Because I know you and you know me.
Because here is a space where we collect hope.
Because here an ugly body is beautiful.
Because we can speak of God as she, and as Uighur.
Because I cannot be silent.
Because on the 4th of July brothers are indefinitely detained.
Something has to be done to correct history. Our friendship ought to mean something real enough to one day become common sense. Don’t you agree that if we can begin to invest in each other emotionally, or have the courage to think with each other boldly, out loud, that we can become founders of the future?
No, a plague has not fallen on our two houses-God and Creation. One day, history will absolve the crisis of despair and ecological devastation. I am more convinced of this having finished Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Tolstoy elevates the role of writer into the chair of historian in his account of the Franco-Russian wars of the 19th century. Only the great writer, he argues convincingly, is the one who can convey the most of an event without speaking about it. To do this, he employs three aristocratic families and fourteen hundred pages full of perspectives.
He may be turgid in his philosophical sections, but the repetition does have an awakening affect on the reader as he weaves in the further strands of narrative. For instance, as I relived the invasion of Moscow, I could grasp better the view of an Iraqi in the midst of Operation Freedom. Tolstoy’s account of Pierre’s rescue of a girl from a fire brought back how the Baghdad archives were ransacked, the purity of truth pillaged. His subsequent capture and witnessing of an execution by fire squad has triggered my conscientious objection to extrajudicial killings by drone warfare. A novelist does have the power to produce such awakenings as no mere scientist of history can.
Tolstoy aims to bring the reader into not the experience but into the reality of God. To do so, he repairs on the notion of a history of consequences made by a hero. All the masses must consent for the will of the hero to be made plain, and all the circumstances and all the relationships must align with the purpose of all the people. He gives a stencil analogy of how God only allows to be the purposeful:
…just as in stencil-work one figure or another is sketched, not because the colours are laid on this side or in that way, but because on the figure cut out in stencil, colours are laid on all sides.1365
By God’s design we have hero’s and heroine’s of history. I agree that Tolstoy should be considered a hero because he contributes hope to my world view. His character Natasha suffers a painful loss after nursing a dying fiancé for several weeks. All has gone numb within her when the family receives news of her young brother’s death. Her mother is stricken with heartbreak and Natasha finds a way to console her:
“A spiritual wound that comes from a rending of the spirit is like a physical wound, and after it has healed externally, and the torn edges are scarred over, yet, strange to say, like a deep physical injury, it only heals inwardly by the force of life pushing up from within.
“So Natasha’s wound healed. She believed that her life was over. But suddenly her love for her mother showed her that the essence of her life—love—was still alive within her. Love was awakened, and life waked with it.” 1230, War and Peace
Natasha could be said to be in recovery from vicarious trauma, a topic we will address Friday at the White Rose Roundtable. Her wound may be invisible but the suffering is deeply real, all but eclipsing her ability to love. I know that I personally am indebted to the compassion of this Kairos community for supporting me through my imprisonment. Even as I adjust back into life at the White Rose I have hope of being present to each of you. Realistically, becoming fully present to you will take some time and I count on your patience with me. Finally, I write for this blog because I feel safe to share, and because when I am out of character you correct me with love.
War and Peace increases my conviction that our two houses—God and Creation—do not suffer the fate of a plague. For Tolstoy reminds us that love will wake within us. Though I see about me ecological devastation and beg forgiveness for despairing, the essence of my life pulses with longing for the wholeness meant to be. Tolstoy corrects the idea that history itself is the active agent of change, instead widening the aperture of our outlook to include understanding of God at work. In history, the pattern of God’s will does become apparent. If sometimes it is to much for me to imagine that we masses co-create the destined Ecosystem of God, then sensing beyond what I can see affords me hope. When I see Rehema and Bethany playing in our backyard, I buy into the prophet Jeremiah’s vision of a new heaven and a new earth. Rehema celebrates her birthday Saturday, allelujah!
1) The book Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others presents a test applicable for the kairos community:
“Identify the members of your microculture. To what degree do they nurture hopefulness, accountability, and integrity? Think about whether you could use stronger role models in any of these areas.” 187 Trauma Stewardship
2) How do you consume hope on a daily basis?
“All the lives this place
has had, I have. I eat
my history day by day.”
--From History by Wendell Berry