Umut ve iyiliğe dair güzel bir yazı…
We Are Still Good - on hope
Like you, maybe, I have been hungry — so very hungry — for good news. I remember from back in my dieting days that there is a kind of hunger that makes buildings sway in front of your eyes, that makes your stomach and its acids turn inward, that swallows you. There is a desiccation, a sadness, and a desperation to that kind of hunger. It makes you brittle; it becomes difficult to imagine nourishment. In my teens and twenties I experienced this as a bodily phenomenon; lately though, over the past few years, I’ve experienced it as a soul phenomenon, an emotional one. The pandemic isolation, the buckets of bad news coming weekly, daily, hourly… Climate change, imperiled democracy, Covid, Roe, guns… Where is the reprieve and respite? I texted my best friend, also 41, and asked was it like this when we were younger? No. For all kinds of reasons (and at least for us) it wasn’t.
In an attempt to find solace, I’ve been reflecting on the most spiritually alive moments of my life, when the veil between our pedestrian, terrestrial concerns and the ineffable, cosmic pinwheel that surrounds us feels thin, when the goodness of the world, and of our very existence, feels undeniable even as it remains mysterious.
For instance: I’ve revisited the time, a few hours after my daughter was born, when I looked into her dark eyes, and she looked back into mine with sublime force. For about sixty seconds, I was keenly aware that she was both here, on the planet, and not quite here, not fully here. Some part of her essence still felt transcendentally elsewhere; it was as though she was deciding, right then, whether to say yes and join us for this tethered, earthly experience. She seemed to be thinking, contemplating you are my mother. It was ephemeral, vivid — a gut-punch of awesome truth. Then it was over, and she seemed to “lock in,” suddenly striking me as completely on earth, fully born. I will never forget it.
I’ve revisited the evening my mom drove me around the backshore in our ramshackle car, the white and gunmetal clouds parting to reveal bright sunset gold, peach, and cerulean blue, the water of the Bay dancing its rhythms and newly topped with flecks of glittering sunlight, the marsh birds and first stars alighting around and above us, and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy played on the tape deck, the notes glorious, and I thought, achingly, yes, in some form another, god exists, and i am part of it all.
It’s been years since I’ve had an ecstatic moment of absolute clarity about the benevolent, grand force of the universe, of good news. The moments I’ve been nursing for solace are all memories. And lately the world we humans have made for ourselves, and the way we treat each other, has felt so alienated, so cruel and merciless, that I’ve wondered what will become of us human beings. Whether we can still be good to each other in big-scale ways that mirror and align with the creative impulse of the universe.
Then, just the other day, I was driving on the freeway and passed an accident. It had just happened. In the lane next to me, the hood of one car smoked heavily and was smashed into the smashed trunk of another. I slowed. I stopped, reaching for my phone to call 911. The driver in the first car had one leg out of her door, her face pale and bewildered, her mouth turned as if she were about to throw up. The driver in the second car was holding the steering wheel, his face wet with sweat, a deployed airbag against his body. From the passenger side of the second car came a woman with a baby in her arms. Then, from the second car, came children — one, two, three, four, maybe five. Too many for the car, all younger than eight, climbing out of the backseat, sobbing and raising their hands in the universal sign for pick me up. This accident was in the middle lane of a five lane freeway, traffic whizzing by on either side. Sixty, seventy, eighty miles an hour. The children were dazed and disoriented and starting to scatter, walking and toddling away from their car and toward the other lanes. I gasped. The woman with the baby yelled at them to stop, and they didn’t seem to hear her, and her baby was screaming. I was reaching for the latch on my door when I heard the screech of brakes behind me. I turned around. A man, middle-aged, messy white hair, had stopped his truck and was already half-out his door. He’d had the presence of mind to turn on his hazards. I watched him walk into the freeway lanes, facing oncoming traffic, waving wildly and yelling stop!, putting his body in the space between fast cars and the accident. The cars slowed for him, stopped. He then moved into the next lane and did the same, and those cars stopped. After a moment he’d stopped the entire freeway. The woman with the baby got her kids to the shoulder. She ran them to safety, bent down, one arm herding them across the space that man had made, the other holding her infant, her hand cradling the back of its head.
I waited. The man was calling 911. The drivers and passengers seemed ok; shaken, very shaken, but ok. After a moment, I put my foot on the accelerator. Slowly, I began to move forward, toward my destination, as before.
As before but not unchanged. While I drove away, I nearly wept. Because of the release of adrenaline, yes, but mostly because of that man in the truck who stopped the highway traffic and used his body to make a path. It was a moment that, without his intervention, could have become horrifying and unspeakably tragic. That flash of instinct, of unalloyed and decisive selflessness…It is a kind of genius. I played his actions again and again in my mind. I am still playing them two weeks later.
We are not bad. Oh, to the contrary! We are so good. We are still good, and we are all capable of that genius. Rough years (and even centuries) have not undone what was placed in us, whether by luck or design, by a god or a chance: our humanity. We still have the capacity to use ourselves for the wellbeing of strangers. We still have the capacity to give something up. To risk. To act. We are connected by bonds we don’t always see but can, all of a sudden, feel, their yank insistent and undeniable, a furious beauty blazing into existence. Are you ok/am I ok/are we ok, we ask. Your safety and mine, my safety and yours, theirs and ours — all of us bound up and the bonds eternal.