This Sad Wearing Away of the Heart
“I must have something in life which will fill this vacuum and prevent this sad wearing away of the heart.”- Elizabeth Blackwell
This was the quote today in my planner as I considered the tragedies both great and small, personal and global we are all dealing with. Within one week my Quaker meeting has lost two great souls. Both showed exceptional courage facing medical conditions that took their lives. One faced them all his life and the other faced them over a number of years.
I don’t have a television but the images on the internet and newspapers of the devastation in the Gulf states are almost beyond comprehension. How what was a glorified thunderstorm off the coast of Africa several weeks ago could transform into itself into what we have called Hurricane Katrina is beyond me.
I was planning on sending out the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq update from last week but it was simply too much bad news- a suicide bomber in our neighborhood; a friend of the team with typhoid from the drinking water in the city; the uncle of a colleague who died from the intense heat due to lack of electricity. It went on and on.
And then today the incredible tragedy on the bridge leading into Kadamiah in Baghdad. A solemn religious processional turned into chaos and death. An event that would not have happened had not the events of the last two and one half years driven almost everybody in Iraq to the edge of the precipice of uncontrollable fear.
Is there something in life that will fill this vacuum and prevent this sad wearing away of the heart? I have no idea but I do know that my heart feels differently when I consider the unknowable realms of disease and natural disaster compared to the man-made disasters that bring about death and destruction.
I say “man-made” intentionally. We have seen again and again in the last one hundred years the evolution of warfare to the point now when the first two parts of war that have been in play for centuries, that of middle-age men sending out young men to fight and die to keep the middle-age men in power, has added a third component. Still the young fight and die to retain the power of the middle-age men but now most of those who lose their lives in the conflict are women and children.
Four months ago the UN commissioned a study to look at Iraqi casualties since the beginning of the U.S. led invasion. The organization that undertook the study was a Swiss group that studies what they consider to be the true weapons of mass destruction- rifles and automatic weapons. Weapons using bullets have killed the vast majority of human beings in Iraq and everywhere else wars are being waged. The study stated that 40,000 Iraqis have probably died from violence since March of 2003. That includes death from U.S., Iraqi and insurgent violence. And 70% of those casualties were innocent non-combatants, mainly women and children.
The only “something in my life” I can hold onto is to do what little I can to bring about the creation of the Peaceable Realm of God. It is my sense that such a realm will always have natural disasters. It is the “man-made” disasters that we are called upon to bring to and end.