The long run

News coverage of Ramadi in Iraq, and of other conflagrations too, leaves me speechless. The scale of the destruction and devastation is flabbergasting and in company with millions, I’m sure, I leap to longing for a closure that’s probably unreachable for a long time to come. It’s not just the rebuilding of cities that will take years, but the restoration of communities, of families, of broken hearts, of hope and trust, and the long, long and painful coming to terms with permanently irreplaceable loss of life.

I’m thinking tonight of the author Kim Rosen about whose work I posted in early December. (Freedom Space). Where to turn when “closure” seems well nigh impossible? Kim wrote of the enormously significant facilitating role that poetry plays in bringing people of different positions and traditions together, in circumstances that many, perhaps most, would think unimaginable. Those exploring, reaching, yearning poetry readings came to mind earlier today whilst reading Clare Morgan:

Posing and describing a question
can be much more valuable in the
long run than finding a solution.
Its focus away from closure toward
exploration is very much in tune with
the mind-set poetry can facilitate.

Clare Morgan
What Poetry Brings to Business

Freedom space

I want to record gratitude today to UK MP’s debating air strikes in Syria. I have been deeply impressed by the quiet civility and respectful conduct of a 10 hour debate in which the only certainty is that there are no easy answers – whatever the outcome of the vote later.

I am chastened by thankfulness that I am not being asked to make a publicly documented decision, one way or another, that will have profound and far reaching consequences for millions.

Most ordinary citizens like me are not, and cannot be, sufficiently well informed to be able to imagine comprehensively what these consequences might be – even having observed horrors enough to create strong sense that “something must be done.”

Who do I want to make the difficult decisions though? What do I imagine can be done? Let me at least be profoundly grateful for those charged with grappling with such issues on my behalf  – decisions I don’t feel remotely qualified to take.

But let me not abnegate my personal responsibility towards peace in the world either. Ordinary hopes and longings for peace on earth are perfectly properly my – and our -shared business, contribution and responsibility.

Conversation is vital. Prose and poetry about our own hopes for peace must ultimately flow freely from the world’s biggest majority – that preponderance of “ordinary” lives, in human caring agencies, homes, leisure activities and workplaces in every nation on earth.

Author Kim Rosen writes of “freedom space”:

On a bombed-out street that was once a beautiful section of downtown Baghdad, a large tent was erected on August 28, 2006, in the midst of explosions and clashes. It was the first of many gatherings of poets in what came to be called the Freedom Space events. There, while Sunni and Shiite militias roamed the streets propagating terror, men and women from both factions gathered to speak poetry together. The Shiites sat opposite the Sunnis, as if it were a competition. But by the end of the event, they were embracing and dancing together because the poems from both sides voiced the same words, the same longings, the same wounds.

Kim Rosen
Saved by a Poem (see Miracle in Baghdad)

Wherever such “freedom spaces” flower the possibilities for hope in times of deep darkness survive even the absence of easy solutions. May there be times indeed when the world unites in “embracing and dancing together”.

A closing sentence today from the poet Donald Hall:

Poetry enacts our own losses so that we can share the notion that we all lose – and hold each other’s hand, as it were, in losing.