Quote for Today: Lord Byron

Thus sung, or would, or could, or should have sung,
The modern Greek, in tolerable verse;
If not like Orpheus quite, when Greece was young,
Yet in these times he might have done much worse:
His strain display’d some feeling — right or wrong;
And feeling, in a poet, is the source
Of others’ feeling; but they are such liars,
And take all colours — like the hands of dyers.

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;
‘T is strange, the shortest letter which man uses
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link
Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces
Frail man, when paper — even a rag like this,
Survives himself, his tomb, and all that ‘s his.

Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto III

Image by Samuel F. Johanns from Pixabay

Quote for Today: Sherman Alexie

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“I don’t know if I ever told you,” my therapist said. “But I’m a birder. I love birds. And when they hit a window like that, or get hurt in any significant way, they have this ritual. They shake off the pain. They shake off the trauma. And they walk in circles to reconnect their brain and body and soul. When your bird was walking and shaking, it was remembering and relearning how to be a bird.” Oh, wow. I couldn’t say much after that intense revelation, but my therapist continued. “We humans often lose touch with our bodies,” she said. “We forget that we can also shake away our pain and trauma.”

Sherman Alexie, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

Image: Grackle Strut © Ingrid Taylar with CCLicense

Quote for Today: Eleanor Roosevelt

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The encouraging thing is that every time you meet a situation, though you may think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it you find that forever after you are freer than you ever were before. If you can live through that, you can live through anything. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Resilience Does Not Forget: June 4, 1989 by Sherry Cheng

Years after a catastrophe, resilience continues to express itself. Memory lets us relive and reinterpret past events, unpacking things that overwhelmed us and growing our response over time. It is not an easy process. The approach of a date, a particular smell, image, or snippet of music can send us back to a deeply fearful place. Some try to forget, but the things we hide from the daylight have a way of resurfacing in our dreams. Unexpressed emotions can be powerful poisons. A world that suppresses history is a world in which violence simmers continually just beneath the collective consciousness. Resilience grows in the soil of our stories, informing the people we become, passing through us into our relationships and communities. We must share with one another if we want to survive.

This prose poem is the work of my friend, Sherry Cheng, a vibrant, warm and intelligent Chinese American woman who came to the United States in her teenage years. In it, she relates how the catastrophic events that happened in Tiananmen Square on a fateful day in 1989 impacted her, her family and her future husband. Her raw honesty speaks volumes, simple and clear. There cannot be many things more terrifying than a government that kills, imprisons and intimidates people with impunity.

Let me set the stage. On June 4, 1989, a peaceful, student-led protest is violently suppressed by the Chinese government, as the military, armed with rifles and tanks, kills at least several hundred unarmed people in Tiananmen Square. The images of tanks plowing down students shocks the world. Wei, Sherry’s future husband, is at the Central Conservatory, where he studies viola. Almost a decade before he will meet his wife, he steps out of the conservatory into a war zone. Sherry is sixteen and sits in front of a television set in an apartment in Starkville, MS, as horrific reports of the violence in her homeland flood the screen. Sherry’s aunt, a student at the University of Chicago who had taken donations from Americans to the student protesters at Tiananmen Square, boards a plane back to Chicago with her three year old son. She is also pregnant. Plain clothes police waiting on the plane meet her and take her and her son to prison. They will be missing for nearly two weeks, while her family uses every connection they have to find them. It will take a couple of months and a promise that she will never again be politically active for the family to secure their release.

Violence is not an anonymous phenomenon. The aggressors, the injured, the killed, the witnesses: they all have faces.

 

June 4, 1989

29 years ago today the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square,
bullets flew overhead while a young man lay prostrate on the ground right outside the Central Conservatory gates.
He saw a little girl shot down,
an innocent bystander,
her Mother wailing.

A 16 year old girl across the ocean sat transfixed,
as events transpired on her TV screen.
She could not control her tears as images passed by of bloodied bodies piled on makeshift carts.

Hope turned to fear that day and for months after.
Innocent deaths, interrogations, terror, arrests…
The girl’s aunt, who had helped distribute funds to the peaceful protesters,
disappeared from the airport on route to Chicago,
her whereabouts unknown for weeks.
She had her 3 year old son with her, as well as another one on the way.

Fast forward 29 years…
I mark this day every year because forgetting is easy,
even for those who experienced the terror first hand,
like my husband.
even for those who believed so strongly in an ideal that they would’ve given their lives for it,
like my aunt.
Because life does go on.
We move forward.

So many have forgotten.
For each new generation the memory grows dimmer.
History is reevaluated and reinterpreted.
Black and white, right and wrong, everything is blurred.
Amnesia sets in. Ideals are lost.

But I’m still here, so is Wei.
We carry that history with us.
We will tell our stories every year,
even when no one is listening.

 

Quote for Today: Louise Glück

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Snowdrops

Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn’t expect
to waken again, to feel
in damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light
of earliest spring—

afraid, yes, but among you again
crying yes risk joy

in the raw wind of the new world.
Louise Glück, Poems 1962-2012

 

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Quote for Today: John Darnielle

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But resiliency only means that a thing retains its shape. That it doesn’t break, or lose its ability to function. It doesn’t mean a child forgets the time she shared in the backyard with her mother gardening, or the fun they had together watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks at the Astro. It just means she learns to bear it. The mechanism that allowed Lisa Sample to keep her head above water in the wake of her mother’s departure has not been described or cataloged by scientists. It’s efficient, and flexible, and probably transferable from one person to another should they catch the scent on each other. But the rest of the details about it aren’t observable from the outside. You have to be closer than you really want to get to see how it works.
John Darnielle, Universal Harvester

Image: Grief ©Helgi Halldórsson with CCLicense