The Window of the Soul

The Rose Window in the Hall of Remembrance at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The beauty of the Cherry Blossom Season in Washington, D.C., rivals the season of showy dogwoods and redbuds in Indiana. Bursts of color in stately lines along formal paths or placed here and there between buildings.

Look through the beauty and you see that, as my daughter noted so eloquently, “Every government building needs new windows.” (The windows of the Department of Energy building were particularly awful. Perhaps it should take advantage of a tax break and install new energy-efficient windows?) A great deal of symbolism in the old, broken and inefficient “windows” of Washington.

I am not sure of the state of the windows of the White House as security has extended the buffer zone around the President’s residence. My body chilled to see it and my mind went immediately back to the time I cruised into the port of Leningrad in the late-1970’s. Armed sentries standing stiffly every fifty feet, some carrying heavy automatic weapons, some visible on many rooftops. I know that the physical environment of a people and of a culture, especially in the center of power, reflects the soul of the people.

I am sad. Our soul does not reflect the beauty of the cherry blossoms. I have hope that this winter season of our nation will come to an end with the buds of Spring growth. New political voices are being heard. Our youth sound energetic and bright. Two men walked hand-in-hand on the Washington Mall in the midst of thousands. And thousands and thousands of people, perhaps the majority of people, did not look like me. The chatter of the different dialects of our country and of the countless dialects of countless other languages. I have hope.

My hope for the ascendance – perhaps at some future time in my daughter’s lives the transcendence – of peace and understanding rose so high on seeing the faces of people in the Hall of Remembrance. (The Hall of Remembrance lies at the end of the permanent exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.) I saw evidence of a recognition of our common humanity and that hate in any form, virulently physical or spiritual or cultural or the even more dangerous form, apathy, will not prevail.

Walking into the Hall brought me to the edge of tears. Lighted candles. Spare stone. A rose window above. The names of the places on the surrounding walls where human beings practiced the ways of death-dealing.

The Hall of Remembrance Rose Window is a different kind of a window – a response to the windows of power outside it’s walls along Independence Avenue.

I close with the three biblical inscriptions etched into the stone of the Hall with the hope for humanity to re-member Life…

“What have you done? Hark, thy brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! – Genesis 4:10

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Therefore choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” – Deuteronomy 30:19

“Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children, and your children’s children.” – Deuteronomy 4:9

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