Day 23: Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, who lived between 1886 and 1967, was an Englsih poet, writer, and soldier. Because of his poetry, which described the horrors of the trenches, he became on of the leading poets of the First World War. Many of his poems also called into question the role of politicians in extending wars at the expense of and exploitation of soldiers.  

Siegfried_Sassoon_by_George_Charles_Beresford_(1915)Sassoon became a focal point for dissent within armed forces when he made a protest against the continuation of the war in his “Soldier’s Declaration” of 1917. After that, he got sent to a military psychiatric hospital where he met Wilfried Owen, who greatly influenced him.

Sassoon later won acclaim for his work, notably his autobiography, known as the “Sherston Trilogy”. Having matured greatly as a result of his military service, continued to seek emotional fulfilment, initially in a succession of love affairs with men. To many peoples surprise, he then married Hester Gatty – this led to the birth of a child.

However, the marriage was broken down after the Second World War, Sassoon apparently unable to find a compromise between the solitude he enjoyed and the companionship he craved. He then was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1951 and towards the end of his life, he converted to Roman Catholicism.

Siegfried Sassoon died one week before his 81st birthday.

In 1985, Sassoon was among sixteen Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner.

Examples of the writings of Sassoon – words that have a timelessness to them and certainly speak to the times we live in:

“I believe that the purpose for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.” 

“I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.”

So for today, take a moment to reflect on one of Sassoon’s poems:

Does it matter? -losing your legs?
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.
Does it matter? -losing you sight?
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.
Do they matter-those dreams in the pit?
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they know that you’ve fought for your country,
And no one will worry a bit.

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Day 30: Andrew Marin

I will never forget the scene: a Pentecostal church in the suburbs of Chicago; a group of parishioners gathered for a workshop about ways the congregation can be a welcoming place for gays and lesbians; the presenter, Andrew Marin, who had grown up in the church, holding the tension as some of the attenders were having visceral, deep and emotional reactions to the idea of welcoming gays and lesbians. Andrew, a young heterosexual, understands the response. He had been there himself. What Andrew also understood – something that I did not until that day – was that it is often love, not ignorance and hate that causes so much division. On this particular day, I marveled as Andrew was able to pray with two women who had been the most vocal, until they broke down in tears, acknowledging that they love their church, the Bible, God, and they loved their lesbian daughter in one case, and sister in another. They felt they were being torn apart, and in that moment, the tension was overwhelming.

Andrew_Marin

A few years later, Andrew wrote a book called “Love is an Orientation”. Unlike the William Penn saying “Let us try, then, what love will do” as if to say “after we have tried persuasion and argument, let’s try love”, Andrew’s work at its best is not about persuasion, but about loving. His work focuses on the bridge. His personal actions go deeper – showing up at gay pride parades with “I’m sorry” signs that show a respect for the power of healing and forgiveness. But it is his bridge-building that impresses me. I don’t always agree with his words or his sentiments, and he certainly has plenty of critics on both sides of the lgbtq divide. But as his quote below reminds me, and may be of benefit to many who desire greater peace and seek to build bridges:

“Inherent within bridge building is the necessity to intentionally partner with and work with both worldviews. Building bridges does not mean everyone will eventually agree. It means both worldviews can view each other through a lens of worth based on their shared humanity.”  (from Our Last Option, Chapter 4)

Submitted by Brad Ogilvie