Clenched Fist and Wicked Word

Yesterday the whole world was stunned into silence. News of the earthquake in Japan and the tsunami that followed left us without words. Even the enormities being perpetrated in Libya or Ivory Coast seemed small by comparison, as if the loss of human life could ever be a small matter! Yet I noticed that a few sick types were soon active on the internet, expressing glee that so many had been killed. There is something cold and closed about hatred, well summed up in Isaiah’s phrase about clenched fists and wicked words. To me, the clenched fist has never symbolized strength or power but only impotent rage: a hand unable and unwilling to receive. In the same way, the wicked word is deaf to all kindness, its own ugly clamour shutting out all but its own noise.

There is a promise attached to doing away with clenched fists and wicked words. Perhaps realising how vulnerable we all are is the first step in learning compassion. What happened yesterday in Japan reminded us that the world is not under our control, nor can the disaster be expressed in terms of statistics. Every one of those statistics has a name, an identity. As we learn, hour by hour, of the number of people who have been killed or gone missing, we need to remember that. We need to pray for them as individuals, to speak good words instead of bad and to open our hands to give.

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3 thoughts on “Clenched Fist and Wicked Word”

  1. Thank you for your prayers. It is most welcome here in Japan. Living in Yokohama, the size of the quake was a 6 on the Richter scale, which is about the same as Christchurch! But fortunately, buildings were able to withstand it and not collapse though we still had 3 fatalities in the city. In the north which bore the brunt of the quake, it was 8.9 on the scale, 8,000 times more powerful than Christchurch. Unless you’re here, I don’t think people can fathom how powerful that really is. To have the entire ground shaking around you as though we’re nothing, to literally be able to hear the movement is very, very frightening. It’s like a massive groan than goes right to the core of a person, and your whole body feels it. People are walking around with stunned expressions, fearful of aftershocks and just expressing disbelief at how much damage was caused and how many lives, still counting, that have been lost.
    Lord haver mercy on us all, and eternal rest grant to them O Lord.

  2. Yes, such a devastating, multiple catastrophe — and not over yet!

    Fortunately, I missed those who expressed glee over the loss of human lives — the only thing I can hope is that those who express such vile, provoking thoughts thereby expell the urge to do violence.

    Wicked words: oh, sadly, many such leave my lips.

    Clenched fists expressing impotent rage: you’re so right. When I was a young child, I fought a lot with my sister (3 years my junior). Our father would often cut our arguments short and forbid another word out of us. Since he was very strict and autocratic, we literally obeyed him, but our little girl hearts were still filled with frustrated rage. Fittingly (in terms of what you said, Sister, about what a clenched fist signifies to you), we invented a sign that would express our continuing belligerence: holding up a clenched fist. “To be continued,” we seemed to be saying. Of course, eventually we would make up and not hold grudges, but the thought now of the small fists lifted in the air makes me sad. My sister who remembers way more about me than I do also tells me (smiling indulgently) that I am the one who invented this silent way of ‘communicating.’

    Well, I am not proud of it and am hereby opening my fists into upturned palms. At least for the moment.

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