Jacques Lusseryran, in his autobiography And There Was Light, writes of his youth spent in the French Resistance movement during the Nazi occupation. When he was seventeen he became the leader of a group of young resistance fighters, which is surprising not only for his years, but for the fact that he had been blind since the age of seven. He was eventually arrested and taken to prison, and then shipped off to a concentration camp. One day in the camp, he experienced a tremendous, life-altering epiphany, a transcendence of such significance that he was to be completely changed for the rest of his internment and for the rest of his life. Two thousand of his fellow resistance fighters had been shipped to the camps and he was among the mere thirty who survived. A similar ratio existed for psychiatrist and writer Victor Frankl, who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, about his time spent in the concentration camps. Both books are tremendously illuminating, strangely uplifting.
Honor, goodness, love, charity, kindness shine with spectacular light against the backdrop of atrocity. The hero’s light often emerges when humanity’s light goes dim. Creativity is so often seeded during times of oppression.
Every soul who came into this world could claim to have lived during an age of atrocity. The world of man is rife with atrocity.
When I think of all of the beautiful writers who have inspired me, the mystics, the novelists, composers, painters, sculptors, architects, those who give their lives to work for the poor and the marginalized, those who never wrote but were written about: Jesus, Joan of Arc, Saint Francis, they could all claim to have been living through an age of atrocity. Shakespeare wrote through plagues, wars, crushing injustice, through heartless disparity between the wealthy and the poor.
Let us try and remember that those who came before us managed to continue to be creative, continued to give us beauty, continued to believe in goodness, justice, equality, believe in the inherent good of mankind through their period of atrocity.
If we believe that we are living through such a time, and of course we are, we always are, if, as I was saying, we are rightfully outraged by the news from Washington and from around the world, let us try and remember that beauty and creativity and goodness have never been driven from this world. Let us be reminded by those who gave us hope from other ages, that we mustn’t give everything of ourselves to the atrocity around us. We must reserve some of our energy for hope. Allow some room for transcendence. The great ones have always done so.
To return to France, the story of Joan of Arc is an allegory for every age. Joan, a sixteen-year-old peasant girl, believed that she had been chosen by God to lead the French army into battle to free France from England’s occupation in the mid-fourteen hundreds. Everyone knows this story, but the point I would like to bring up is the unlikelihood of the choice of the instrument for change. How could it be that an illiterate girl child, was destined to be the heroic savior of France?
Joan claimed to have heard the voice of God, many times, and almost as many times doubted the voice, doubted the wisdom of the choice of instruments. She finally harnessed enough courage to approach the exiled Dauphin Charles VII (the would be king of France), and speak to him of the voice that was urging her to lead the bedraggled French Army into battle to drive out the English.
Most of us, I imagine, do not see ourselves as heroes. But, if a sixteen-year-old girl can be button-holed to free a country, why not you? why not me?
Of course one thinks of the very unlikely Greta Thunberg, the now seventeen-year-old Swedish environmental activist, clearly chosen to lead the charge of the movement to save the planet. What a choice! But there is always wisdom behind these choices.
Time magazine, in their piece about Greta as the magazine’s person of the year reads, “She has Asperger’s syndrome, which means she doesn’t operate on the same emotional register as many of the people she meets. She dislikes crowds; ignores small talk; and speaks in direct, uncomplicated sentences. She cannot be flattered or distracted. She is not impressed by other people’s celebrity, nor does she seem to have interest in her own growing fame.”
This would appear the ideal personality to cut to the climate crisis chase. We’re tired of beating around that bush, we need direct, focused discussion, followed by immediate action to stop the planet’s current trajectory toward destruction.
I imagine most of us can relate to this urge to speak, the impulse to act. It often feels as if it has been planted in us, very much against our wills. It begins with the need to speak, to speak up, to speak up for the self, for another, for a cause. It won’t let us go, sometimes barely allows us to breathe it is so full of force, like a tremendous wind that grows and grows in strength, choking us until we burst out in voice against it, or for it, or for us, or for another, or for the earth.
Often, it seems, when a significant idea for change arrives in the global consciousness, it has been sifted through the minds of many people around the world before it takes root and eventually blossoms into action. The British scientist, Rupert Sheldrake, studies a phenomenon that he calls morphic resonance. He has conducted many experiments to prove something similar to Jung’s collective unconscious. If a group of rats in say, London, learns a new trick, a similar group of rats in Nairobi will learn the same trick with more ease after the group of rats in London have learned it. The reason, Sheldrake believes, is that memory is not stored in the brain, but in what he calls the morphic field, a field shared by everyone, every creature, every living being around the world.
This would imply that when we have a great, burning desire to, say, help our planet to be healed, or if we have ideas of how this might come about, or when we are taking small actions in this direction, we are seeding the morphic field with hope. We do not live in a vacuum, our hopeful thoughts resonate around the world. And, furthermore, we were all chosen, each of us chosen for this world, in these times. This is your time, my time.
I have to presume that our prayers also float throughout this field. My own join yours and so many other’s for the health of our good earth. Perhaps, whenever we pray for the planet, we are seeding change and healing. I pray this is true.
This would give each of us a vital role in the progress of life on earth: to seed the field, as have so many before us, to seed the field with hope.