December 2, 2015
One morning last week, we all woke up to the news that Turkey had shot down a Russian fighter jet. This prompted one of those foxhole prayers we agnostics offer up in times of crisis:
God, please let this not be a shot heard round the world and the beginning of World War III.
It takes quite a lot to scare me into prayer. I’m often grouchy, and I’m nearly always sarcastic and cynical, but I’m also a glass-half-full optimist who feels very lucky with how her life has played out so far. I usually shrug off a Facebook feed full of doom and gloom, confident that humanity’s march toward little-E enlightenment, tolerance, and peace continues. Progress may be a two steps forward, one step backward dance, but we’ve come a long way since the big-E Enlightenment philosophers and scientists pointed us down this road. Lately, the backward shuffle has dominated as I watch xenophobia and hate clog the newsfeed, but at the same time, I see so many voices raised in peaceful protest of injustice that I’ve had confidence we’re still on the right road.
Then Turkey shot down that jet, right after Daesh (aka ISIS ) murdered 130 Parisians and 50 Beirut residents.
God, please let these not be shots heard round the world and the beginning of World War III.
On another evening last week, the entire sky over the New York City blazed red, orange, pink and purple, in a spectacular sunset. As I stood on my balcony with my camera, a passerby grinned and called out, “I just did the same thing!” The man had the brown skin and black hair, like many of my Arab neighbors. I laughed and answered, “It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?” Then I came inside and downloaded my camera, thinking about that beautiful sky and how it covers all of us. That night, images of this sunset flooded my Facebook newsfeed, washing away the hate.
Here in the U.S., the season of giving begins with thanks-giving (and we celebrated the big-T holiday last week too). I’m grateful to live in a place where a stranger and I can share our appreciation of the same sunset. I’m thankful to be a member of a species universally able to look up and appreciate heavenly beauty. And while I don’t believe in God, in this season of giving threatened by the specter of war, I pray that all of us will get to see more sunsets.
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