief, which if it’s so perfectly correct should pose no threat to us and if it’s not, should allow us to become wiser and more faithful to our convictions; we also fail to show respect for the belief itself, if we are so fearful of its being exposed as wrong.

Standing fixed in a position of faith is only impressive if that belief can be defended in a calm, intelligent, reasonable conversation with someone who doesn’t yet share the same convictions. A shouting match or the refusal to discuss respectfully is as likely to convince and convert an unbeliever as punching someone in the nose is to prove that you’re smarter than she is if anyone’s questioned it. It’s more useful to ask, whenever any disagreement arises, whether one is genuinely defending one’s belief or just feels personally threatened. Egos so often get in the way of rational, logical conversation when we reflexively mistake the call for proof or persuasion of our beliefs for personal insults. It might be useful to remember that when someone asks for evidence of something we cherish as fact, we could give them the benefit of believing that they really want to know why we accept it as truth. A genuine discussion might actually lead to common ground.

It might also, if we let it, lead to greater insight on our own part. The dispassionate process of a logician is aimed not at debunking everything in sight but stripping away falsehoods and irrelevancies and fallacies to expose the facts in the matter. Truth can withstand all questioning. It trumps politics, rants, bullying, diversionary tactics, disinformation and pure human foolishness, if we dare to examine all of the input carefully and patiently and with respect for those who may have so far missed the mark. A reasoned and quietly stated truth will finally have more power than all of the smoke and mirrors that deniers propagate and cling to, or we will have to admit we’ve lost more than our own convictions.Digital illustration from photos + text: Zoanthrope

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

photoThe answer, if you haven’t already guessed it, is Nothing at All.

Except, that is the problem.

I saw pictures in this week’s newspapers of international leaders meeting in the Tuileries to discuss whether it would be a good idea to attack Syria in response to the country’s use of chemical weapons on its own citizens. The Tuileries, if you don’t already know it, are exquisite, bucolic, gorgeous, peaceful gardens in the City of Light, Paris. A park full of such prettiness and solace as you’d find in any fortunate, war-free spot in the privileged world. Where it wouldn’t seem out of place to have a gathering of polite, well dressed, well-fed people speaking in confident tones of insight and wisdom and deciding what would likely appear to be, if you were out of earshot, where to go for dinner and a nice glass of wine after the opera.photoExcept that this opera happens to be a particularly brutal one, from the chillingly despotic callousness of a leader and his henchmen willing to murder their own countrymen en masse to the remote offices, boardrooms, streets and parks where a multitude of other leaders and citizens of other countries debate whether to kill some more humans in order to redirect the battle. What’s wrong with this picture, from my view, is the frightening sense that unless all of those who think it their business to intervene in such a disastrous situation are willing and able to have these theoretical discussions in, say what was a pretty, bucolic park in Syria and now exists instead in the heart of its darkest hours and gravest danger, they will never likely have a realistic sense of the probable consequences, good or bad, of any choice for the people ‘on the ground’, their fellow humans, and of course, ultimately for themselves.

Until we Americans have something of this literal kind of skin in the game, as it were, I can’t imagine how we can expect to do any right thing in such a situation, and I sense that this same problem might well apply to many other relatively safe, privileged nations and their leaders and citizenry. I would hope that reason and logic and wisdom will prevail no matter what is decided, or how, or by whom. But more than that, I hope that the tide worldwide will turn toward resolutions of all troubles and trials through some more honest, unselfish, patient and wholesome means that leaves all parties with at least the possibility of sitting at peace in any quiet and lovely place, eventually.photo