Sunday, November 21, 2010

Butterfly Effect of the Pope's Change of Heart: AIDS, Africa, the world, new hope, Thom Gunn poem

The Pope has finally condoned use of condoms (in "limited" circumstances).

That is both not enough and the most exciting, heartening, lifesaving news I've heard in a long time. How any institution could watch as women and children and men suffer--when that institution could save millions (what, at least twenty million deaths in Africa?) has been disturbing and it's hard to say how the west or the Church can ever make sufficient reparations. But this is a major, huge development. My heart feels anunciated, filled with golden light.

Meterologist Edward Lorenz's theory of a "Butterfly Effect," that small changes in atmospheric physics can have a momentous impact--popularized in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, an examination of how trends begin and spread--sure holds true today.

The Vatican's decision isn't so small. Its effect will be enormous. The fact that a conservative Pope reversed a policy is in itself a model of listening to the heart. We can't raise the dead but at least we can prevent more tragedy.

Here's a poem by Thom Gunn, a memory of friends who died. As I was searching online for relevant work I was unable to find poems by Africans although I'm sure there are many. By International AIDS Day, surely, I'll find some.

The Man with Night Sweats
 I wake up cold, I who
Prospered through dreams of heat
Wake to their residue,
Sweat, and a clinging sheet.
My flesh was its own shield:
Where it was gashed, it healed.

I grew as I explored
The body I could trust
Even while I adored
The risk that made robust,

A world of wonders in
Each challenge to the skin.
I cannot but be sorry
The given shield was cracked,
My mind reduced to hurry,
My flesh reduced and wrecked.
I have to change the bed,
But catch myself instead

Stopped upright where I am
Hugging my body to me
As if to shield it from
The pains that will go through me,

As if hands were enough
To hold an avalanche off.
Thom Gunn,

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