Danger and peace are two incessant concepts that have captured my attention this week. First, in the cozy, wooden-fired living room of old friends watching the excellent “Ip Man”; next, among words produced by Philip Hallie’s “Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There”; then, during the opening pages of Henry James’s “The Ambassadors”; finally, over gradual conversations amounting to pacifism in the context of American involvement with other countries. Is true danger necessary to experience true, lasting peace? Are the sacrifices worth it? Can I find solace knowing that my support of imposed danger (war) or received danger (persecution) grant me the kind of peace I crave for myself and/or others? Thank my intelligent and talented American Prose professor for giving me a deep curiosity this week.
“Ip Man” follows the legend of Yip Man, supposedly the first Chinese martial artist to teach Wing Chun (according to Wikipedia, a style mixing the characteristics of snake and crane and focusing on a combination of balance, softness, and close-range direct hits for defense and attack; also practiced by Robert, Downey, Jr.). He uses his physical power mostly for good: protecting his sweet family, making sure neighbors are safe, and promoting martial arts for healthy competition and spiritual, as well as mental wholeness. However, the audience detects a soon-to-be swift turn of events as Master Yip enjoys his gentle prosperity. Japanese occupation forces him to watch friends savagely murdered, and to endure poverty and a tragic loss of self-worth. In the end, he fights desperately for country, confidence, and peace. What I see in this film is the lengthy harmony first obtained by the main character, almost rewarded for his patient righteousness. Yet after the awful plague of repeated human evil, the large presence of final serenity is thirst-quenching and beautiful. True danger was necessary, the sacrifice legit, and peace rains down in thick slivers.
Another tragic love story occurs in “Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There.” It’s tragic because the full face of Nazi occupation colors this story, but lovely because incredible faith brings restored humanity to the forefront. A Protestant minister and his loyal, compassionate community harbor Jewish refugees as if it were a basic premise to love them. In fact, so practical were their gifts of love that they extended them even to the enemy. This scene finds policemen in the home of Pastor Andre Trocme, before arresting him:
“After the pastor and his wife rejoined the police in the
dining room, Magda Trocme invited the two policemen to have
dinner with them. Later, friends would say to her, ‘How
could you bring yourself to sit down to eat with these men
who were there to take your husband away, perhaps to his
death? How could you be so forgiving, so decent to them?’
To such questions she always gave the same answer:’What are
in my way; we were all hungry. The food was ready…”
Now granted, the emotions of Magda weren’t always this calm in the midst of WWII. But, the deep stability of her faith and care made her know that love and peace have deep roots that can’t be shaken. The peace was also available before any terrible hardship, and one could argue that its strength remained significant before, during, and after in the same gentle manner and with no visible change. It was already a part of her, and ultimately, the village’s make-up.
In the very beginning chapters of “The Ambassadors” as with several face-to-face conversations this week, I gathered that peace can be internal organism and therefore dependent upon what type of experience and personality accompany it. Strether is a symbol of American hustle and bustle, excited for enterprise but also slightly enslaved to his calendar and duties. Miss Gostrey represents the luxurious, relaxing pull of a country who knows how to enjoy the small and important things of life. (Europe, particularly for me, France) This tension between peace and danger are probably evident throughout the book (which I’ll discover shortly), but are definitely present in the first part of the novel. The wars that America have begun and carry out today, promote a form of protection that some foreign citizens know as safety and value. They are living in a petrifying environment where they need help and heroism. However, a sense of peace also comes from placing the airmask on your on face before attempting to give someone else theirs.
True danger adds amazing, joyful peace to people who have the privilege of gaining something at the end of it or those who lacked the peace to begin with. It can be worth it, or it may not matter if you are so entrenched in your soul in an unshakable foundation that glows brighter than what you were afraid of. I can find solace in this being how I should feel, but I look forward to the danger because I know I’ll be refined and a more complete version of myself when I let go and trust.
On another note, please check out my friend Laura’s blog. She is a writer who looks for this peace in all that she does:
Until next week!