But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.
~ Pope Francis (from his speech to Congress last week)
This is a very crappy photo I took six years ago, from my now ex husband’s apartment just a couple weeks after we had separated. He moved into a tall ugly building that resembled a computer chip but commandeered amazing views of Highland Park. So early one evening when I dropped off our children at his place I took this photo through the wall of windows which revealed such splendor… but you couldn’t open them. Perhaps that was the trade off for such a view? I captured the sun fading above the empty reservoir (so many contradictions, windows that won’t open, dry reservoirs) and silhouetted hills of what was now just my neighborhood. Sometimes loss feels like this to me. The isolation of returning to a big empty home in the dying light. You know it is going to get darker as night approaches and it can feel interminable waiting for the sun to rise again.
I had something particularly evil happen to me not too long ago and, to be honest, it has crushed me. In all fairness, I was pretty broken to begin with but I really could have done without this latest atrocity. I realize that an aspect of my personality that is rather trying to those who love me is that I enter this downward spiral where I relentlessly question. I drive myself crazy trying to understand why. What could compel this person to hurt me so and how can they not understand how hurtful what they did was. The quote from Pope Francis makes me think of this quote by Solzhenitsyn.
“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil. “
Though I prefer the quote from Pope Francis because it seems softer. Although, Solzhenitsyn’s quote is from The Gulag Archipelago so maybe it shouldn’t be soft. I’m a bit all over the place with this post… But I think of something Stephen Colbert said about his mother and try not to get bitter. I can be broken but I never want to be bitter. And I have to believe in the glimmer of good that’s within every human heart, even those that do horrible crimes. And surely, at some point, as Cheryl Strayed says, there is a reckoning. And maybe that is when such hardened hearts soften and weep. And then we’re all forgiven. I pray that’s the case.