Tuesday, March 17, 2015

turn the shadows into light

We were in the car on the way to the grocery store, the home depot store, or some store we weren't really sure about. Dad knew where we were going, and all we knew is that eventually we would run whatever necessary errand he had in mind, and then drive home. We were shopping for new mosquito lamps for our rooftop. I remembered seeing them running out earlier, someone commenting on how their stubby little wicks were now drowning in oil.

In the car, someone mentioned how helpless we ought to feel: clueless little citizens, living our daily, hum-drum lives, out of the public eye, seemingly powerless in the face of the world powers that be.

And she piped up: no, we're not.

I've been watching Homeland recently. [I've been watching too much Homeland recently, leading me to re-examine my Lenten practices.] Besides Clare Danes' marvelous performance, which is essentially a master class in acting, the story is captivating--in the somewhat the same way Zero Dark Thirty is. It is chilling and thrilling to see the people who are "in power." We are all fascinated by Inner Rings, and CIA Covert Operations is the inner ring of all inner rings. Nor does it stop there, as stories unfold, we learn there are even inner rings inside that (!). Knowledge is power; thus the easiest , most fool-proof power move is to hold your cards close to your chest, and not reveal your knowledge to others. Excluding others from knowledge is also power.

But, our Homeland protagonist Carrie is not our hero because she has the most access to power. Although, certainly, she is a bona fide, die-hard inner ring-er, most of her power comes from her insistence on doing good. She, and our other supporting protagonists, derive their special brand of fearless power from their continued efforts to do the right thing.

Perhaps, the pursuit of goodness is a power unto itself. A power that those who truck in the trade of knowledge cannot really ever match.

In his lyrical novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera writes that it is the ordinary lives of men and women who have lived, borne children into the world, and died that is responsible for the world being as good as it is.

Perhaps he did not write it. I thought I read it on those pages, but as I flipped back through them, the ink seems to have evaporated right off the page. Perhaps I only dreamed them. But if you scan through the first book of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, perhaps you will find them, too.

Wherever they are written, these words contain the secret power of the good. That The Good--or just maybe The Ordinary--are the ones who shape the world, for better or for worse. That they make up the iron heart of the world that beats independent of those in power. There may be the few forgers, who play at molding the metal into what they can make of it. But it is truly the women and men who seek each day to put bread in their mouths and the mouths of their children who are the foundation of the world. And there is power in that, simply because it's true.

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