This week I lost NBN connection and was locked out of my Google account while trying to buy an eBook of Ilya Kaminsky’s “Dancing in Odessa”. Today I found myself in the impossible position of trying to convey to an Optus consultant why it was no use telling me to download the Optus app to help fix my problem because I’m locked out of my Google account, all the while trying to keep my sick children entertained with “Play School” running off my phone data. And this mini technological apocalypse, irritating though it was, occurred while Kyiv is bombed and Ukrainians flee for their lives all across Europe.
In the privileged West our lives are constantly lived in the shadow of someone else’s disaster. Sometimes that disaster arrives in our own homes – the COVID-19 pandemic is by no means over, and who knows what the current Ukrainian-Russian conflict means for the rest of the world. But in my life it has mostly taken place from a distance. Mostly I sit in comfort while others live daily through disasters I could never imagine.
I am not to blame for these disasters yet I am complicit in the sin that has broken this world. And I am responsible for the ungrateful way that I hoard my own treasures and safety while others have nothing. Today’s poem, “We Lived Happily Through the War” by Ukraine-born now American-resident Ilya Kaminsky, captures some of this tension perfectly and, like much of Kaminsky’s work, articulates this in the form of a cry to God for mercy. I have also been listening to the music of Ukrainian artist Endless Melancholy whose “Forgive” seems a perfect accompaniment to Kaminsky’s words and the need we all have for forgiveness in these troubling times. Kazimir Malevich’s “Sensation of an imprisoned man” also complements the longing felt on the other side, by those disconnected from the beauties and freedoms enjoyed by many in this world. In all of these pieces we might hear the Lenten cry, “Lord have mercy.”