Hope and Love; a response to the violence and terror in Paris

I know that I stand
together with millions, no probably billions, across the world aghast, saddened
and angered by the terror attacks in Paris on Friday night.  The senseless killing of innocents, whether
at a café, a restaurant, a concert or a stadium, is impossible to understand or
justify.    Pope Francis was quoted as saying
that


“ I am close to the people of
France, to the families of the victims, and I am praying for all of them. … I
am moved and I am saddened.  I do not
understand – these things are hard to understand. …  There is no religious or human justification
for it.”


I find myself sharing
many of the Pope’s feelings in the wake of Friday night.  Saddened, prayerful, and not understanding
how this form of brutality has any place in any religion across humanity.  Again I quote Pope Francis; “There is no
religious or human justification for it”!
In response to the
attacks, borders have been closed, security measures increased, and military
readiness heightened across the world. 
It’s more than understandable.  In
the light of Saturday morning, with the shock and sadness of the madness from
the night before settling into our understanding, our hearts and minds are
turned to thoughts of action, consequences and retribution.  I certainly felt those emotions this weekend,
and I am confident many others did as well. 
I thought that since “they did that to us, what are we going to do to
them?”  I hungered for a strong and
deliberate response, matching fire with fire!
It was in the midst of
those thoughts this weekend that my mind turned back to that amazing speech
from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that I so often go back to for
inspiration.  I have often quoted in this
blog and in many speeches and team meetings Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize
Acceptance speech from December of 1964. 
Almost 51 years old, and yet freshly inspiring this morning!  In the context of amazing violence and
hatred, he shared an amazing vision about the possibilities of humanity:


“ I accept this award today with an abiding faith
in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept
despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept
the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally
incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever
confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam
in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround
him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the
starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and
brotherhood can never become a reality.”

It is hard not to be stuck in the “isness” of our
“present nature”, matching hate with hate, violence with violence, and thinking
that that somehow that age-old cycle will change on it’s own.  Equally it seems almost impossible this
morning to reach up for the “eternal oughtness” that confronts us!  Dr. King was surrounded by hatred and
violence and unthinking acts of terrorism and brutality across his
landscape.  Just before he gave this
speech in Oslo, the bombings occurred in the Birmingham churches, killing the
young Sunday school students.  It was in
this context that he gave this speech, extolling all of us to  “shake off the starless midnight of racism
and war” and be focused on the possibilities of a “bright daybreak of peace and
brotherhood.”
 Challenged and inspired by these words of Dr. King,
I turn my mind to my memories of Paris.
 
I have had the chance to visit Paris, both for work and for pleasure, a
number of times and I am entranced, and quite possibly in love with the
city.
  Ten years ago, I was there for a
business trip and took some time to myself and had an amazing morning wandering
the city.
  I captured a few memories of
that adventure in an essay on this blog (My Morning in Paris), here is an
excerpt:

After an early wakeup, with my map and sunglasses
as my only attachments, I headed out of Le Bristol, around the corner to the
closest Metro station, Miromensil.  The
Metro was busy with morning commuters but it was still early, only 7:30.  After changes at FDR and Concorde, I found
myself at the Rue de Bac station, looking for Notre Dame of the Miraculous
Medal.  Quite by accident I arrived just
as the 8 o’clock mass had begun, celebrated by 6 priests, in French of
course.  While my French is almost
non-existent, the rhythm, the symbols and the beauty of the mass were very
familiar to me and before I knew it I felt fully part of the service.  That beautiful church on a non-descript
Wednesday morning was almost completely full. 
People came and went, stopping in as part of their morning routine, or
taking a few moments of prayer as part of their morning commute; certainly a
step beyond my usual Atlanta rhythm.
After mass I wandered through the narrow streets
into St. Germain de Pres and found a perfect table, overlooking the church, at
Café Deux Margots.  “Un café’ e pan
chocolat si vous plais!”  The sun was
shining, the café bustling, my waiter, at first a bit stern, but once I ordered
in French and ignored him appropriately behind my paper (very Parisian), he
really seemed to warm up!  Sitting very
close to my right was a very attractive, stylishly dressed woman of around 60,
with great glasses and of course,       ”
Le Monde.”  On my left was a young man,
obviously very busy with his cell phone and café.  I was part of the stream of Deux Margot that
morning, a sensation I will certainly enjoy again.  Though my next destination was Musee D’Orsay,
I walked up to the Seine and spent some time on the bridge that crosses to the
Louvre.  I stood in the middle of that
bridge, watching the boats, the cars, the bicycles and the people and I kept
singing to myself the song “I love Paris”. 
After a few turned heads by passersby I realized that I wasn’t singing
only in my head.  Oh well, its
Paris!  On to D’Orsay.
It was a crowded morning at the museum and
instead of strolling through the lower galleries; I went straight for the
escalator that whisks you to the upper floor…the Impressionists.   Seeing Claude Monet’s water lilies in
daylight, lit from above by natural light coming in through the glass ceiling
of the old railroad station continues to be a delight even after a few
visits.  This morning for some reason had
a number of school groups of very young children with their teachers.  They would sit on the floor before these
beautiful, famous paintings with their teachers describing the subject or the
painter and the kids sketching away in their notebooks.  At one point in front of a Degas ballerina
statue one little girl stood to show her friend that she could make the same
pose as the dancer.  This 6 yr. old girl
in a school jumper, replicating the exact pose, the posture, the smile of the
sculpture was “art come to life”; a precious sight indeed.
My time was fleeing and though the clouds were
forming, I wanted to see the Paris from Mont Matre.  Again back on the metro and on to
Abesses.  With the fete de la Musique
underway, the path from the station to Sacra Coeur was a collage of
sounds.  There were fiddlers, an Irish
Harp, a small jazz trio and a choral group from Missouri; all at various
corners, all making music, and all making sense.  The Cathedral of the sacred heart (Sacra
Coeur) was finished in 1914 and sits on a hill overlooking all of Paris with a
view that rivals the Eiffel Tower. 
Though the structure is awe inspiring, the inside, especially the blue
mosaic in the dome above the altar, is breathtaking.  After a few moments of reflection I headed
down the mount and back to the Metro station to head back to the hotel.  I hopped off the train at Madeline, a metro
stop near Place Concorde, so I could find a quick bite for lunch before I hit
Le Bristol.
  
After a few minutes I saw that I had made a wrong
turn (no big deal, all turns that morning seemed pretty right) and wasn’t
heading towards the hotel but in the opposite direction.  Maybe I really didn’t want to get on the
conference call that was awaiting my return. 
I found myself at rue Lavosier (a street named after a famous French
scientist whose name sounds a lot like mine) and the Café Louis XVII.  I sat right on the street and
unapologetically ordered a beer. 
Immediately a Heineken was delivered and that may have been one of the
most refreshing first sips in a long time. 
I ordered the Salade Louis, mixed greens tossed in a light dressing with
ham, gruyere, potatoes and tomatoes.  
Light, delicious and very satisfying especially since I used every crumb
of the small baguette served to enjoy the last drops of the oil and vinegar on
the plate.  After paying the tab, “13
euro si vous plais,” I checked the map, cut down a side street and before I
know it I was back at rue Faubourg and my hotel.
I share all this as a bit of a testimony to not
just how much I loved this trip to Paris but how much I believe that life is to
be lived!  Sure there will be sorrows,
defeats and setbacks but there will also be triumphs, exaltations and great
beauty.  Too often we live our lives at
such a pace that we can’t remember one iota of the day we’ve just
finished.  We are so focused on tomorrow
that we forget that all we know we have in life is today…the now…
 

  Now in the
light of a bright Atlanta morning, I am still saddened and angry about the
attacks in Paris.  Senseless,
hate-filled, acts of violence can never be encouraged, accepted or
condoned!  But as I reflect on our world
and that amazing city, I am working hard to be reminded of the images of the
French schoolgirls at Musee D’Orsay, the beautiful blue ceiling of Sacra Coeur,
and the delicious “Pain de Chocolat” at Café Deux Magot. 

These attacks should and will never be forgotten!  We all must share in the loss of the victims
and the mourning of their families.  We all
should join with the Pope with sadness and prayers.  Additionally, I am reminded and inspired by
the joy, the beauty and the “light” of Paris; and am working hard to stay focused
on the “oughtness” of “Hope and Love” for humanity when it is so easy to be
consumed by the “isness” of the “violence and terror” of the moment!