Tuesday, May 1, 2007

words are tiny lights that guide the way

"And anguish knows no boundaries: a fierce current courses from South Central Los Angeles to South African townships, Sarajevo and Sebrenica to Khan Yunis and Gaza City. An undertone of horror echoes from women in Serbian rape camps, eyes and bodies taut with an unspeakable anguish, to deceptively ordinary American homes where someone whispers threateningly, "Don't tell."

"Don't tell." It has taken me a lifetime to begin to understand the ways in which such words corrode, crushing palpable lives beneath the stone weight of fear. But who are we if we cannot speak out about what we have undergone, learned, become? We are the stories we tell; our words map the spaces of home. Our experiences etch themselves into our faces, the lines of grief and joy becoming sharper with age; our lives timbered with a resonance underscored by the fragile bass note of sorrow. To remain silent is to deny the embodied selves that bear us, rooted stalks, into the world: to become complicit in our homelessness. It is to deny, as well, those other narratives that inhabit us - the people crushed by tanks or bombs or guns or simple despair, the eyes and hands and voices whose pleas bind us to our jointly human state." ~ Lisa Suhair Majaj

As I type these words I am listening to a song called "Condition of Desperation." Randy Porter sings, "Time stands still, pictures fade to black, feeling the chill, the wind tearing up my back. Running scared, the pavement moves so quickly. I know that you must agree the dream of possiblity of you and me is slipping through my fingers. So I sing this song for you. My heart's like a clown in a circus. Forever I will be trapped in this crazy condition of desperation, oh such a sweet sensation." This song being one of many songs about lost love.

There aren't as many songs about losing your voice to the threat of "don't tell." I wonder how many have heard these words that slip silently in the ears and root in the heart of the hearer. How many have never told and are still imprisoned by these terrible words? How many define themselves by the rough touch that leaves filthy fingerprints that water won't wash clean? My heart grieves for those that have lost their voices, lost their song, lost their hope.

I used to sleep with books as a child. I thrilled at learning the letters, reading the words aloud. It opened up a world of structure and order. A beginning, a middle, an end. My first real book, meaning longer than a few pages, was an ancient (to me) Hans Christian Anderson book. A collection of stories with beautifully illustrated pages scattered throughout. My dad brought it home from the base one day when we were living in England, I don't remember the occasion. I still have it. The fact that I still have it is a testimony to the treasure that it is. I love the sound the pages make when you feather the edges. I love the smell of printed pages, old and new. I love the way printed words give way to imagination. One can get lost in the pages. Time is inconsequential.

It is often through reading others' stories one can be inspired to live differently. To be inspired by stories of bravery and victory over impossible obstacles. Written words can unlock the heart of the writer as well as the reader. To give words to fear is to take away the power of silence. I wonder if that is the true definition of a writer. One who dares to speak into the dark night of fear. Those words are tiny lights that guide the way for others.

Isn't it amazing that the first words of the Bible are "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless, and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said "Let there be light and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from darkness." Genesis 1:1-4 The first words recorded in the Bible are God speaking light into being and separating it from darkness. Darkness was present in the beginning.

Words are powerful, they can destroy or heal. They can imprision or set captives free. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." John 1:1-5 Darkness only knows darkness. It does not understand the light. Where ever there is light - darkness is overtaken.

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