For Ourselves, Our Nation

By Glenda | January 10, 2011

One becomes, perhaps, and correctly so, speechless in the face of such enormous events as occurred in Arizona this weekend. After the stillness, though, I look to the words of wise ones from my memory and from my library to fill my thoughts and guide my own speech and actions. Here are some of them:

From “The Evil One,” a talk given by Jeffery Russell at a conference Facing Evil: “First, to avoid doing evil, we should avoid being allured by abstractions. Democracy, socialism, national security, women’s liberation, free enterprise, Christianity, right to life, communism, Zionism: the list of causes is endless. The question here is not whether one or another of these causes may be good or bad. The point is that to allow any cause (however good its intent or appearance) to encourage us to hurt individuals or to fail to help individuals, is the greatest cause of evil in the world.”

From Barbara Jordan, former Congresswoman from Texas: “We must be ever vigilant in our actions, for fear we may perpetrate an act of cruelty or an evil notwithstanding our intent.”

From Eugene C. Kennedy, The Pain of Being Human,: “Suppose, as can happen so often, the situation is completely out of your hands; there is nothing you could do even if you wanted to. For example,there are heart-rending moments of waiting in hospital corridors and doctors’ offices while somebody you love is beyond your words or your touch; they exist for the moment in that hazy atmosphere of unnecessary sickness or uncertain diagnosis where you cannot go yourself no matter how much you ache to do so. There are times when all we can do is wait with those we love, wait for the words we are afraid to hear, or for the decisions we wish did not have to be made. These are the times when we are laid bare as persons, when our interior substance or lack of it beomes plain in the charged space where all distractions fail, when we must face the unknown–with someone we love–as best we can. In these moments we have to tame our restlessness and let our pride die…This is precisely the time when our loved ones need us; not what we can do or say, but just us, as we are, with them through the long hours when it may take effort to keep our courage from collapsing with the next deep breath. This is the time when we learn to pray again, when we dig deep inside ourselves for the sincerity we might have forgotten. This is the moment of truth–when we learn whether we have guts, or character, or if we have ever learned anything about love. We only appear to be doing nothing. We are really doing the most important thing of all.”

From “That Which Lives After Us,” a talk given by Maya Angelou at a conference Facing Evil: “Each person in this room has gone to bed with fear or loss or pain or distress–grief–at some night or another. And yet each of us has awakened, arisen, made whatever ablutions we chose to make or could make. Then, seeing other human beings, we said, “Good morning, how are ya?” “Fine thanks, and you?” Now wherever that lives in us–whether it’s in the bend of the elbow, behind the kneecap–wherever that lives, there dwells the nobleness in the human spirit. Not nobility. I don’t trust the word. It think it’s pompous. But the nobleness is in the human spirit. It is seen in the fact that we rise to good, we do rise..”

An excerpt from “A Prayer for Our Country,” from The Book of Common Prayer: “Almighty God…Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home…”

From Rilke’s Book of Hours: “I thank you, deep power that works me very more lightly in ways I can’t make out…”

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