Song of the Exile

The painful loneliness of the exile, the wanderer, the rootless man, are staples of literature across the ages. It is the subject of perhaps the most beautiful poem in the English language, albeit Old English. A man can be lonely even in a city of five million people.

The exile is now all too common, fleeing from lands which were once home, that can never be homelike again, or seeking a better life amongst the wealthy nations. It is now a dull cliché to say it takes a village to raise a child – really it takes a co-operating, integrated society of common understanding to carry anyone through life in comfort and sanity, and an exile outside a society to which he truly belongs is lost.

Living life and keeping your mind on the level is hard enough at the best of times in a complex, modern nation, but where there are no social bonds and understandings it is near impossible. There are frequent complaints that immigrants clump together in separate societies within society, but that is exactly what you would expect, what is necessary.  If I were to find myself in exile, however much in comfort, perhaps owning a farm in Kenya, in the Rift Valley (well, a man can dream) then I too would seek out fellow Britons for company, to share what we all understand. What is more, I would need to keep reaffirming who I am: I expect that I would become a British stereotype, suddenly taking an interest in the cricket scores, insisting on having tea at exactly 4 o’clock, with scones at the weekend, and following all the detail of news from home.

For the wanderer in Britain, cut off from his homeland, the surrounding society is very strange. He must cling to what he was and emphasise it far more than he would have done at home. The Syrian who was a nominal Muslim in the streets of Aleppo becomes the emphatic Mohammedan in London or Liverpool. In Aleppo once… but now here and less himself by striving to be more himself.  It is a story told over millions of souls.

In Liverpool, we do not know what went through the mind of a young Syrian man at the weekend. He came from that destroyed society where evil is the norm, and may inure any receptive heart to atrocities. He came from a destroyed society into another and was here a rootless exile. They say he was confirmed  Christian in the cathedral but then reverted: did he nominally convert to cheat the asylum system, or genuinely seek to accept Christ to attach himself to the society he had joined, only to swing away again in reaction?  Perhaps he was yoyoing back and forth and his action was an attempt to make an end, stability in death, and maybe to get into heaven by breaking a side window? Who can ever tell. Even the foulest crimes are lurking in the human heart awaiting release when the society that restrains them is snapped. The song of the exile is a lament and it can grow into a scream.

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Author: LittleHobb

Solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short

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