There is blood and there is blood – this is something I’m quite sure about. They are like two different substances. There is the blood of war and the blood of peace. The sad thing is that the one drags the other into its sphere. And yet, as much as it is misused, the blood of peace can never be destroyed. It is the one which is constantly renewing.
I sometimes wake up in the morning – especially a Monday morning – and wonder what there is to get up for. There is news of murders – far away or near – and of wars. It has rained all night. And yet the birds outside are joyful – jubilating in the softened earth and the fresh rainfall. How is it possible they can exist in the same world as ours, with its warfare and hatred? They are selfless creatures – literally selfless – bearing a soul but no ego. I almost wish we could go back to that state.
But then a strange thing happens. The self in me – contemplating how swallows can spend an entire season in the air without sleep – grows peaceful. I feel something renewing itself in me, in my blood. It is some sort of covenant, but not the old one of tribes and religions. It is the complete answer to the self who does not want to get up. It contains the birds and is more than them – it can lift the sky.
Then, after that, it is not good enough any more to talk about ‘our shared values’ being the right ones and other tribes or ethnic groups or even terrorists being evil. Yes, evil exists within that configuration but it is not the prerogative of any groups or individuals. It lies wherever the blood of war is stirring.
Perhaps this is easy to say when I am not the one who has to bear the burden of solving the problems. I don’t have to prevent the murderers from acting or pick up the pieces afterwards. But funnily enough – in very strange moments – I feel that I am almost looking out at the world through the eyes of those terrorists. Just as fact, not as judgement. And likewise I am the victim who feels the knife slash or the bomb explode.
I think if we are honest we can accept that the blood of peace and the blood of war exist within us as individuals. They are like two different circulations – literally two different substances. The one – the blood of peace – is always free but not in the militaristic sense of borders and security forces and ‘our way of life’ (however necessary that might seem). It is a different covenant. You know it when it happens because suddenly a desperately dull and depressing day is transformed by something moving within you – perhaps symbolized by the birds never needing rest. Previously you were the terrorist stalking his victim, and the victim himself. Now the world has grown larger – a new self is stirring and rising, beyond ‘mine and yours’, ‘my values and theirs’, ‘what we believe in and the evil that is attacking us’. I accept that this will seem hopelessly woolly and unrealistic to ‘frontline defenders’ or anyone around them. But the strange thing is that the blood of peace can just as easily flow through the veins of a soldier – on any side. It’s not a matter of one set of beliefs or another. But it is a question of accepting in its fullness the self which the birds have not been privileged to receive.
What world do I rise to every morning
with news of murders far away, and wars,
while the birds outside my window delight
in softened earth and the fresh fall of rain?
What is blood that it corrupts and gutters,
ennobles, purifies, turns men tribal
or selfless? And all in the one same world
where swallows spend a season without sleep?
And if those flawless creatures without selves
infuse the day with song and flight and grace,
then how much more should I forget my self
and lift the skies again to their blue heights?
But then perhaps the wars are in my blood
and echo with their fusillades in here
where my new self is not yet fully born
and the old stands steeped in pride of portion:
my land, my name, my caste – who shares is mine,
the same as me and we will stand as one.
Does half my blood say this, attracting fire
from tribes no more developed than my own?
I wish we’d be like birds to lose those selves!
The other, the self of peace, stands there too -
a different kind of blood flows through his veins:
fluid as wings, soft as feathers; in song.
Best wishes, today,
Picture: Pallas Athena statue, Vienna, Photo by Yair Haklai
©Jay Landar 2013. All rights reserved
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