I feel weird writing anything new on a blog about all things foreign without acknowledging first that what has transpired abroad over the past three weeks – in the air over Egypt, in Beirut, in Yola, in Paris, in Bamako, and in many smaller terrorist attacks that didn’t make the front pages – is a tragedy on the order of which no words, or at least not mine, can do justice. (Which is why I didn’t try to write any at the time.) The subsequent backlash against refugees – people who are themselves fleeing terror in their homelands – as well as against Muslims in general, is another sickening attack on our shared humanity.
Many years ago, a colleague told me that on the advice of some spiritual counselor or other she had chosen a three-word mantra to repeat every day. (Of course this was in Los Angeles.) I liked the idea and thought long and hard about what mine should be, before settling upon “courage – tolerance – compassion.” For awhile I would whisper the words to myself once or twice a day, and it did have a very grounding effect, though the habit didn’t last long. Seems like a good time to revive it. I believe in the primacy of those three words now more than ever.