Friday, August 11, 2006
Poetry in a World of Misunderstanding
"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?" ~ Mahatma Gandhi, "Non-Violence in Peace and War"
How often do we step outside ourselves - our own secure little boxes we create and carry wrapped around us like a barrel shielding our nakedness? How likely are we to try on someone else's box, and if we do, how well do we really feel what they feel? Americans are pretty good at the sympathy thing but I think rather weak where empathy is concerned. Perhaps this why it is so difficult for us to understand how and why some cultures view us in such a negative light.
It is my own view, that the exchange of poetry between countries, cultures, indeed people, offer perhaps the best hope of better grasping a sliver of understanding of the feelings and point of view of all people throughout the world.
It is not my suggestion that this would create "perfect" empathy, because not everyone is going to get into every poem in the same way and achieve the same communion of the poet's essential message, but the possibilities presented would be far more optimistic that the failed distance and isolation that so often feed ignorance of all parties.
Ongoing exposure to cross-cultural poetry offers a chance of hope in our times. Taking advantage of anything that offers hope, no matter how small is better than our status quo.