- T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
In the immediate aftermath of any tragic event, such as the shootings at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom last weekend, I find myself torn between a sense of urgency to address the tragedy; and the need to reflect and pray, and at the appropriate time offer a more reasoned response. On one hand, I worry that I may appear insensitive or out of touch if I am silent. On the other hand, I want to avoid hasty reactions and emotional outbursts that can obscure rather than clarify, and run the risk of losing my voice in the cacophony that, justifiably, echoes through every nook and cranny of our community.
Please be assured that my heart aches along with yours in the wake of this heinous crime against three innocent individuals – Dr. William Lewis Corporon, his grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, and Terri LaManno – as well as their families, our broader community, and humankind as a whole. I have read, listened to, and observed friends, colleagues, and many others address this tragedy, and I appreciate both their sentiments and their intentions. I note with a sense of pride the unity and goodwill so broadly evident in the grip of such a disaster. This is as it should be, and it provides hope for our future. Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder how this unity will manifest itself when these words have faded, the storm has passed, and our lives have once again settled into their daily routines.
This situation evokes in my mind the words of T.S. Eliot, “…last year's words belong to last year's language, and next year's words await another voice.” The language we have heard until now has been that of ideals fueled by shock, emotion, and hopeful aspirations. We await, however, another voice, which will translate our ideals into real, lasting, and intentional unity based on the desire to understand our neighbor – whoever she or he may be – and the willingness to live out such unity in our day-to-day lives.
This voice will help us identify the source of conflict between religious faiths, confront and overcome the barriers to cooperation in our own beliefs, spend time with our neighbors, breaking bread together, and learning about the shared values that not only make cooperation and goodwill possible, but insist on them. Will we commit ourselves to discover this new voice? Will we risk losing the easy comfort of our too often insulated communities? Will we make the effort to reach out in good will on a Tuesday afternoon after a long day of work, when mighty Casey has struck out and our team doesn’t make the playoffs, or when there is nothing worth eating in the fridge? Time will tell. In the interim we weep, we pray, we commiserate, and we await another voice.