Being Present (Somehow)


Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering.  Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world.  Find ways to be with those who are suffering by all means, including personal contact and visits, images, sound.  By such means, awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world. 

–Thich Nhat Hanh, Interbeing: Commentaries on the Tiep Hien Precepts


And after each interview, the [Salvadoran] mother would invariably walk to the far end of the table, to a heap of photo albums laid there. Would take one of them in hand, gravely turn page after page, these images out of the national abattoir, the tortured, raped, amputated. The photos that stood horrid surrogate for the young men, absent from streets and homes and churches and factories. The disappeared generation. I could scarcely bear to look at the faces that dared look at such images, and not be turned to stone. How much can one bear?  I did not know. But I sensed that the measure of what could be borne would be revealed neither by psychiatrist nor politician nor bishop. I must go in humility to these unknown, despised lives, upon whom there rested the preferential option of God.

–Daniel Berrigan, The Steadfastness of the Saints: A Journal of Peace and War in Central and North America


Dear Carla

It’s 5 a.m. and I’ve been up 24 hours
We visited a family yesterday

The first two hours
She beheld her brother 

Who was home after two years in prison
“How much weight you’ve lost!”

I still can’t shake off 
The sound of the sister’s sobs

— Mark Chmiel, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

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