Like with every prolonged emotional experience, with war, we make a journey. Extremal journey, that happened to us, but still shapes our personal road with many stops and discoveries. “We saw destruction and losses, we couldn’t accept the immediate transition from life to the death of our friends, but… we met real solidarity, real friendship, and sympathy” – the WWII veterans often said. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and victim of Nazi concentration camps, called this acquisition a “preserved community of spirit and life”, and accepted it with gratitude. His final book, published posthumously, was called “Resistance and Submission”. In this name we hear the challenge of his time, putting the human being at the center of universal contradictions.
The horrific experience of war multiplies conflicts. Intimacy between people is tested and often fails. Traumatized consciousness seeks balance and the spirit that has seen the abyss, seeks support. Force of love, the appearance of God, acquires in its light a primordial meaning. At the same time questions to God and the universe sound in their unbearable concreteness. Why did the bomb kill children in the morning square of the Ukrainian city? Why women in occupation became victims of sexual violence and civil men were killed just for having some symbols on their clothes or bodies? Just for being themselves? The border between your own experience and the experience of others, your compatriots, becomes fragile. Our psyche enters the territory of risk and instability, the territory of unbearable sympathy. And as never before you feel as a part of the collective body, a body of your nation – which suffers, dies, and recreates itself. After all the books you read, you used to correlate this feeling with medieval grotesque thinking – but now you are not sure, that the middle ages ever ended.
War is a stolen time. While putting you into the brutal past, it steals your individual timer. You could live youthfully – but feel old. Could have individual calculations, but have a common one. You stop making plans, and one day find yourself homeless even if you still have a home. Hesitating in nowhere, you see that your everyday rituals, small stops in time, lose any sense. The past with its “madeleine cakes” no longer seems to be yours. You would run into yourself, but need an open space… just there you don’t feel so small. Truly religious people can feel such time as sacral, mystically open… for others – it is just absolutely catastrophic.
War is always a crash of humanistic thinking (although this philosophy recreates itself almost in a magic way). Meeting a world with no progress, where people are ready to kill each other again and again, you periodically get overturned by individual kindness and sacrifice. But all your daily feelings stay on the bottom of sadness – and too often you just don’t want to be a human.
Moving forward from this restless point, what would you like to take with you in the unknown future?
– some naivety, and waiting that the heart can be reborn again and again;
– order of thinking, and the belief that awareness converts facts of reality into mental experience;
– sense of harmony, the irrational background of human happiness.
Then, when the war ended, and a new orderliness will streamline the land for the next decades, we will say with hope:
We passed through deep despair. We save ourselves as people.