"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Human Condition

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 impossible.


... 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.
  (pg. 210)

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?


...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?


Wafa said...

We don't have a choice, we have to be optimistic or else go on crying, yelling and complaining while more people are dying and in constant famine.

We can be optimistic for a bit from time to time but we need to stand up and do it again. Or you can let your mind believe so while your heart and soul are always optimistic.

I honestly don't know if the world is getting better or worse, but more people are dying while their death is avoidable and lots of us don't care or don't want to do anything anymore.

I wish that the day would come when i detached from everything in this world and do nothing but helping the poor and the sick :(

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Unknown said...

I'm amused that this guy comments anonymously even though he apparently has a blog...on blogger, even. Whatever.

I think her outlook is about right. My grandma complains that the world keeps getting worse, but I don't think so. We know more about it now, we have the news constantly telling us how much suffering is going on. But I don't actually think it's worse. When would you rather live, today or during the black plague? It's not that the world is getting worse or better, it's that bad things have always been able to happen in it, and some times and places just happen to have it worse than others. It's not a sign of the end times, like my pastors taught me, it's just us becoming aware of the suffering that has always happened.

I'd also agree with her tenderness and sweetness comments. I think understanding that about people is an important part toward making friends out of enemies, and maybe helping to stop some of the suffering.

Susanne said...

Wafa', that's a lovely goal! I wish for that as well. Thank you for sharing that.

Susanne said...

Sanil, yes, the history of the world has some pretty awful things. Good point. We just know about things faster now because of technology. Thanks for your feedback!

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