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Joy and love

Sunday, July 1, 2007 by Marianne Elliott

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Self_portrait_with_joy_in_taxi_2

Self portrait wearing my Joy superhero necklace in a taxi in Bangkok.

This week a very dear friend wrote to me in response to my musings on trauma and healing in post-conflict and fragile states like Afghanistan. I've been thinking a lot about what people need in order to recover from the trauma of severe and ongoing violence and violations of their rights. In fact, I've decided to take some time off in the coming years to go back to school and study more about this. I've even discovered that it is possible to study the "psychology of peace and violence", which is an almost perfect match for my personal and professional interests.

So I've been sending out emails all over the world to people who I know and whose experience and insights on these topics I respect and to people I don't know but who are seen to be "experts" and leaders in this field. It is an exciting time, getting responses from friends and strangers alike that show me that I'm not alone in thinking about these topics.

Anyway – back to my very dear friend – she wrote, in reponse to my rambling email about trauma and healing here in Afghanistan, the following beautiful thoughts:

It has been, since the time I spent working through much of this kind of stuff, … my conviction that the one and only thing that can ever heal the damage done by the cruelty and hatred of humans toward each other, is love.  Without it you can never achieve anything but a sterile kind of survival, but through being shown love people can be healed from the worst of abuses and when people themselves learn to give love they can transcend even the most terrible injustice done to them.

Isn't that wonderful! Now you have some idea of why I love her so much. Like me she got her introduction to this kind of work in the intense and complex the Gaza Strip. Since then our paths have been winding in and out of each other and year by year I have the particular pleasure of discovering that we are learning many of the same lessons, even though we keep conspiring somehow to end up in a country just as the other is leaving.

In her words I saw the reflection of something that has been stirring in me lately. After writing my long recent post about "ahimsa" (the principle of non-violence) and the need to be the change we want to see in the world, I've been starting each day with a short meditation on non-violence and a recommitment to "think no violent thoughts, say no violent words and nuture in my heart no violent feelings" throughout the day. I may not be able to end the hatred and violence which seems to be spreading and escalating here again, but at least I can try not to add to it.

I think that my friend is right – if I cannot guarantee justice or even security to the complainants who approach me I can at least guarantee them that I will recognise their dignity and value and that I will treat them with respect and with loving kindness. 

So when I go off to do my studies next year, do you think I'll be able to design a research project to show that love really is all we need?

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6 Responses to "Joy and love"

  1. Margaret says:

    Beautiful I totally agree. The first step is for us as individuals to be non-violent and to practice loving kindness. What good are we to the rest of the world without this? I was wondering if you had ever read bell hooks. She’s a writer from the U.S. who has been doing alot of writing about love recently. You may like her. Good luck with your connections, Frida.
    Namaste,
    margaret

  2. Margaret says:

    Beautiful I totally agree. The first step is for us as individuals to be non-violent and to practice loving kindness. What good are we to the rest of the world without this? I was wondering if you had ever read bell hooks. She’s a writer from the U.S. who has been doing alot of writing about love recently. You may like her. Good luck with your connections, Frida.
    Namaste,
    margaret

  3. You can do anything, Frieda dear- I have no doubts.
    Love is the answer- I know it sounds so cliche and so simple, but it’s true. We each have to discover it in ourselves and then pass it on to others… that is the key and so hard to do.
    Much love to you, dear friend…
    xoxo

  4. homeinkabul says:

    You have given me alot to think about. Your post (and the previous one) reminds me of this quote:
    “I am done with great things and big things, great
    institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny,
    invisible, molecular moral forces that work from
    individual to individual by creeping through the
    crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like
    the capillary oozing of water, yet which, if you give
    them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man’s
    pride.”
    -William James (1899)
    As always, I am inspired by you and your thought process. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Margaret says:

    I was thinking a bit more about your inquiries into peace and healing. I hope you share what you discover and what you decide to do next. A few years ago, I was a human rights accompanier in Guatemala and I lived with a community of returned refugees. Many of the women had headaches, eyeaches, bad dreams, and something not quite definable called “susto.” Western medicine would call this PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder.) Growing up in Lebanon has also made me very conscious of the emotional consequences of war and violence. After Guatemala, I went to graduate school and shared an apartment with a woman who had been in the military and was suffering from PTSD. It was one of the most important learning experiences of my life. We both challenged each other and grew so much that year that we lived together and now I consider her my best friend. The ability of the human mind to withstand such suffering is quite amazing and I have so much compassion for those who have suffered and for those who are dealing with the repercussions of this suffering.

  6. Vlad says:

    Just to be obnoxious –
    Please – a little less love, and a little more common decency. K.Vonnegut

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