Listen

Dear M.A. Gavin,

It’s been a little over a month since I’ve seen you and in that month so many things that I believed to be unthinkable have happened. We grew up sheltered, but beyond that I grew up naive. Or perhaps a better way to describe it is I’ve always tried to see the positive, the good, and for the most part have believed the people of the world act with good intentions. Of course there were always exceptions to this childish worldview: the masked villains in Scooby Doo, the sad stories we heard on the news, the mean kid at school who looked down on me literally and figuratively. But those were minor, the news stories were sad, but lacked malicious intent, the bad guys were always caught and unmasked by “those meddling kids.”

In the past month, it has been more difficult to find a silver lining, more challenging to believe the age old trope “good will triumph over evil.” Between asylum seekers – from countries that are in turmoil because of the impact of our country, and colonization before that – being jailed, having their children separated from them, the continued push against women’s reproductive rights, the passing of the Muslim Ban, and numerous blatant examples of racism across the country, my faith wavers.

What about kindness? To treating people with decency? To listening? Will these three things solve the problems? Absolutely not, but would they be helpful? Yes.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok includes a powerful line about listening:

“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own. It talks to me sometimes. I feel alive in it. It talks. And I can hear it… Sometimes – sometimes it cries and you can hear the pain of the world in it. It hurts to listen. But you have to.”  

I can hear it, the world crying, and I am nowhere near as attuned to the silence as Danny in The Chosen. It does hurt. Sometimes, it feels crushing. After years of exploitation, of purposeful ignorance, much of the world is weeping.

But…

In listening, I also hear shouts. I hear protests. I hear people sharing their stories. I hear the narrative shifting. And these sounds give me hope. Despite all the dark, all the horrendous, unbelievable things happening, people haven’t stopped fighting. And never will because as Victor Frankel wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning.” The world has been suffering for hundreds of years because of people seeking power over others, and manipulating them in order to achieve their own agendas, and the narratives in history books has depicted them as heroes and martyrs. While I admit I would not be where I am now without them, they left a path of destruction that has persisted for years, and people have been suffering for years because of it. There is suffering because of choices made long before we were even a remote idea, but it’s time for their suffering to be avenged, to have meaning, to end.

I know, you understand this, M.A. Gavin, but if you, reader, do not, I encourage you to listen. To truly listen, without being offended, without judgement, but with compassion and vulnerability. If you listen, you will start to hear the world. You won’t like what you hear at first. It will hurt to listen, but you have to.

See you soon,

M.R. Gavin

P.S. – P.D. Gavin, I love you and wish I could be there to give you a hug. Thank you for everything.