It is time again for my English language blog.
Today is our Memorial Day. In the course of the afternoon flags are raised until half staff position, and stay there until sunset. In the evening our King and Queen put down flowers at the National Monument at Dam Square, Amsterdam, followed by many authorities and citizens. At 8.00 p.m. a two minute period of silence is observed all over the country. Elsewhere there are silent processions to war memorials and graveyards.
This memorial day was set up after World War II and meant to commemorate the victims of war: those that were killed in battle or in the underground resistance, and those that died in concentration camps, including the victims of the holocaust. In those days the moment of silence was virtually observed by almost everyone. Trains stopped, all traffic stopped, all activities stopped, all noise was gone, one could hear some singing birds in the middle of the town. In later years more an more people went their way during these moments of silence, although still public services come to a standstill, and still many are silent.
Also the circle of victims was extended, including war casualties from Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Vietnam, and all peace missions. One of the newer habits in our country around Memorial Day is the debate about who to include as victim. Can perpetrators, enemy soldiers and accomplices be victims too? Veterans, the first generation victims and Jews generally don’t think so. What would the dead think? This reminds me of one of the poems of Owen in Benjamins Britten’s War Requiem. When two dead soldiers meet each other after death, the one says to the other: “I am the ennemy you killed, my friend. . . . Let us sleep now. . . ” Food for thought.
What do we think about when those moments of remembrance come? Most of us don’t know the victims personally, so for them a personal mourning process is not so obvious. Of course we can grief about war itself. We can feel our longing for peace. We can contemplate about our own violence, in thought or in action, about our own seed for conflict, and feel the deep regret. And also this day is an excellent opportunity to contemplate death itself. This is an obscured issue in our society, which is strange because we all have to deal with it. What is death? Where do we go in dying? Shall we live on, as an identity, as a remembrance, as non-personal spirit, in another world, or shall we just vanish? “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen.3:19). But if that is so where then did our spirit, our mind, our soul come from? From nothing? Or are we reborn? Is reincarnation so? Are the death still with us, or are they definitely gone? What do we believe, and what do we want to believe? What are we afraid of? Is there fear or peace in our hearts?
Many great spiritual teachers state they have an answer to these questions. Despite their greatness, I don’t belief them. One of the reasons is that they have different answers. So these answers are not THE truth, but their personal truths. Nothing wrong with it, but it leaves us with the challenge to find our own truth. Notwithstanding so called near death experiences, I don’t belief that it is given to us human beings to know what there is after death, if anything. But we are gifted with the potential of faith, choice and belief. So let us find our own truth. For our own inner peace, for our redemption of fear and therefore the peace in the world.
(I apologize for mistakes in my English. Blogs are cursory – not stuff for correction by a native speaker)