In the shadow of all crises, most words feel too small. A while ago I was talking with my mother and we got into a small argument about what the Bible says about war. I wasn’t convinced by the idea that the Bible could offer a useful perspective on Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, but I do know that books — old and new — can be read in many ways and they speak differently to different people.
The book that speaks to me is Tao Te Ching. For the last 20 years I have returned to it to reflect my own thoughts in its glimmering stream of thought and poetry. Lately, one particular verse has often returned to my mind: “When two armies engage in combat, the one that feels sorrow prevails.” (Chapter 69, Minford)
This verse goes deep and gives me hope — but it does more than that, because it also gives meaning to sorrow, which is a remarkably difficult task to do. Sorrow connects us with sincerity and what is truly beautiful, valuable and truthful in us humans. We don’t cry for things that do not matter — we cry for things that connect us to life.
Thinking about the war, Russia’s brutal invasion in Ukraine, it is pretty obvious to me which one of the nations feels more sorrow right now. As the old cliche goes, there are no winners in war. But cultures are built on meanings, and sorrow has the power to create meanings that last centuries, even millennia. Just think about the Bible and its majestetic arches of sorrow. At the core of the Bible is a story about losing your country, losing your parents and losing your child. I can’t imagine anything heavier and more heartbreaking than that.
The sorrow Ukraine feels now will echo far into the future, and because of that its history will prevail much longer than the bloody, evil and delusive history Putin is trying to write.
Please consider donating money to the Ukrainian charities if you can. Red Cross, Come Back Alive and UNICEF are all reputable charities. Paypal is also now accepted in Ukraine, so if you have a personal connection, it is an easy way to transfer money to the people directly. There are also many music and art projects that you can support, for example Додому, a series of compilations by more than 100 participating artists (including me). We have also been working hard at Future Rust on a support project that will be announced soon.