Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book #25: The Long Loneliness

Last weekend, I overheard (and then nosed my way into) a conversation about a book club that focuses on reading memoirs and biographies of interesting women. Hello! These were my people!

I love reading about women who break out of societal norms, and, if they do choose to conform, how they manage to do it on their own terms. I love reading about what shapes their ideas and their lives. I love reading about the impact they've had on the world around them.

Coincidentally, I had just started reading The Long Loneliness, an autobiography written by Dorothy Day, "a nonviolent social radical of luminous personality . . . founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and leader for more than fifty years in numerous battles of social justice."

That conversation with strangers was serendipitous, but then as the week wore on, I realized just how prescient my choice to read this particular book had been.

On Wednesday night at an historical black church in Charleston, South Carolina, a white man attended Bible study and an hour in, after singing and praying and talking with them, he shot and killed nine people. Because they were black.

With that context, reading about Dorothy Day's life took on a new urgency for me.

Early on, she was put off by organized religion because she had so often seen religion used to justify inhumanity and indifference to inhumanity. Exploitation, violence, oppression, extreme economic inequality, racial injustice.

And yet, increasingly, she was drawn toward God until eventually she converted to Catholicism. That is the story she wanted to tell in this book. How her spiritual journey informed her life's work.

By the end she says this: " . . . the final word is love. At times it has been, in the words of Father Zossima [The Brothers Karamazov], a harsh and dreadful thing, and our very faith in love has been tried by fire. We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone any more. . . We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. It all happened while we sat there talking, and it is still going on."

It all happened while we sat there talking.

It all happened while we sat there talking.

It all happened while we sat there talking.

This morning a friend posted, with deep emotion and a lifetime of experience as a black man in America, that he is "absolutely convinced that the subject of race can and will never be discussed honestly."

We need, all of us, for the sake of our humanity, to bear the trial by fire and work on proving my friend wrong.

The shooter in Charleston later said that he almost didn't go through with it because everyone was so kind.

It all happened while we sat there talking. 

To love we must know each other.

1 comment:

Louise Plummer said...

This is lovely.