Sunday, February 21, 2016

Crossing the divide

Grave of a Protestant and Catholic married couple in Roermond, the Netherlands. 
The burial grounds were divided, but they bridged the gap. Image source here.
I came across the photograph of this grave while researching cancer for a work assignment. It was nearly midnight, and my eyes had long since glazed over. As the internet does from time to time, it provided me an image of such fibrous, raw emotion that it startled me awake. I could think of nothing else for the rest of the night. 

It's the truest kind of love story. Back in the 19th century, lady Jonkvrouwe J.C.P.H. van Aefferden, a good Catholic woman from a good Catholic family, flouted tradition damn good and well when she married the Protestant man Colonel J.W.C. van Gorcum. It was not just eyebrows raised over such ideas back then, but pitchforks. But these two married anyway, and late in life when they were sorting out their burial arrangements, society sought to separate them once more. The powers that be should've known better. The couple arranged to have their hands clasping together over the dividing wall, eternally connected.

Catholic, be honest, that's not what this picture is about to me. 

I'm thinking about a savage political season when old friends are baffled by each other's opinions. I find myself shaking my head and calling people cruel fools for following the candidates and the ideas I loathe. I will never back down from supporting social service programs and equal rights, and I will never condone racist, misogynistic, classist policies. 

I wonder if Mr. van Gorcum and Lady Aefferden ever screamed at each other about their religion? I wonder if they shook their heads, silently disproving. Did they reason with one another? Did they fight about putting the tea away, and did it lead to accusations of his upbringing? Hers?

How many such couples like this pair existed before social divisions began to break down?

I want to remain friends with people who disagree with me. It's difficult for me because I am so convicted about so many social issues (and because I am not good at keeping my mouth shut). Also, I'm not even sure it's even the best thing to WANT to remain friends with people I disagree with because honestly, I can only be nice about assfoolery for so long. 


But I don't have to agree with others, and we can remain civil with one another for the sake of mutual understanding. For the sake of peace.  

We can love one another without accepting each other's ideas. I think these two wise old ghosts understood each other in life and probably changed the way their entire society thought about divided religions. 

And of course I'm going to end this with a Rumi quote because I'm in a Rumi mood tonight (you're welcome):

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
 there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other"
doesn't make any sense."