It’s Remembrance Day tomorrow. On this day on at 11:00 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month) we observe the end of what was called the “War to End all Wars”.
My mother’s father, a keen amateur photographer, fought in the First World War, was wounded in the trenches, and returned home disabled, which was bad enough, but he was also shell-shocked. The far-ranging symptoms and affects of PTSD on individuals, families, and entire communities are much better understood now, but then it was seen as a weakness. To me, it shows he was human. Who takes part in war and come out unscathed?
My grandfather also came home with an album full of photos from the front. I look at them and can hardly believe they’re real. But he was there. Though he never talked about his war experiences with his family, the album is chilling proof. I honour him and all those who have fought and died for fighting for our freedom. But I dearly wish they hadn’t had to.
Of course the WW1 did not live up to its headline; we’re still battling it out, country against country, neighbour against neighbour: the macrocosm and microcosm. Has anything really changed? As the song says, When will we ever learn?
We humans seem to fall prey to a kind of amnesia— which seems viral these days. I feel bombarded by consumerist messages in the media and in the streets, and find myself worrying if I need to buy a teeth-whitening kit, when I could be spending my thoughts creatively and my money philanthropically. I must inoculate myself by refocusing on what’s truly important.
I think we will be at war until we recognize ourselves in each other with compassion and love and then act from that place. It’s the most simple principle, but can be ever so difficult to live out. But if we each do just one thing a day, even just sending our thoughts in the right direction, I believe we can make a difference.
Some years I choose to attend the Remembrance Day ceremony wherever I’m living. This year, I’m putting out a call to friends to join me in a peace walk at 11:00 am. It need not be a solemn affair. But it’s important for me to do something on this day in the name of peace.