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April 07, 2009


"...what is it, in my own life, right now, that I am refusing to stand with, that I am fleeing?" What a thought-provoking question. I agree with you that different words and phrases stand out each year. And I have thought about "what if," especially watching the outdoor Passion Plays in Mexico, where it is usually hot this time of year, and one can look at the palm trees and feel the heat and imagine what it was like to be one of the crowd, watching, the first time.

Shortest verse: "Jesus wept."

Scariest verse: "Follow me."

Thanks so much, Beth.

Ring the bells that can still ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
Thats how the light gets in
-Leonard Cohen

Today I fled from unpleasant truth. My husband grabbed my hand and pulled me back. I am not always so lucky.

I'll look forward to finding out what you think you're running from.

Beth, you said:
I think there is a good chance I too would have "left him and fled." In fact we cannot possibly know until we are
faced with the moment of crisis and decision: that's when each person's true nature reveals itself

I have seen this thought before
and this morning I took some time
to think about it
and I am not at all convinced
that this act alone reveals one's true character

implied is always that
it invalidates what has gone before
or what one has said about oneself before

first time experiences in extremis
are difficult to imagine
before they are happening

and what one does AFTER the situation passes
no matter how you have acted
says even more
about one's true nature . . .

(all just speculation
thanks for provoking it!)


I know what I hope I would have done, but I doubt myself.


I used to worry so much about this when I was a kid. Still do. Would I have become a Nazi like everyone else, if I'd been there? Or if war broke out, would I become a warmonger? I don't think so---I've been so strongly insistent on saying no to such things my whole life. All through my childhood, so bothered was I by the persecutions I'd read about in history, that I mentally prepared myself each night for the unlikely what-ifs. At fourteen, I vowed to got to prison or face a firing squad rather than ever join a war. My resolve has weakened now, but only a little.

But what about subtler sins? Our defences are weak. We profit where others suffer, benefit from a murderous system (even if we don't directly commit murder), sometimes ignore those we could help. No, there's no innocence. Fleeing is what we do.

Suzanne's right, I guess. It's hard to know what one would actually do ahead of time. Depends almost entirely on how severe the pressure is, and how cleverly the evil is disguised.

But maybe, just maybe, our responsibility does not extend quite as far as we'd imagine. Maybe it isn't a stark choice between being a Nazi and being a Bonhoeffer. What do you think?

Ah, I am the mistress of flight...
Yes, as someone once pointed out to me, it is important to undertsand the question before one can find the answer

Suzanne, thanks for musing along with me. And I think you're right -- the forgiveness (of ourselves) that you imply in your reflection here is critical. (Even Peter took a while to follow and not deny - thus the "bitter tears.") And you're right that situations in extremis are their own reality and even if we prepare we can't be sure how we'll act. It's still important, I think, to think about moral choices and try to prepare. I've lived with regrets about certain actions and been happy I pulled through with my integrity in other situations...there are often opportunities to do over, do differently -- but not always.

Lucas - no, I don't think the choices are usually that stark, but I'd probably argue that our responsibilities actually are pretty great because the worth of even one child, one partner, one parent is immeasurable. And it's the collective effect of personal irresponsibility that gets us into a lot of our societal problems. On a personal level, I think a continual slight slippage in integrity has the potential to undermine and change us into shadow-selves of what we once hoped to be. I guess the tools against that are vigilance, honesty in self-examination, forgiveness...

But there are way not to leave and flee even in our comfortable lives.
Join a human rights group, write letters, wok for your beliefs here and now.
Think of all the work Amnesty International does so to free people in prison because of their views.
Working for others is not just a philosophical musing from a safe distance to a time we will never experience. Do it now!

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.