Batuhan: Despair in the midst of hope

MAKE me a channel of Your peace.

Where there is hatred let me bring Your love,

Where there is injury Your pardon Lord,

And where there’s doubt, true faith in You.

Make me a channel of Your peace.

Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope,

Where there is darkness, only light,

And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

Oh, Master, grant that I may never seek,

So much to be consoled, as to console.

To be understood, as to understand,

To be loved, as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of Your peace.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

In giving to all men that we receive,

And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

Whatever one’s religious persuasion may be, and I suspect even for those without any regard to religion but still retain a sense of their humanity, the above words from “The Prayer of St. Francis” cannot but inspire each one of us to be bearers of hope, rather than harbingers of doom.

Indeed, what has distinguished great leaders up and down the centuries is their ability to lead people, no matter how dire their contemporary circumstances may have been, to believe that better times are ahead, and that notwithstanding how difficult the challenges, that these too shall pass away.

A famous story is told of Alexander the Great, as he was leading his troops in their march to conquer India. In those days, the march on horseback and on foot from Europe to Asia was a long and arduous one. Famine, disease and hostile tribes along the way took their toll on the soldiers’ morale, and soon enough many of them started deserting the army, and heading back home.

Alexander then supposedly took his troops into a march through a long and dark tunnel, during which none of them could see the road they were going through. The soldiers noticed that from time to time, their horses would kick up what seemed to be shiny stones, which some of them stopped to pick up. Thinking none of them, they were just putting them into their pockets, along with other interesting objects they had collected along the way.

As the army came out of the tunnel, the soldiers began looking at the shiny stones they collected while inside. To their great astonishment, they discovered that these were no ordinary rocks, but precious stones and gems that they had picked up. Whereupon Alexander then addressed his troops, and declared that “there’s much more of these where we are headed.”

As legends go, whether this actually happened to Alexander is uncertain. What is definite is that however he did it, Alexander was able to make his men believe that better times were ahead, and he was able to do it for all of them, and not just for some of them. That’s why for a long time, his empire stretched across much of what was then the known world.

The story came back to me as I was witnessing the events of last week unfold, in two American cities which witnessed once again horrific scenes of mass shootings perpetrated by those with divisive and sectarian agenda.

In times like these, the American leader is always expected to take the high ground, and rally all his countrymen to come together as a nation, and heal the wounds of their division. The current President, however, is no Alexander when it comes to rallying the troops. As usual, playing to his base, he refuses to stand down from his divisive rhetoric, which in no small measure arguably contributed to inspiring the shooters to do what they did.

And so it goes that while his predecessors—like Alexander—were always striving to bring hope in the midst of despair, he instead relishes in the perverse joy of sowing despair in the midst of all hope.


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