Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall - Silence Beyond Words

At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, we look and listen.  The Wall and Names
We touch a name or two or more.  We touch a nameless spot to relate with the entirety of lives lost in the Vietnam Conflict.  We listen.  We think.  Our thoughts are inadequate to the meaning of these moments with this messenger.  We want to stay.  We want to leave.  We pray.  We notice the silence.

Wait a minute.  Let's look up another name in the directory, find it on The Wall, touch it and find meaning by our actions.  Take a photo of the name.  The Wall grows larger.  Look up a name on the web site at the top of this blog post.  Read the story of that person.  Look up another.  Stories hide behind each of its names.  Listen.  The silence quietly echoes the stories.

We notice the people who focus on only one name.  They touch.  They look.  They photograph.  They talk about the name.  They wonder about the others.  They feel the silence.

Some are dressed in the garb of a Vietnam Veteran.  Hats are the most common identifier of the Vietnam Veteran, often listing the years of service in-country.  They may wear a fatigue shirt with unit identifiers and rank or a T-shirt noting their service.  They are quiet.  They look at The Wall, then at the section listing the dead from the time of their service in Vietnam.  They wonder why their name didn't make it on The Wall.  The silence answers them.

Waiting in the presence of The Wall seems to slowly generate a oneness with The Wall and its meaning.  Time spent with the Wall can be overwhelming at first, as each name pulsates softly with a message.  That meaning isn't spoken in words. It even speaks through computers and social media.  It comes slowly through the silence.

The meaning of the Wall is a patient message, with a patient messenger.  It may arrive years after the only visit or immediately during the first encounter.  It arrives in our heart and grows.  A sense of wounded-ness may precede its full message.  The Wall is a patient teacher.  When the heart is ready to learn, The Wall delivers at a level consistent with the readiness of its student.  The silence delivers the meaning and may return to refresh it after predictable human lapses.

Though words seek to explain the lessons learned from the losses, especially on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, the recitals can only hope to lead the way to a more open heart that sets the stage for understanding.  Music, poetry, art and monuments may allow the hearts to open further to the message.  The Wall connects the spiritual  hearts of those engraved on its gabbro rock with those who mourn and celebrate the lives of  the deceased.  The whole-hearted communication of meaning slips through the silence that is beyond words.

Pray.  Listen.  Listen with your heart.  Be patient.

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress.  For we can't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray.  But the Holy spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will."   Romans 8: 26-27

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