As we learn more about the frightening arsenal that was present at the Capitol building, in and around it, we realize what a “bullet” we dodged. As horrendous as the loss of life was—and even one is a deplorable tragedy—it could have been much worse. Many of the rioters were carrying firearms. Someone even had several Molotov cocktails on hand!
The fact that the attack occurred on the day of the Epiphany of the Lord has not been lost on many. Epiphany, meaning “manifestation” or “revelation,” is usually illustrated by the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. It speaks of the light of Christ shown to the Gentiles, to all the nations.
I have developed a new appreciation for Epiphany and the season of Epiphany. I’m not speaking of magic, but the reality and power of that light, with the prayers of the people, had to have some salutary effect.
Is there a lesson to be learned? Without a doubt, justice must be done, but if we stop there, we cheat ourselves. Laying aside the violence at the Capitol (and the threats that continue), our country still suffers deep divisions. Like it or not, we have to live with each other.
Does compassion have anything to say to us? “Hold on now,” some might say, “how dare you suggest that? These are enemies, despicable enemies. And we know we’re right!”
Now look into a mirror. What do you see?
Compassion is not weakness. It is not surrender. It does not ignore crimes. It takes a great deal of strength.
(On a side note, here’s a question. Does compassion correlate to anything physical? Can it be measured? There is an episode of Cosmos: Possible Worlds, “The Cosmic Connectome,” hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson that might touch on that. At the 3:30 mark in the trailer there’s a hint of what the episode says about such things.)
One of my favorite poems on light was written by Brian Turner in his book, Here, Bullet. He is a US veteran who served in Bosnia and Iraq. Turner speaks of Ibn al-Haytham. (His name was Latinized as Alhazen.) One thousand years ago in present-day Iraq, he developed what would be called the scientific method. His specialty? The study of light. The poem is titled “Alhazen of Basra.”
“If I could travel a thousand years back
to August 1004, to a small tent
where Alhazen has fallen asleep among books
about sunsets, shadows, and light itself,
I wouldn’t ask whether light travels in a straight line,
or what governs the laws of refraction, or how
he discovered the bridgework of analytical geometry;
I would ask about the light within us,
what shines in the mind’s great repository
of dream, and whether he’s studied the deep shadows
daylight brings, how light defines us.”
We have much to learn from Epiphany light.