Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

The year that won’t go quietly…

Posted on December 29, 2004 by jimparedes

Here is part of an email I wrote two days ago to an egroup I belong to. I wish to share it with all of you.

We use email often for banter, light talk and at times for serious political discussions, and to express our indignation or just to vent out. Let it be different today for me. Forgive me if this letter seems dramatic. Believe me, it is heartfelt.

The tsunami-earthquake double whammy has created a disaster of unparalleled proportions. I’ve been riveted in front of CNN, BBC and the internet trying to understand what has happened and making sense of the picture that is still emerging. I have been trying to understand it in scientific as well as in economic, social, human, emotional, even cosmic levels to try and fathom what kind of response is appropriate but instead, I just catch myself totally overwhelmed by the cataclysmic dimension of it all. Thirty three thousand dead and still no final count in sight.

Lately, I’ve been doing the same thing with Infanta, Iraq and other places where human tragedy has been widespread. I have caught myself in tears, praying and sending good healing thoughts and hope to people everywhere, and materially contributing in some way to the effort to try and alleviate suffering at least where it is physically closest to me– Infanta and the desperately poor that I personally encounter. Last night, I felt such a heaviness in my heart about how tragedy seems to happen so easily and how the mustering of kindness (relief efforts, donations, etc..) to respond to it is such a gargantuan effort. I had a hard time sleeping.

Today, I came across a poem on the net which I wish to share with you.


Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day

to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world

to say it is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you every where like a shadow or a friend.

This poem just says it for me. While this year seems to refuse to go quietly into the night, I know that each one of us can put an end to SOME suffering. I am learning to stop cursing the darkness and fight the cynicsm of helplessness and victimhood and realizing that there is something I can do. I suggest nothing concrete except to open our hearts to the bigger reality that is other people, in fact, that is the rest of humanity which I am very sure are also parts of ourselves we just have to meet. When they cry, do we not cry too? When they suffer, do we not also suffer? I know we do rrecognize ourselves in them, and them in us.

We stand before one of mankind’s most dramatic opportunities to understand and experience oneness. I KNOW I am you and everyone else! I am writing because I am just so humbled to get a fleeting glimpse of this great Truth which seems so evident only on occasion. Each of us, if we just listen already knows what to do.


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