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Falling into darkness … and, finding ourselves



It has been so hard to watch the events unfolding in Gaza and not fall into the ease of a hardline approach on one side or the other of any one particular event before having all the information, watching our world leaders as they do so. We are witnessing entrenched distrust, fear, and hatred ripping two countries further apart from one another, the destruction and violence growing day by day. The images are harrowing. The agony, palpable. The sorrow, immeasurable.

To anyone who loses their life in this war, or someone they loved, there is a futility in looking for a tyrant to blame for blowing up that once-beating heart? It is gone. Forever. It cannot be returned, revived. It will only ever be a tragedy whether before or after a protagonist is proven. And what difference will that knowledge make other than the provision of more fuel for the fires of hatred destroying a people, each of whom was born into a disappearing hope? No heart will be mended with that knowledge. No pain appeased. Anger may grow, but what is the value of that in the morning? It changes nothing. Sorrow grows with or without information, clarity, or blame. Sorrow, heavy, and carried in the arms of the bereaved or dragged behind them for years, decades, millennia.


As I read the news this morning, I imagined being there, standing with, and facing off. An allegiance. A defiance. Arm in arm. Face to face. And I remembered the power of that darkness we each share, a commonality that might weave hearts together, if we would only have the strength to let go, have the courage to fall into it. Face to face. Eyes into eyes. Staring into the black centre we each own, the vulnerability and strength of which we might share with one another.


It was planned.
I knew what I was getting into;
I just hadn’t been prepared
for the cost,
the intensity of the darkness –
black, black, black –
an endless pit of invisibility.

I mean, obviously,
it was going to be black;
I knew that going in.
But the depths were unexpected,
the feeling of falling
into vulnerability,
losing my own identity
in that sea of unnameable darkness.

It was intense.

After sinking into it for,
I don’t know,
maybe a minute,
I could feel that smile –
the one that foreshadows tears –
widen over my face.
Less than a few seconds
before my cheeks streamed
a river of disbelief,
caught in my own vulnerability,
gazing deep into your eyes,
the black pools of you
– you –
– you –
gazing back into me.


An impossibility emerged as I imagined the above poem into being: World leaders calling those in conflict with one another to form two rows – in this conflict, one a nation, the other a people. It is demanded that they stand face to face, one person to another, the line as long as necessary, leaders standing before one another, their soldiers and civilians streaming out like a cresting wave alongside.

No words.

No weapons.

Only one courageous rule of engagement: look into the eyes of the other. Put as much effort into the struggle to hold that gaze as you would into holding your ground in battle. Just hold your gaze. Only your eyes, loaded with the truth of who you are locked on the truth of the other. Only the endless pools of your eyes falling into the liquid black of the other; into the depths of the humanity you share. Could we then dare put an end to such wonder?

Unsplash photos credit from top: Ramsha Asad; Luke Braswell; v2osk; Levy Meyer Clancy; Infinity Loops.
The Rev. Gretta Vosper is a United Church of Canada minister who is an atheist. Her best-selling books include With or Without God: Why The Way We Live is More Important Than What We Believe, and Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief. She has also published three books of poetry and prayers. Visit her website here and her Blog here.
Unsplash photos credit from top: Ramsha Asad; Luke Braswell; v2osk; Levy Meyer Clancy; Infinity Loops.

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