"Death and Life"
-along a wilderness trail-
With only hours remaining in 2013, I call to mind a passage from the Hebrew Scripture in the Book of Ecclesiastes:
For everything there is a season - a time for every purpose under heaven
a time to kill and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to love, and a time to hate
a time for war, and a time for peace
For the past few days the various media have been featuring year-end reviews- summaries of the top stories of 2013. As I have listened to, read about and watched this year-end summary, I have been reflecting on this passage from Ecclesiastes. This past year was indeed a season for every purpose under heaven. It was a season of hate and killing, breaking down and mourning - a time for war. It was also a season of dancing and healing, building up and loving - a time for peace.
It was a season for a massacre at the Boston Marathon, a brutal civil war in Syria. It was a season where a North Korean dictator threatened to set off a nuclear holocaust, Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman became household names, and mean-spirited politics divided the country.
It was also a season where peace was celebrated as the whole world danced in remembrance of the reconciling life of Nelson Mandela. It was a season where further suffering was avoided as chemical weapons of destruction were removed in Syria. It was a season where for the first time in recent history, negotiations took place between Tehran and Washington. It was also a season where a pope stepped down from his mighty throne, kissed a leper, embraced atheists, and refused to pass judgement on people because of their sexual orientation.
And while lots of ordinary people did plenty of selfish things in 2013, it was also a season in which extraordinary acts of kindness were performed and compassion was practiced every day. Acts of abundant generosity and tender healing, acts of selfless reconciliation and merciful forgiveness happened everyday - acts that certainly never made it to the list of the top 10 news stories of the year.
I have always loved Leonard Cohen's hauntingly beautiful lyrics in his well-known song, "Hallelujah."
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
That song is resonating through me in these final hours of this year.
So many people think of peace and love as something sweet and gentle. They imagine that peace is the absence of war and love the absence of hate. But the truth is that we will never live in a utopian world totally free from hate or war or division - this is all part and parcel of our broken human condition.
And yet, at the same time we, fragile and broken human beings, are also magnificent creatures who are capable of loving abundantly -acting with great kindness and open-hearted compassion.
As I sit here in my mediation garden on this final morning of 2013, I am filled with a sense of great "hope." I sing a song of "Hallelujah" because in the midst of all the chaos and darkness, love prevails.
The universe is ablaze with a holy Presence of abiding love. We are never abandoned; and in the end ultimately love will indeed be the victor.
As the old year fades away, I open my heart to a new year about to begin and I sing my song -it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah.