A week ago, I met (online) with my writer group. My contribution to our peer review process was more of my Psalm Flights (believe it or not, I’ve now written poetry on over half the psalms!). One of the poems I shared with them I had already shared here. One line from the poem generated some interesting discussion which is now dovetailing for me with current events. That line is “harmonizing with history.”
In our discussion, the question arose about how “harmonizing” fits in with “haloing” and “harrowing.” The first two seem, in the poem, to be echoing the painful reality of the coronavirus. But how is the coronavirus “harmonizing” with history? The issue for my readers was the presumed positive connotations of “harmonizing.” It’s true that the primary definition of “harmonize,” per Merriam-Webster, is “to bring into consonance or accord.” But another definition is “to cause (two or more things) to be combined or to go together in a pleasing or effective way.” It is that “effective” way that I was indicating in my poem.
It’s true that the idea of COVID-19 being in harmony with history is not pleasing—but it is true. There have been plagues throughout human history, which have repeatedly infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands. Thus, this recurrence of pandemic is harmonizing with the rhythm of pandemics throughout human history. It’s not pleasing, but it’s accurate.
As I write this, Minneapolis is experiencing multiple days of riots and violence in response to the death of George Floyd. As we watched a police station burn on television, I asked Henry if he felt a sense of hopelessness during the Watts riots in 1968 (at four years old, I was way too young to know such a thing was happening). He said it’s difficult to remember his feelings from such a long time ago, but he thinks yes, he did.
History has this horrible habit of repeating itself. Plagues and racial violence recur because—well, it’s not always easy to get to the root of why. Sometimes it’s obvious: A virus encounters a new population or mutates into something for which humans have no resistance, and spreads like wildfire until resistance develops. Sometimes it’s not so obvious: In a time when the study of our DNA reveals that we are 99.9% identical, how is it possible that we continue to deny we are all ONE human race?
Some days, it’s difficult to find hope in the future of the one human race. It’s challenging to have faith when the harmonizing of history is horrible. But I will keep persevering. Today, I find a small measure of hope in two things. The first is Jesus’ clear commandment to love one another—period. No excuses, no exceptions. The second is well expressed in the poetry of Rumi:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
Where are you finding hope today?