A candle in the darkness
We are living in difficult, divisive times. A group of mainly young men are groomed, undercover, to think of themselves as martyrs of a holy army. Lies are served up to them that their missions of destruction are righteous actions on behalf of a divine being. Meanwhile, out in plain view and in control of powerful media, other powerful figures serve up lies fuelled by equally hate filled rhetoric against this group or that. These are both faces of ideology which use cheap, easy inflammatory slogans designed to have a hot, visceral appeal.
Making connections, learning how to live in a way which sees humanity, commonality rather than division is a harder path. One which requires much more work, bravery, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute effort. It’s quieter, humbler, and truly heroic work
On November 13th 2015 3 people who had swallowed the martyr lie, killed 90 people, and injured several hundred more who had gone to enjoy a gig at the Bataclan, a concert venue in Paris. One of those killed was a young mother, Hélène Muyal-Leiris. Hélène was one of the 90 ordinary people, special people to their friends and family, whose lives were ended by acts of meaningless, whipped-up hatred. Hélène’s husband, Antoine Leiris, a journalist, was babysitting their young seventeen month old son, Melvil, and discovered, from a swathe of surprising texts asking if he was okay, that something exceptional, something terrible had happened in Paris.
Of course, having a culprit, someone to take the brunt of your anger, is an open door, a chance to temporarily escape your suffering. And the more odious the crime, the more ideal the culprit, the more legitimate your hatred. You think about him in order not to think about yourself
In the immediate aftermath of the senseless violence at the Bataclan Antoine posted a letter on Facebook to the attackers and those like them, ‘You will not have my hatred’, which went viral. It was a passionate and positive statement of intent to do the hard, heroic, daily work of continuing to love and grieve for Hélène, and to raise his little boy without succumbing to bitterness, hatred, and the kind of unthinking demonization of ‘the other’ which led those woefully duped young men to their terrible acts.
I am the one who loves Hélène, not the one who loved her
This beautifully written, simple, in many ways ‘ordinary’ book is a continuation of the commitment expressed in Leiris’ letter – it is a celebration and appreciation of his dead wife, and her value to him, to their little boy, to their friends and family. And it recounts, in a very honest and heartfelt was, how he and Melvil dealt with the whole process of losing Hélène so tragically and so shockingly in the immediate aftermath of the Bataclan attack. The account, beginning with hearing the news on 13th November, ends 12 days later, as Antoine has to find a way to help Melvil absorb the fact that Mummy will never come home, without allowing Melvil to become infected by the destructive, vengeful legacy of bitter hatred, in the future, towards a random group of ‘other’,
A child is not weighed down by grown-up things. His innocence is our reprieve
I say this book is in many ways ‘ordinary’ – because, actually, if our sorry species is to avoid savaging itself and our planet to destruction, it will only be because the hard, daily choice to make living in conscious kindness, compassion, tenderness and generosity of spirit is the choice made by an overwhelming majority of people. However extraordinary Leiris’ choice might seem, however impossible it might seem that any of us, so tested, might make his choices, it would be essential that we can, and do. I don’t think any of us can afford to believe Leiris is exceptional. But he is the kind of hero to inspire us. I hope I will never have to be in the dreadful place from where Leiris made, and makes his continual choice for life, and hope and growth, but in small ways these choices present themselves to all of us. You Will Not Have My Hate shines a candle in the darkness, and maybe, in the way of candles, others can see the way to light their own from it
This book is almost finished.
It will not heal me. No one can be healed of death. All they can do is tame it. Death is a wild animal, sharp-fanged. I am just trying to build a cage to keep it in. It is there, beside me
I received this as a digital version for review, via NetGalley
wrote a thoughtful reflection on this which I came across as I finished one book and was about to start on another. And, her review chiming so perfectly with all I was reflecting on, she made sure that the one started on, was this one.
In a book filled with so many thoughtful, reflection provoking statements, I was not surprised to see that we had both been struck by one particular quote