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There were a couple of different titles floating around in my head for this particular column, before I finally settled on “It is well.” One of the titles considered was “Lazarus' Awakening,' the other one was “Colossus Tumbles.” Most of us are familiar with the tale of Lazarus being raised from the dead. The story of Lazarus' death reaching Jesus is the impetus for the shortest verse in the New testament, “Jesus wept.”

The Lazarus that I want to talk about today though has writings in another place besides the New Testament but it is capable of also bringing about some tears. The Lazarus whose writings I want to explore is named Emma Lazarus whom wrote a poem of some renown and substance, does it ring a bell; care to take a guess as to what this poet actually wrote?

Here is the complete poem for those readers whom are wondering-

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, 

With conquering limbs astride from land to land; 

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand 

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame 

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name, 

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand 

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command 

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. 

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she 

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, 

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This, of course, is the poem inscribed on tablets, inside the Statue of liberty. If you have an ounce of pride about your country those beautiful words can indeed, move you to tears. The actual name of the poem? “The New Colossus!” You can only fully understand and appreciate the poem if you have delved into history a bit and understand what Colossus was and what it represented, for the entire poem is in stark contrast between what it stood for and what our own “Lady Liberty,” stood and stands for.

You see “Colossus” was one of the ancient worlds “Seven Wonders.”Approximately the same height as Lady Liberty, it was built in the harbor of Rhodes, Greece in 280 b.c. A real marvel, especially for its time. The Colossus was built to commemorate victory in battle, specifically withstanding a siege by rivals for power. The poem is meant to stand the two statues side by side and explore the “soul” of each. Although the Colossus statue was no longer around and had not been for quite some time when the poem was written, it was often depicted in artwork as having its legs astride the harbor, on two separate ports; a stance which represented the strength of a victorious warrior. Lazarus calls this, “conquerors stride,” Brazen (a subtle derogatory assertion) and contrasts this patriarch with the maternal virtue of compassion, a lady who holds power and wildness with care, as a beacon of hope and potential. Lazarus tells ancient Greece to keep its grandiose stories of pomp and military might and instead claims this new land will be a haven for the weary, the poor and those yearning to breathe free. If you are yearning to be free it means you have known bondage, being free is not something which would be taken for granted or something to become apathetic about. Lady liberty does not boast of greatness and power but instead offers comfort, to the homeless and those that have been “tempest-tost” or in other words, battered about by life.

The Statue of Liberty was originally called' “Liberty Enlightening the World!” Interesting word “enlightenment;” It literally means to bring light into a dark space, to see what was once in shadows. It has come to mean- reaching a level of awareness previously unattainable. We are meant to be a nation who at the “soul level” is meant to enlighten mankind to the noble ideals of freedom and equality, inherent and intrinsic, to each one of us. This sums up the soul of our Nation, the core of who we are. Compassion is the -chrism, of our country and in case you did not know, a chrism is a divine gift bestowed upon a person but countries are also thought to be blessed by certain gifts. For America, empathy and compassion is meant to be our gift; to enlighten the world; it would be a colossal tragedy if we became apathetic about that and started yearning for the values of “Colossus.”

If we are going to talk about the “soul” of the nation, let's also spend some time talking about our personal “souls.” In Christian theology human beings are known as -tripartite beings. That simply means that although we are one being, we consist of three (tri) parts. It is a view which I personally, completely concur with and would argue in support of. Those three parts are simply; Body, Soul, and Spirit. The Body is pretty obvious and belongs to the material world, it is what you can see and touch, the part which would be the only one a devout atheist would confirm. Soul and Spirit are often interchanged with one another but in actuality, they don't really mean the same thing. Spirit is derived from the Greek word “pneu'ma,” literally meaning- breath. So, spirit is what animates us, our spirit is what excites us, makes our heart beat a little faster when we get close to touching, awe. Spirit gives us passion for life. Spirit and Ghost are sometimes interchanged in some contexts, I never do that, in the context of talking about human nature, for spirit has a divine purpose, for a tripartite being; ghost does not.

Your “Soul” is the very core of who you are, it is your reason for being; your very purpose of existence. Your soul has very much to do with life , how you approach meaning and what you value as virtue; it is much more than just something to worry about losing after death; you can “lose your soul” as a nation and as a person, while remaining technically, alive. Many of us are familiar with the song- It is well with my Soul- Here are just a piece of the lyrics- when peace like a river, attendth my way

when sorrows, like sea bellows roll;

whatever my lot; Thou has taught me to know

it is well, it is well; with my Soul.

The writer of this song penned these lyrics at around the same time the statue of liberty was being erected but for him it was not a joyous time. He had endured great hardship and deep heartbreak. He had lost most of his worldly worth in the great fire of Chicago and lost a young son earlier. Right before he penned these lyrics, his remaining four daughters were lost in a tragic boat accident. This man was suffering unimaginable grief and unbearable pain, yet his core could not be reached his “soul” could not be broken. His connection to God and purpose remained intact.

Our identity; our children's identity; our children's children and indeed the identity for countless generations yet to come, is tied up in the ability to touch core purpose, to receive our personal and communal chrism, to excite passion about going about the business of life. To lose this is to, “lose our soul,” we become just a shell of a person, just existing, not truly living. To touch upon this core purpose of our souls is to capture wildness in our nurturing arms, to embrace awe, to reach enlightenment. To “lose our Soul,” as a nation, would be a sad catastrophe. To reject compassion, empathy and nurturing and instead embrace the “warrior mentality,” Lady liberty would have lost her shot at enlightenment, to the brazenness of “Colossus.”



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