love transcends

A young couple kiss in a tent in Keleti station in Budapest, surrounded by other refugees. Photograph: Istvan Zsiros
A young couple kiss in a tent in Keleti station in Budapest, surrounded by other refugees.
Photograph: Istvan Zsiros

I saw this photo in a Guardian article and was really struck by it. An intimate expression of love amidst a desperate situation. Your eyes are instantly drawn to this moment that seems hidden away and yet, so public, with their tent completely surrounded.

The article ends with the photographer stating:

“I hope every refugee finds their place in the world, finds peace as quickly as possible,” Zsiros says. “That everyone is happy. It’s a very difficult situation, a very complex situation.”

And he hopes his photograph might change the way people see the situation: “Love,” he says, quoting the movie Interstellar, “is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends time and space.” And, perhaps, borders.

Though his desire for everyone to be happy almost naively echoes Miss America wanting world peace, I can’t help but feel all warm inside about his desire for this photo to bring hope to a bleak situation. It is a powerful image that demonstrates the capacity for humans to stand in the face of suffering, pain, loss, displacement and think of another person and express love to them, to still feel something good, to not crawl inside oneself and decide there is no point, to anything. I saw this article on a day when I felt consumed by anger many times because of minor infractions by my children. Anger, a normal stage of grief, but what do my kids know of that? By the end of the day I felt no compassion for them whatsoever, if I am completely honest. It felt scary and repulsive. I felt no love, no kindness. This may be a normal feeling in response to painful events of life, but there is still a choice to be made – a choice to love in amongst the pain. I could see my husband seeing my harshness and trying to encourage me to leave things to him! After bed time was done I went out without being able to speak to him so I was going to text and apologise for failing our children but before I had a chance I received a text from him, it said, “love you.”

I heard a writer say that everyone is afraid of being forgotten and writing is basically a way of ensuring that we aren’t. Ensuring that people aren’t forgotten. Civilisations aren’t forgotten. Memories are kept safe for future generations. I think photographs can work that way too. The photo above has gone viral and will last forever. A moment captured that sends a message of love in suffering. Their love transcends time and space, having been shared with thousands, impacting the way others love and choose to love no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. We have seen many, many images that send out a message of hate to the world. Hate can also transcend time and space, impacting lives forever, impacting future generations.

But love never fails. Love can heal and restore where hate has damaged and destroyed. A choice to forgive, a choice to empathise, a choice to think of someone else first, a choice to embrace, a choice to give time, a choice to say affirming words that aren’t deserved. I can imagine this couple thinking: it was just a little smooch, what’s all the fuss? It doesn’t take much to have a far-reaching impact on a member of your family, a friend, a stranger, or perhaps even without expecting to; thousands of people around the world.

The implications of daily choices transcend time and space. My Dad’s love for those around him and also for people he didn’t even know goes on in our heart’s and minds, and in their lives, like a domino effect.

I miss him desperately and I love him; a love that now must and does transcend time and space.

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