Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees going nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
- Adam Zagajewski, “Try to Praise the Mutilated World”
In Iraq, they are beheading little Christian children. Why? Because they breathe. I’ve heard the feeble protests, the indignant objections. This has been going on for years, all over the globe. Why only notice now?
Just stop. It has been going on forever.
And they are beheading little Christian children. They are not better, more significant, than little Muslim children, or little Jewish children, or little children anywhere. But they are little. They are children. And they are grabbing them by their hair, stretching out their necks, testing the sharp blade of a machete – a machete! - against soft skin. They are cutting off their heads.
Carry this with you throughout your day, your days. Think about it, don’t turn away, and experience it for the unspeakable horror that it is. Cry, moan, pray.
And in your day, remember, hold up, like a rare old treasure, the slant of late summer sunlight filtered through the still green leaves of trees, the taste of good, freshly brewed coffee, the sound of Miles Davis’ trumpet, the sweet, easy company of the wife of your youth, the surprise of new friendship, new connections that defy logic and convention. Look at these ties. They do not bind. They unite. It is nothing. It is everything. It is what you have, who you are.
Remember, don’t ever forget, all the horrendous, senseless, hateful, unfathomable death down through the ages; heads on pikes and bodies stacked atop one another like cords of wood stored for the winter, the torturer’s rack, the rows of young men mown down like newly harvested wheat, bits of brain spattered against a wall, mustard gas and napalm, the mushroom cloud, the fucking sterile, efficient gas chambers of Auschwitz and Sobibor and Treblinka. This is where we live and move and have our being. Then breathe, if you can. You must. Live. Lift up, like an old treasure, your tiny shards of joy. Try to praise the mutilated world.