21 April 2022

Anger, healing, and the Atlantic Ocean

Eighteen hours after departing Fort Lauderdale, our transatlantic voyage has just begun. We're out in the open ocean. We reach our first European port in nine days.

Though this voyage is marketed as a cruise, my personal conceit is that I've booked a normal transatlantic passage by ship, the way my family always traveled from Europe to the USA and back during all my childhood and teenage years. I remember the troopship that first brought me from Germany to the USA; the Statendam (twice); the United States; the France. More recently, Judy and I traveled by sea to Japan, arriving there the same way my mother's parents came to their new home in Japan in 1905.

In earlier times our ship's position was marked by pins on a map prominently posted near the purser's office. Now each stateroom is equipped with a huge monitor that can show our exact position from minute to minute.

This ship, Wonder of the Seas, is supposedly the world's largest cruise ship, but somehow its owners left out something that no ship I've ever been on lacked: a library. In fact there is no location anywhere on the ship specifically set aside for reading or writing, not even a computer room. Words fail me, literally.

Capt. Knut Maurer, M.S. Meteor.

What the ship does have, and my soul needs, is the constant sight and sound and motion of the ocean. I'm sure this necessity was programmed into me by my ancestry on both sides of my family. As we make our way through the waves and whitecaps, I'm remembering my father's father, Captain Knut Maurer (Bergen Line), his brother-in-law Captain Martin Jensen (Wilhelmsen Line) and my father, who spent a term on the school ship Christian Radich.

I'm thankful for the healing power of these elemental sensations as I realize how tiny I am -- how tiny even this ship is -- compared to the ocean surrounding us on all sides. As my body relaxes in response, I realize with something of a shock: for the last eight weeks I have been in a state of constant anger and grief.

Not that I have now made my peace with the Russian government's war on Ukraine. My retreat to the ocean does not reduce the agony of this war by the tiniest degree. Nor are we passengers isolated from the world; television and Internet are available aboard the ship just as if we were on land. This retreat does not reduce my need and desire to pray for peace, and to stay in contact with those among our old friends and contacts in Russia who are themselves trying to come to terms with what's happening.

One friend deviates, somewhat, from the pattern. Here's what she wrote:

Right now in the mass media there is a lot being said about how Russia is the aggressor, the invader. But what is happening now was bound to happen. In the western part of Ukraine they have never loved Russians. My husband and I were there for the first time twenty years ago. And when we were on the train, traveling on our way there, they warned us, don't go to places at night where there are not a lot of other people, and don't speak Russian. And when you go to the store, be prepared to find that, when you speak Russian, you are not served.... [Her ellipsis.] The soil was already prepared for the growth of conflict. And what is happening is a sign of the times.

The most recent survey showed that 83% of Russia's population supports Putin's actions. They don't speak about this in the West, where he is portrayed as a tyrant.

Contrast this with the friends who write to me along these lines (quoting one of them): "I am already tired of arguing with them [Putin supporters] because it's absolutely useless.... I have never felt before like I feel now, no hopes for a better future, no power to survive."

The samples are small, but my own observations are in accord with this video sampling of reactions to the Bucha revelations (from a U.S. government-funded outlet):

In this video, the generational differences are pretty much what we observe among the people we know personally.

And here's a more recent sampling concerning reactions to Russia's battlefield experiences:

Given all this reality (and also given the actual agony playing out in hundreds of locations in Ukraine this very day!), what use is my anger? I don't blame myself for it -- after all, wouldn't it be worse to feel no anger at all?? -- but at some point it numbs my ability to pray and discern; it just burns me out to no purpose.

And what is my purpose? The Quaker in me answers that it is the same purpose we always have as a community: to ask what God wants to say and do through us in this time and place.

Alfred McCoy on how Russia can be made to pay for rubbishing Ukraine.

Putin as hero for USA's evangelicals? Maybe not so much anymore.

Rethinking the Russian Orthodox reunification of 2007: was it accomplished under false pretenses?

Nancy Thomas on still being two years old.

From Russia's Bridges Blues Festival: The Jumping Cats.

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