Thursday, December 11, 2014

Do you hear the bells?

Lately, when I watch and read the news, the world has felt scary and raw. There is a strong urge for me to stay positive and bright, even keeled. Encouragement comes naturally for me. I see the value in creating a positive environment around me.

This last month has been really heavy. There has been much injustice in the lives of many, and I've been - for the most part - reading and listening; thinking and hoping. Hoping for an outcome that will resolve some of the tension that bubbles just beneath the surface of today's society. Tension that has bubbled dangerously close to the surface, and recently begun to boil over. And I've felt powerless and I've been silent, and I've felt confused. Wondering what I could say or do that would make a difference without contributing to the hate and vitriol that is being thrown around.

So it was easier to make myself a sandwich; read another book. And turn off the world; the noise; the reality.

Desperately trying to get in the Christmas spirit, I was listening to Christmas music on Pandora radio, and one of my Father's favorite Christmas songs came on. I listened to the wise, powerful words of "I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day”:
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
And the reminder arrived: Yes of course our society is broken. Our systems are not functioning correctly. Perfect peace and good will - by our definition - remains unattainable. Because what is peaceful to one does not bring good will to men. And what is peaceful to men does not bring good will to all.

And the bells ring.

The bells ring every day, whether we hear them or not. There is a church in my neighborhood that plays hymns on its bells every day of the year. At the top of every hour, from 7AM to 7PM, the bells ring. This time of year, they switch to Christmas carols. Undoubtedly at some point, "I heard the Bells..." will play, just as it does every year. Sometimes I hear the bells ringing, other times, I do not hear them. They become part of the background noise of life. I am not paying attention to my surroundings. Lost in my own thoughts, the bells seem silent to me. It occurred to me that I haven't heard those bells recently.

And the bells ring.

Sometimes hope arrives after a terrible injustice. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to see it; to be invited into it. To watch it unfold, as though it were a motion picture, with front row seats and open arms. We see the happy ending as the music swells and we clap and rise, hearts bursting as we file out into the world.

And the bells ring.

Other times, of course, the happy ending doesn’t make it to the screen. It’s behind the scenes, or on the cutting room floor, or perhaps hasn’t yet been created. And so the story we see playing is one of darkness and judgment and anger and hate. The story is still being written while we are living through it. And in those times, our eyes fail us. And so, we open our ears.

And the bells ring.

They ring daily – in good news and bad. They ring, always, setting our world in motion to a rhythm we don't feel; a song left unsung; a wish never made. Just like the bells in my neighborhood, the bells of life ring whether we hear them or not. Always ringing like clockwork. Every hour. Every day.

When we really pay attention, we hear them louder than the collective sounds of crowds mourning, mothers grieving, babies giggling, children playing, communities shouting, families feuding, neighbors dancing, enemies fighting.

And the bells ring. They sound still, small. Quiet. A bit like a voice.

Yes, the bells ring. Every day. Listen for them so they don't go unnoticed. Hopefully someday, as the song goes,

"The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Do you hear them?