It’s Katrina. It’s September 11. It’s the nightmare whose images fill our waking hours and make it impossible to turn off the t.v. The world is glued to its news networks, waiting for a new word from the island ravaged by disaster.
But wait. Is it a new word that we wait for? Or an old one? Are we waiting for a new story to come out of that broken place, or do we simply wait for the one we already know to unfold itself and rise out of the dust?
Many would call it a sick fascination, this compulsion to watch round the clock coverage of other peoples’ suffering. A twisted way of being grateful that we’re not the ones living in such abject poverty that the very earth can shake us from itself. A primal urge, perhaps, to delight in the carnage. But that’s not, I think, what we’re after. What we’re watching for, really, is the sub-plot; the back story, the one that makes us read this book and watch this movie over and over again, everytime the ground falls out from beneath us. Its the song that we’ve known since birth, and this, like every new disaster, plays it again for our hungry souls.
Its not the blood, or the weeping and wailing that we’re after. What we long for is the phoenix rising from the ashes, Adam emerging from the dust. We watch, not with a demented glee (well, ok, unless you’re Pat Robertson) but with a breathless hope. We watch for the small miracle to reminds us that, even here, something holy lives, and the darkness has not overcome it. We watch for the 13-year-old girl to be pulled, unharmed, out of the rubble. We watch as strangers become community, and form rescue teams with no resources but hope and their bare hands. We witness relief pour in, however slowly, from universal compassion. And through it all, we know that something sacred moves in even that space.
The story that we hope to hear is a silent one, the movement invisible. But we know it when we see it, and in Haiti these last 40 hours or so, we’ve heard the opening strains of humanity’s great symphony; from the dust of nothing, we were born. Surely, new life still comes out of chaos. What will be born from this dust of destruction? However you sing it, we are all just waiting for the third day.