Edit this post

The On Being Project

The Power of Flower in a New World

We see God in the darkness. Maybe, God sees us through the darkness.

It’s at the time of brokenness that we search for healing, urgently yearn for being and becoming whole. I am not sure these days if we are more broken than before, coming undone at the seams, or just more aware of our collective brokenness.

The scale of brokenness seems vast. The crises seem to run together: Ferguson-Baltimore-Chicago-Palestine/Israel-Iraq-Syria-Kashmir-Myanmar-Sub-Saharan HIV-Nigeria-Paris-Beirut-climate change-Pakistan…

I am more and more suspicious of those who promise to have the big grand answers all figured out. When the scale of the problems gets grander and grander, I have to look for some small acts of goodness to confirm my faith.

The scale is grand, the remedy will have to be grander, but I need that confirmation of the good and the beautiful in a scale that is as tender as a rose petal — as small as my eyes, as soft as a whisper, as tender as the hands of my Belonged.

As I surveyed the scene in Paris, after Paris, through Paris, there was a reminder of healing on a scale that I could wrap my arms around, and hold tight. This week it came to me through flower power. The healing power of flowers.

It was Allen Ginsberg who coined the term “flower power” in the 1960s. There is much about the ‘60s that I adore and identify with. I wasn’t born in that era, but something about the hippies resonates with me. Still.

Flower power was on display in Paris. The scene was one that worked for me: a simple one of a father holding his son to comfort him.

I am a father.
I hold my children a little tighter these days. 
Holding my sons, my daughters, a little closer.
The hugs linger a bit more,
A bit more frequently
     Out of nowhere
          And everywhere
I whisper into their ears that I love them so.   

They know why
And do not know how much.  

This trying to let our kids know that it will be OK
When we ourselves are not so sure
And need someone to hold us and tell us that it’ll be OK
This I know well. 

In Paris, I see a dad.
A father holding a son.
He is holding his son close, as I hold my son. 
The father looks Asian, I guess Vietnamese.  
[I learn later his name is Angel Le, his son’s name is Brandon.]

The father’s face is brave,
but in his eyes I see
            the same fear that would paralyze my own heart.

The son is scared, frightened, shaken.
The father is too.
             He works hard to mask his own fear.

They stand near one of the makeshift memorials to the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks, now covered in flower bouquets.

The son asks the father what the flowers are for.
 The father reminds the son that something bad,
something awful
     happened here.

The son is worried that they will have to move, to “change houses” [leave France].
The father assures him, “France is our home.”
The son wants to know if they can move somewhere where the bad people are not.
The father calmly, truthfully answers back:
No, because the bad people can come
        every where.
The son is frightened.
He wants what we all want:
       to find that place where the bad people can not come.
               Will not come.
I weep for this boy,
For what he wants
Is what I want for my own babies,
For all of our babies.

I weep,
For I know that badness is not something that comes only from the outside.

Wherever we are
there the bad is.

There is no Satan.
As Muhammad said:
       Satan flows inside the veins of humanity.
We are the very evil
     that we want to run away from.
There is no refuge,
       because everywhere we run,
               there we are.
And yet...
I rejoice through my tears,
     because I know something:
God, too,
         flows inside our veins.
We are the wounders of each other,
We are the wounded.

We ourselves
      are also the healing,
We ourselves
       are the shelter.

The battleground is not out there.
We are the battlefield,
the fighters,
the wounded,
the healers.

There is brokenness here,
   and violence.
There is healing here,
    and light.
It all mingles inside us.

Which wolf will we feed?
The father continues to hold the son.
The son comes back to the flowers.  He asks:
“What do these flowers do?”
The father says: They keep the bad people away.

“It’s OK. They might have guns, but we have flowers.”

This is not the flower power of the ‘60s.
It’s somewhat less innocent,
more open-eyed.
It is flower power,
but in this new world,
for this wounded world.

The son breathes.  He is still wondering about the flowers.
“It’s to protect?”
The father affirms: They keep the bad people away.
The son asks: “They are for protection?”
Yes, they are for protection.

My thoughts run ahead of me.
“Why are you lying to your son?
You and I know that we cannot keep the bad away.”

And then it dawns on me:
The bad is not merely the harm that some terrorist would do.
The bad is also our own response.
The bad is also the fear, anger, and loathing that we generate in response to the terrorist attacks.

And yes, the flowers can block that.
The impulse to reach out, to heal,
to honor, to hold close, to touch in compassion…
There is a power here.
There is healing here.
We put the flowers out, to keep out the ugliness.

Yes, there are real wounds, genuine suffering.
We cannot turn away from the suffering.
But there is power, there is real healing
here.

The flowers cannot, by themselves, keep the bad away
But they can point us to the healing.
It’s what shines through the flowers that keeps the bad away.

I want to hold that son,
And that father

I want to hold my own babies,
And for someone to hold me
To keep the bad away
To keep me from generating the bad.

In an age of the wounded,
I want to be on the side of the wounded healing.

Healing is not an event.
It’s a journey.

May these flowers,
And all that shines through them
Keep us company on this journey.

May we be a part
Of making sure that the father in Paris
All of us mothers and fathers
Can keep our promises to our babies.

Share Your Reflection