Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Like many of us these days I have been lost in contemplation: considering the impact of actions…and reaction…and no action. Certainly my mind is swirling, remembering just about everything I was taught by my mother and my father and by every thinking, caring person I have encountered in my life. And I keep arriving at one absolute: we are none of us made greater by making any one of us less. It has never been so, and it will never be.
As beatific as we know it can be, our Mississippi has always been a troubled place, a place as much of turmoil and injustice as it has been of genius and inspiration. We have been blessed with unique and soaring voice and cursed by banal and searing action. We have been lifted up by life affirming dialogue and laid lower than the belly of a snake by base and thoughtless utterance. We have leapt forward over challenge, grasping triumph; and we have stumbled on fear, tumbling into relapse. We stretch and actuate, then simply forget; we follow engagement with lethargy and aimlessness. We set our journey and lose our way. Mississippi is the great dichotomy; lives intertwined and in opposition, plummeting and rising in maddening sequence, never ultimately trusting and trapped in some penultimate reality. We have been forever at the crossroads, pulled and urged, tempted and saved, lost and found.
I have been listening to the great new work by Winton Marsalis, The Abyssinian Mass, a rousing inspiring jubilant jazz mass. It is based on texts and liturgies from a spectrum of religions, understanding that at the end of the day, despite our differences, our religions, our churches and chapels and synagogues, we are all in the same sanctuary. It brings together all of us in common belief of a greater, involving humanity. It seeks to unite, to tie together, to create a greater world by inclusion. It seeks to gather us all up, because we can be united and because we all are united, not in a single religious belief or moral conviction, but in a universal belief that we are all bound, unique and inviolable, individual and family by faith and commitment and tolerance, that we must be as a people bound by faith and commitment and tolerance. And if we stray from the gift and responsibility of understanding and acceptance, we will certainly be undone.
We must all refuse to be undone. We must all acknowledge the differences that cleave us and cleave one to another through those differences. We must get to the better place, and we can only do so if we acknowledge that the diminution of one diminishes us all. And in the very act of discrimination, for any reason, against any one, we are belittled. Defy discrimination. It is the only path, the only way forward for any of us, for all of us…because we are all affected: daughter and son and parent and partner and brother and sister and friend and colleague and neighbor and stranger… we are all here, all aware, all together, all the same.
As I was looking for my opening quote, I came across another: Those who remain silent are responsible.
It is from Edith Stein, who became Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was persecuted and died for what she had been, with no regard for what she had become…and no understanding of what she could accomplish. We are all responsible. And we must not remain silent.