Middle Space in an Age of Left and Right
I have recently had several interesting conversations with my adult daughter. Growing up in our home, she was exposed to a wide variety of people and learned to respect those from vastly different communities and cultures. Our home was always open, and over the years we had many guests. Meal times were often occasions of deep and interesting conversations. She internalized values of respect for others, fairness, kindness and a sensitivity to issues of justice and human rights.
During one of our recent conversations, she remarked that she’s held the same ethical and political views since she was in high school. She stated that then, her views were considered to be centrist mainstream (in the middle space), but today the same views are considered to be far to the left on the margins of what is acceptable. Whereas then she felt in the majority, today she feels and knows she’s on the margins. We spoke about the swing to the right that has become the majority stance in Israel and how those who lit memorial candles and wept together after Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination are today part of the mostly silent apathetic majority. They’ve become disillusioned with politics and hold out little hope for change. My daughter expressed her opinion that hope for peace died with Rabin.
As we’ve continued our conversations and as I interact with others of her generation, I hear their longing for something different, for an end to the conflict and violence in the land. I also hear great frustration and a growing sense of hopelessness that their choices and actions today can make any difference. In her thirties, she has already concluded that she won’t see an end to the conflict in her lifetime.
I too came to this conclusion a number of years ago. Having done so, having accepted that I almost assuredly will not see what I long, dream, pray and work for, has strangely caused me to become more committed to the course – seeking reconciliation and engaging in peacebuilding. Rather than discouragement, I am increasingly encouraged to continue on the path, despite that today that path is on the margins. I am heartened by those many who still long for peace and others who are willing to work for it even though peace seems to be an ever retreating illusion. I’ve learned to be comfortably uncomfortable on the margins even though, in my mind, I am occupying what should be the middle space.
I wrote the following poem after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in Paris in January 2015. The middle space here is actually an inversion of the common understanding. In reality, I see the middle space as above the extremes in the cross space that’s both temporal and eternal.
Who stands in the middle,
in the gap between extremes?
Almost alone in spaces undefined
but for endlessly expanding crowds
to the left and right
all convinced of their correctness.
Those who stand in middle spaces
attempt to span, stretch across insanities,
polarities that strain taut toward invisible edges.
Reason gone mad in a time,
in an age that seeks sanctuary,
finding false security at unrecognized margins.
And the sparsely occupied middle place
focused finally in that cross space
where death rises, resurrected
to life beyond categories of correctness,
left and right subsumed, consumed
in eternity’s infinite union.