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Be Grateful: Ceramic Poppies are Blowing in the Wind
in the news: As Americans celebrated Veterans Day and Europeans commemorated the anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I--which began 100 years ago--attention turned to The Tower of London. At this World Heritage site in a metropolis that is striving to become a truly global center, an army of volunteers is finishing work on a monument to those who died in war. Specifically, the 888,246 Britons who died in World War I (WWI) are being remembered with that colossal number of red ceramic poppies planted in the one-time moat surrounding the Tower walls. At least one news report marking the occasion quoted lines from John McCrae's poem, "In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row."
commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org): This poem, written by a Canadian doctor after the funeral of a fellow soldier, is special for me since it was written on May 3, 1915--the day my father was born across the sea in America. Yet, three weeks ago, having walked across the Tower Bridge, watching those poppy planting volunteers made me think of another verse--specifically Bob Dylan's question in the 1963 song "Blowing in the Wind" --"How many deaths will it take 'til we know, that too many people have died?" Millions prayed "the Great War" would be "the war to end all wars," and countless more hoped the Dylan song would help end the Vietnam War (which it may have). Yet war is still with us. Why? Perhaps something in human nature requires it? More specifically, which of the project Worldview eighty-one worldview themes get at the causes of war?
In reflecting on recent wars in the Middle East, the pair of contrasting themes that immediately come to mind are: "Bitterness and Vengeance" (theme #17A) and "Gratitude and Forgiveness" (theme #17B). The fundamental divide in how people relate to past victimization is captured in a parenthetic note I've written in presenting these themes. "Bringing religion into this, those worshiping a spiteful Old Testament God may opt for vengeance and “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, while those worshiping a loving New Testament God “turn the other cheek” and are lenient and forgiving." Some might argue that seeking revenge justifiably provides both the focus, drive, and resolve to overcome victimization and the armor to steel one against the pain of hurt, loss, injustice. But many feel that breaking the cycle of blame and retribution behind many wars requires people with both flexibility and the ability to endure pain with grace that flowers blowing in the wind seemingly possess.
At this point I could make a determined effort to list all of the themes behind war, starting with "The Threatening, Violent Person" (theme #29B), "Proud Identification" (theme #37A), "Scapegoating" (theme #39B), "Militarism" (theme #46B), etc. But rather than list all of them, I've allowed "Cynicism" (theme #36A) to creep in. From that perspective I point out two things. First, that wars typically leave behind, not red poppies but a blackened landscape, and that a future WWIII could incinerate the whole planet. Many cite "Religious Fundamentalism" (theme #9A) and holy books as the basis for their belief in "Apocalypticism" (theme #9B). They see the end of the world as part of God's final battle against evil. Second, countless memorials to help people remember the awful war that claimed their loved ones, and inspire efforts to "never let it happen again," have failed to end war. And that those ceramic flowers in the latest one are rigid and won't bend in the wind.
Cynics will see it that way, but following Sonya Tinsley (see note 2), they're only one team. What about those people on the other team--those hopeful folks, with faith that enough small nudges can eventually add up to a big impact, those Working for Change (theme #35B)? Since they choose to see the proverbial glass as half full not half empty, they'll point out that those ceramic flowers can only be fixed at an instant of time and that they actually are blowing in the wind!
From a contrasting themes perspective, we can note that, despite the rational, "Dispassionate" (theme #18B) side of us that knows war is tragic folly that must be avoided, all too often intense feelings trigger "Passionately Impulsive" (theme #18A) actions resulting in violent conflict. And that some see the antidote to war caused by religious fueled intolerance and hatred in "Secular Humanism" (theme #10)
Admittedly past project Worldview efforts to describe the human predicament in terms of worldview themes have emphasized our rational, "thinking" side. That is about to change with our publication of The Worldview Theme Song Book, which is subtitled "Exploring the Feelings Behind Worldviews." Whereas our 2009 The Worldview Literacy Book used a playing cards analogy in likening the worldview themes important to you to cards you hold in your hand in "the game of life," this latest book employs a different metaphor. In recognizing the key role that "feelings" play in steering our lives, it encourages us to consider what emotional armor or emotional baggage we are carrying. While it also examines what goes on our brains in this regard in light of the latest neuroscience, at its heart are eighty-one original songs, one for each worldview theme.
The songs presented there for Bitterness and Vengeance and Gratitude and Forgiveness do an especially nice job of contrasting the feelings behind these themes. The song "When Justice is Finally Done," sung to the tune of the American civil war era song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," attempts to capture feelings behind the former theme, whereas the song "Grateful," sung to the tune of the 1960s Temptations classic "My Girl" tries to do so for the latter. For me, this Thanksgiving may find me playing my guitar, singing the "Grateful" song I've written, and celebrating the unloading of some emotional baggage.
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