As Hallelujahs were raised to the Lord in a “civil” —white— ceremony re-writing history in Jerusalem, little Leila Anwar Ghandour took her last breath with 57 other people on May 15, 2018, 70 years after the birth of Israel and the official launch of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.
That was also the day the music died.
The most poignant Hallelujahs this week have come from powerful images documenting extraordinary times. Their power, I believe, will forever mark our history as the time that not only peace, but also innocence and morality are martyred. In 2008, Fadi Abu Salah lost his legs to Israeli bombing of Gaza. On this day in 2018, he sat in his wheel chair tall on the shoulders of Palestinian dignity protesting an occupation with what he had left: his arms and the stones generously offered by the land to a people with nothing to lose. Except for the breath, which Fadi Abu Salah gave for the last time, along with Leila, the music, innocence, and morality, to the tunes of Hallelujah playing a few kilometres away on the sterile grounds of an immoral world.
“‘I was around in 1970 and now I am around in 2015… there is no poetry and very little romance in anything anymore, so it is really like the last phase of American Pie,” he said. The final verse of the recorded version describes a bleak America: the music has gone and even the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are heading for the coast.” —Don McLean
It’s 2018. There is no trace of them.
I learned today a different perspective on “thoughts” from psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais. It goes beyond the dichotomy of “good” and “bad”, “negative” and “positive”. Every thought we have, he says, either creates space or tension (expansion or constriction). I believe part of our work as we grow into our full human potential —currently undergoing a lengthy, disturbing stage of stagnation— is to explore consciously transmuting pain into expansion. Because empowerment resides in space. What we need today when all else has died is empowerment: the sustainable, free acknowledgement and celebration of one’s self-generating, infinite resilience and power.
How to move forward after this? Empathy and pain are intertwined. Our threshold keeps rising, and with it the brutality of what humanity (or the current stage of coma it is in) can inflict on one another. Pain is fuel to feel and act —to move to expansive space where reason and music dwell. In space, hallelujahs are authentic and pure, and play endlessly.
What is causing the confusion and resulting dehumanization of one another is the state of chronic tension we are in, leaving us no space to breathe let alone really hear the music. We are physically strung out. Our ability to reason and think clearly has been shut down. Every action we take —and thought that prompts it— has been coming from a place of total paralysis and fear. We react and not respond. We see the world in black and white, with us or against us. And in our reaction, we are hysterical, blind, and deaf to the cries of humanity before us. This reaction response makes one side (both David and Goliath morphed into one) see an 8-month-old baby girl as a threat to border and existence, or simply collateral damage.
It’s not only the music that has died. Most of humanity has died with it.
The fortress of empowerment, in my mind, holds within its solid structure the hope of promise. In this promise, there is a pact —a sacred agreement one makes with one’s soul, crafted from a place of serene expansion. And reason. This is the balm to soothe the burning wounds of decades of dehumanization and terror.
Hope has not died. All is not lost.
I move forward one day at a time: one word, one action, one prayer at a time. One foot in front of the other. The pain takes me to a wider plane where broken church bells are patiently put back together again.
They will ring from Jerusalem, serenading the sanctity of all life.
“All the perfect and broken Hallelujahs have an equal value. It’s a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion.” —Leonard Cohen