Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Thus we find ourselves endless in our grief from this stabbing to the heart in South Carolina. As we all know, the Black Church has always been the center, the heart of the community, where men and women could feel safe amongst a sea of troubles and hatred. This is where generations could gather not just to worship but to feel a fellowship with one another, where they could feel the heat of life from one another, where they could unload their burdens, lean on one another, find the strength to go on despite a heaviness of mind and body.
Those demons who trouble our sight, who live in darkness and are deaf to the righteous, will perhaps always linger amongst us in the shadows, their beastly glares a nightmare with no awakening. Their minds torn apart by thoughts without redemption, they stumble through their desperation full of the bile of the truly wicked. I see no salvation for them and no way to forgive them for what they have done and will continue to do.
Another poet, the late Zbigniew Herbert, wrote: “I turn to history to confront my experience with the experience of others and to win for myself a sense of the responsibility for the state of the human conscience.” At this time all I can ask is how anyone of conscience can turn a blind eye to recent events in South Carolina. When I think of those now gone, those who believed they were going to spend the evening in their beloved church devout in their bible study, I can only wonder how any of us can reconcile our lives of hope and goodwill to others with what happened to them.
All that was uniquely personal and proper to their being is now gone. How deeply we as human beings and as societies should value what is sacred to us, the human life that we share with our fellow travelers. When this life is taken in such horrific circumstances, it wrenches us from our very footing.
What are we to make of what happened in connection with what we say about the universal value of inclusiveness that should be the bedrock of all civilized people? The testimony of the blood in South Carolina presents us all with a challenge, certainly, but also with an opportunity to explore further just how far the principles of peaceful coexistence will carry us. Just how far any metaphor can stretch us into the mystery of loss is something that now eludes meaning for me.
At this moment, calls for prayer and forgiveness seem so foreign, almost distasteful, to my palette. This is not the time to roll over. We are facing the demon who is intent on staring us down and then devouring us. Men and women of conscience are up against the most joyless, the most bitter, the most isolating and separating forces of life as we know it. These forces have now violated our space, our center. We have felt the wind from their wings of madness.
Within all this rawness, we wonder how we will ever transform our grief and fear for the future. A deep sadness for all those taken looms heavily. An additional sadness hovers over the shock that such an abomination could happen in our country, even though we’re all well aware of the vile hatred that has woven itself so deeply through all of our society.
Although our own individual concerns are as mortal as we are, these past few days have reminded us that in some events, as in some lives and in some deaths, we seek something larger that will transcend the evil of one deranged young man with a gun. I cannot find it at this time, though. There are simply no words of consolation, no prayers that will bring the innocent back to life, no real hope that such senseless killing will not reoccur. There is only this heavy sadness. I fear that something even more foreboding has been loosed upon our lives … “a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,” in Yeats’ words.
If I were the praying type, I would pray that I am wrong. I am not the praying type, though. As for being wrong, it is in the wellspring of my tears, unfortunately, that I do not think I am.