We are all called: Responding to unspeakable violence

A heart shaped out of flames

Photo credit: http://morguefile.com/creative/mantasmagorical

Dear Pope Francis,

It has been a week marked by grief and sadness in Canada, the country where I live. In just one week we had two incidents where troubled individuals acted out in violence, taking the lives of two of our military. One attacked the seat of our federal government itself, Parliament Hill, in Ottawa. Since both attacks I have been grappling with how to respond. Grief and sadness can so easily lead to fear and anger.

Yet,  acting out of fear and anger may not be the best way to respond to unspeakable acts of evil. As with much in this life, I think the answer lies in mystery, in paradox. For, I think grief and sadness should motivate us to act out of love and openness, rather than shutting down and closing off in anger and fear. It’s not easy to do. I don’t even know if I’m capable of that.

I wrote the following poem as a way of working this out.

 

We Are All Called

By Kevin Aschenbrenner

 

We are all called.

We are all called.

In these nervous, anxious times

when fear and anger seem to be

our only options.

We are all called

to show up in the world

clothed in compassion and peace.

 

This is not easy,

and might seem like giving up,

giving in,

or even weak.

It might seem better, even sensible,

to choose fear and anger.

We’re protecting ourselves,

we could say.

We will not be intimidated,

we could say.

 

We could choose to fear the thoughts of others

before they even have them.

Or even act on them.

We can fear them just for thinking

thoughts we don’t like.

 

We could turn away from the troubled,

when they cry out for help

in ways we don’t understand,

thinking they’re not worth our time

or money,

especially our money,

and then react in disbelief and anger

when the troubled return our disinterest with violence,

the only way, it seems

to get us to listen.

 

Or.

Or.

We could realize

that we are all called.

We are all called

to be in the world

and see it for what it is

and not what we’d like it

or fear it

to be.

We are called to see the pain.

We are called to use our creativity

and put our heads and hearts together

to dream up better answers;

Because the ones we have now

are not life-giving

but life-taking.

 

We are called not to strike out in violence,

but pull in,

with embraces.

 

We are all called.

We are all called.

To show up in this world,

clothed in compassion and peace.

 

Please pray for us, Pope Francis, that we might respond with open hearts to a troubled world.

Your friend,

Kevin

2 Comments

  • Hi Kevin, I just found your blog through via Reverb14 and Shan’s Swirl Blog. Wow! I love this poem. It truly spoke to me this morning. Here in America we are dealing with so many divisive issues and so many people are hurting. Thank you for your words and your wisdom.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Christine. Really appreciate it and glad you liked the poem!

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