By Basil Fernando –
Church bells will ring and lights will be lit to remember the 2019 Easter Sunday tragedy. Meanwhile, people have also been putting up a fight against the deadly coronavirus.
For some, both events will only have a political meaning, depending on what political loyalties they are committed to. In that way, the meanings of these extremely significant events will be gradually lost and soon they will be forgotten, or buried in the mud of opportunistic politics.
However, such events have meanings that transcend mundane interests. Such threatening events have the potential to evoke greater community and collective responses. The very events that bring destruction can also activate the hidden capacities of individuals and societies.
Societies that are divided may begin to realize the need to strengthen their collective bonds. Narrow mindedness may give way to deeper commitments. People may re-evaluate their values and priories.
It all depends on the capacities of the societies to articulate options for its members whose minds are deeply disturbed.
In such moments, the singers, poet, artists, honest spiritual leaders, thinkers, philosophers and writers lift the souls of the people and help to generate genuine solidarity a in country in which the noises of division dominate.
In such times, greater humanism may flower, fertilized by pain.
Ringing bells and lighting lamps are symbolic acts. As symbols these may have many meanings. Ringing bells may be a way to express reembrace. What do we try to remember? One answer of course is remembering the dead. We may remember them with love, as persons who became victims of an evil deed that should not have happened. We may also be expressing our regret that we were not able to protect them. Expressions of personal love and regret, as well as collective feelings. Thus, by expressions of this nature we also say loudly that we are all one and that we are sharing their tragedy and pain as a collective experience.
It is the realization of this collective aspect that contributes to the quality of our symbolic action.
The quality of the act depends on the quality of the reflections and feelings that accompany the action. If bells are rung mechanically it is not an act that expresses respect. The quality of our response depends on our willingness to accept our own responsibility for been unable take all the efforts to have avoided to tragedy, or at least to minimize the effect of it.
It is the internally held sense of collective responsibility that makes our symbolic gestures honest and meaningful. Collective actions need to be accompanied with consideration of our common moral values. Weakly-held moral values, or the absence of such values, is an essential aspect of understanding how such tragedies happened in the first place. A society should create opportunities to enable the people to reflect on the moral foundations of its consciousness.
Thus, when publicly expressing regrets and solidarity, it is also essential to reflect back on how much the society has been able to learn about its own limitations and the defects that need to be addressed if respect is to be paid to the dead in a manner that would bring purifications within a society and strengthen it for the future, and thus enable it to have the confidence that these lessons learned would become a permanent factor in the collective consciousness of all.
If, instead, the whole process of remembering is used to trivialise the whole tragedy by provoking superficial political debates, then society loses a great opportunity to grow up through the unfortunate events that have caused suffering to the dead as well as to the living.
The duty of all those who play a role in attempting to develop more mature responses to tragedies is, above all, to keep the focus on deeper moral issues and obstruct all attempts to politicize such events.
The lighting of lamps is symbolic of the expression of the continuity of life despite tragic events. Religiously, it may symbolize the continuity of the lives of the individuals who suffered the tragedy. However, it also symbolizes a collective will to survive in the face of great adversities and a determination to come together with stronger bonds, whereby the light of each person enlightens the whole of society.