Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Paragon of Animals

Yet again, we struggle with grief and pain. Yet again, we are suffering the consequences of someone else's overwhelming hatred. We reel in agony, and we grasp those we love with renewed fervor. Is this the best we can do? Is this the gutter into which humanity must continually fall?

In the last six months, we've seen things like this happen three times in the United States alone. That is not to mention the horrible news of gang rapes and suicides, of lives shattered beyond all comprehension, of veterans turned away from the help they need for their suffering because we are all tired of the war they've fought for us, of the elderly left bereft of care because of a frozen political system, of every reason for hope to crumble.

But in the midst of it all, there are other stories. Some of us look after our neighbors, or are grateful to have neighbors looking after us. We hear stories of support from unknown corners, stories of love from strangers, helping hands offered, embraces given, compassion abounding, solidarity offered even from across the globe.

Image found at Meghan Casey's Tumbler Feed

Eleven and a half years ago, when religious extremists crossed the line into madness, into sociopathology, an entire nation reeled and fought for balance. I was surfing a site called Beliefnet a few days later, and someone posed the question, "What inspiration or scripture is helping you get through this time?"

I was not Christian at the time, and I could not recall anything that had helped me that came from a religious context. What did help me then was a speech from a science fiction television show called Babylon 5 that aired in the late 1990s. The speech was written - in the context of the show - by a character who had been a freedom fighter and a political prisoner, someone who had endured torture and disfigurement, had been driven by rage through anguish, and come out on the side of compassion and love. G'Kar's story inspired me, and continues to inspire me today. And interestingly, I think his journey is pretty consistent with the values and struggles of the Orthodox faith that I now practice.

So here is what helped me then, and what continues to help me now. Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy on us all!

The text of the speech follows this clip from the episode "Paragon of Animals" from Season 5 of Babylon 5.

Declaration of Principles of the Interstellar Alliance

The Universe speaks in many languages
But only one voice.
The language is not Narn, or Human, or Centauri, or Gaim, or Minbari.

It speaks in the language of hope.
It speaks in the language of trust.
It speaks in the language of strength
And the language of compassion.
It is the language of the heart,
And the language of the soul.
But always it is the same voice.
It is the voice of our ancestors speaking through us,
And the voice of our inheritors waiting to be born.

It is the small, still voice that says, We are One.

No matter the blood
No matter the skin
No matter the world
No matter the star
We are One.

No matter the pain
No matter the darkness
No matter the loss
No matter the fear
We are One.

Here, gathered together in common cause, we agree to recognize this singular truth, and this singular rule: that we must be kind to one another.

Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us, and each voice lost diminishes us. We are the voice of the universe, the soul of creation, the fire that will light the way to a better future. We are One.

by J. Michael Straczynski

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