Journal entry excerpt from The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley. Last ones, I promise! I returned the book a few days ago. :-)
I read this and it just struck a chord. Maybe it's because not many days
before this, I had been thinking of the "human condition" while sitting on my porch reading about struggles in Vietnam and elsewhere in the world. (Those travel books can really get to you when you start seeing "the enemy" as human beings!) It was so weird
seeing those exact words written in this journal entry in this
particular book. I can relate much to the author's sentiments here and in the
final entry on this post. Only instead of Kosovo (Kosova to Albanians; the spelling is a political statement and both are used in the book), my heart was
left in Syria. I always wanted to go back, but now it seems nearly
TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2001
... I remember a letter my brother, David, wrote me not long ago - a
long thoughtful letter about the futility of most human efforts to
improve things. Humanity evolves at its own speed, he says, and we are a
long way away from being anywhere close to goodness, kindness, peace.
He worries, I think, that with all the renewed violence in the area, I
am discouraged, unhappy with our decision to come here. Maybe, he
thinks, I have become cynical. After all, things look less stable now
than they did when we arrived eight months ago.
It is true that after seeing what I have seen, learning what I have
learned, I am less hopeful than ever about our human condition. I doubt
we can ever straighten ourselves out. World peace is only a dream. The
most we can do, I fear, is to prevent violence in some places, put a lid
on it in others, help each other when we can.
But in the place of hope I now feel ... something else. I look around
me and see that most of us share a certain sweetness. Most of us are
trying to live decent lives, doing what we can for our families and
children, trying to find some meaning, to piece together the puzzle. But
we keep blundering, stumbling, falling into fits of rage and fear,
hatred and self-destruction. Our stories are often sad, tragic,
maddening. And I am not hopeful that things will get much better. I
don't see progress, but I don't feel cynicism. I feel only an immense
tenderness for all of us.
Tonight, as I have often done during my stay in Kosovo, I turn to a copy of
The Sun, the magazine published by my friend, Sy. In an
interview, James Hillman advises us to "pick one place where your heart
can connect to the world's problems."
For me, that place has been Kosovo. I am so very lucky to have found it.
Do you think Ms. Huntley's outlook on humanity or the world is too
pessimistic, too optimistic or about right? Do you think the world is
getting better, worse or staying the same? In what areas do you see
progress? In what areas do you find cause for concern?
What do you think of the "immense tenderness" she feels for people? Do you also feel this way or do you tend towards cynicism or something else entirely?
What do you think about her observations of people sharing a "certain sweetness" and just trying to provide for their families and figure out this puzzle of life?
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2002
...So, we will return this spring. ... When I e-mailed them of the
possibility of returning for a visit, Leutrim and Leonard wrote back
immediately volunteering to try to round everyone up for a class reunion
at the Cambridge School. And Genti wrote: "We wonder why anyone would
come back to Kosova. We think you must love us very much." (pg. 225)
Thoughts? Where has your heart connected to the world's problems? Or
maybe it's not necessarily a particular place, but a cause or a group of
people scattered throughout the world or in your own country.
Anything you want to share?