Until Our Hearts Break

Image on Cloth [Rosemary Kearney]
There will be no redemption until our hearts connect to the heart-break of our world. And we can learn from those in Africa, cradle of our origins, who are in touch with the horror and the embrace, forgiveness, emptying via the body and soul that brings healing.

A Rwandan talking to a western writer about his experience with western mental health and depression said: “We had a lot of trouble with western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide and we had to ask some of them to leave. They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better, there was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again, there was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy, there was no acknowledgement of the depression as something invasive and external that could actually be cast out again. Instead they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to ask them to leave.”[1]


I sob in anguish as I listen to eMarabini, a traditional Xhosa song about an orphan. The song asks: “Who will look after this child, for it is truly without parents?”  eMarabini can be sung with new meaning today all over the world as we collectively become orphans both literal and in our souls.  Listen with your heart and you will howl, ululate, cry for us all.

The feeling behind this song is driven by a sense of hope. As it has been sung to win past struggles of apartheid and slavery, it is now sung to overcome present struggle. It captures the “radical wisdom” of being as if without memory or desire: The “purification of memory and the “prayer of no experience that Constance Fitzgerald talks about in From Impasse to Prophetic Hope: Crisis of Memory.

Ukuthula which means Peace also brings about this purification of memory. It is beyond experience, peace in the face of difference which is the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Other words in the song capture this Prophetic Hope in the very worst of lived experience so that it becomes the “prayer of no experience:-  Usindiso – Redemption         Ukubonga – Praise    Ukutholwa – Faith    Ukunqoba – Victory   Induduzo – Comfort

Let us take one and other by the hand and sing our heart-break togetHer: She who holds all things in the heart of Hearts where the fire and the rose are one.


[1] From The Moth podcast, Notes on an Exorcism.

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