How the Light Gets In

I am sick at heart.  The American electorate has besmirched the dignity of so many people by casting its lot with those who spew hateful invective, with a candidate who cannot and will not acknowledge the full humanity of those he seeks to lead.

Only a few days ago I wrote about reading and empathy. I still believe that reading widely lays the groundwork for empathy and respect. But I do not know how to reach those who will not read the stories of others.

“There is a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in,” wrote Leonard Cohen. In dark times light is all the more necessary. And so, while we take the measure of what we can do to move forward—how we can best use our time and talents as citizens in service to our fellow human beings—people will still make art and music and poems and novels. We need our artists, and I think we need every space we can get to share hope, build understanding, and renew bonds of love for each other.

It seemed that everywhere I looked on Wednesday I read the first stanza of Yeats’s “The Second Coming”:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

It is so very bleak, that poem. I believe Yeats wrote it with all the intensity of his passion and belief, and yet, nearly 100 years later, despite a century that laid waste to entire peoples, humanity endures, able to renew its conviction, its commitment to protecting the innocent.

Instead of succumbing to the tide of dread that has washed over so many of us, I suggest (as I have before), that we read the words of Emma Lazaraus:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

Light and not darkness upon our paths, friends. 

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9 thoughts on “How the Light Gets In

  1. It certainly feels like grim times… I do wonder what the combined effect of Brexit and the US election will be (not saying Australia is any better off – we have a pack of entitles, arrogant bigots at the helm) – all this hatred and anger can’t keep building – makes me worry about what’s ahead.

  2. Thank you, Carolyn, for another beautiful piece. It brightened my morning after a very sad day. As Hillary said, we cannot give up hope and must continue to work for the issues and causes that are important to us. And we do have the arts to sooth and comfort us as well as inspire us. I also treasure the “like minded” people in my life with whom I can commiserate and have intelligent discussions. Thanks again, Carolyn, for ROSEMARY & READING GLASSES and for you being you!

  3. “And so, while we take the measure of what we can do to move forward—how we can best use our time and talents as citizens in service to our fellow human beings—people will still make art and music and poems and novels.” loved this!

    Yes, light and not darkness, love and not hate.

  4. Another poem recommended to me in the wake of the election results was Maxine Kumin’s “Women and Horses”, and I absolutely love it. It is the very pinnacle of the argument that art must endure after catastrophe.

  5. Pingback: “Going home / behind the curtain”: Farewell, Leonard Cohen | Rosemary and Reading Glasses

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