There are various notions, including Edvard Munch’s own, how he came to paint his several copies of Der Schrie de Natur [The Scream of Nature], commonly referred to as simply: The Scream.
Most human beings who stand before this painting can relate, for who among us has not known moments of extreme anguish or horror, aloneness or despair?
For some time now much of North America has been caught in a polar vortex.
For those not used to a Canadian or Russian winter it has been a real shocker, rather dangerous for many, caused extensive disruptions for travellers, stress on cities, towns, counties trying to cope with all the ice, snow, cold and the impact on roads, highways, hydro and water systems.
The poor and homeless in particular have been most at risk.
However if you throughout this have not been travelling, suffered exposure, lost hydro, had to seek shelter in a warming centre, most likely you have been, perhaps even dispassionately, simply watching cable news.
Having grown up in a country where one of our folk songs proclaims: “My country is not so much a country as it is winter.”, none of this prolonged period of the polar vortex freezing everyone has been unusual.
That is until the middle of the night when I was awakened by the screams of a homeless man, sitting in the alley outside my window – not injured as in suffering some stab wound [itself not uncommon in the inner city] but overwhelmed by a hurting in the extreme cold which freezes the skin and burns your lungs when you breathe.
“The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.” [Sirach 35; 17, 18]
Whenever we view the news reports about people suffering in severe weather, in wars or terrorist attacks, from hunger or flood, homelessness, or any other suffering, our hearts should burn with the awareness of the screaming man.
We should immediately cry out to God for them, and if we come upon someone, as I did with the screaming man in the alley, we MUST see them as brother, as sister, go to them – or at least call 911 and get the help of first responders.
We cannot in this world filled with so much pain and despair, loneliness and hatred, violence and hunger, continue to be observers.
It is the path to life in a world of darkness, for when good people do nothing light vanishes, evil overwhelms.
To be a mere observer and do nothing is un-Jewish, un-Christian, un-Muslim, un-Buddhist, un-Sheik, un-human.
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