#Thanksgiving & #Terror Threat Level 4


November 26, 2015. For those in the USA, it’s #Thanksgiving. For the rest of the world, it’s simply the fourth Thursday in November. And for those of us in #Brussels, it’s the sixth day of life under #Terror Threat Level 4.

Despite the heightened threat level, normalcy is gradually returning to the Belgian Capital. Schools and most stores are open. About half of the Metro is operating. Yet armed soldiers still patrol the streets and armored military vehicles are visible around the city. Perhaps this is the new normal.

On this sunny Thanksgiving Day in Brussels, Jim and I are grateful for the many people who have reached out to us this past week concerned for our safety. The many calls, emails and FB posts from friends and family have been heartwarming. We’re also thankful for the new friends we’ve made here in Brussels including our Slovenian neighbors, Barbara and Patrick. We’ll be heading to their home this evening to share a Thanksgiving feast, European style. Yes, even amidst terror threats, we make time for tradition and celebration. Our neighbor has snared a turkey, a rare bird in Belgium!

Christmas a Charade?

But with so much wrong in our world, and with our own city under a cloud of terror, are we foolish, naive, or worse, hypocritical to celebrate Thanksgiving? Pope Francis has gone so far as to call this Christmas, with the world pimpled by war, a charade. Isn’t that a bit like Aunt Jemima waging war on pancakes or Donald Trump dissing… well, Donald Trump?  When the Pope sounds jaded and cynical, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Pope Francis–Christmas is a Charade

Yet the world keeps spinning forward; and we manage to hang on. We are survivors. Coincidentally, today also marks the fourteenth anniversary of my mother’s passing. But I choose to remember her in life—vibrant & vivacious—rather than in death. Resiliency is one of humanity’s most noble traits.

 

My Parents -- (how I choose to remember them)

My Parents — (how I choose to remember them)

However, with the abundance of craziness closing in on us and Cable News feeding us infinite loops of ugly chaos, it’s easy to lose sight of the world’s beauty and humanity’s decency. For just as beauty exists beside ugliness, so too does goodness coexist with evil. I’m reminded of Blake’s poem, The Tiger. How many of us had to memorize Tiger tiger burning bright…  in High SchoolIn the penultimate stanza, the narrator ponders the contradictory existence of both innocence and ferocity in our world.

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

(Excerpt from The Tiger, William Blake. 1794)

 To enjoy Blake’s entire poem, click here. The Tiger by William Blake

It’s a question we ask ourselves. How can the same humanity that breeds terrorists and insidious evil also grace us with magnificent manmade beauty? Take Belgium. The country of 11 million people has faced scrutiny and criticism in recent days for the presence of terrorist cells that seem to operate unhindered in #Molenbeek, one of the nineteen communes that comprise Brussels. But we shouldn’t allow terrorists to tarnish or worse, hijack, Belgium’s rich legacy. The tiny nation has also given the world great beauty.

So instead of Belgian terrorists and their brand of ugliness and evil filling your TV screens, this Thanksgiving Day, let me offer up some positive images of Belgium.

Beautiful and Historical Cities:

#Brussels

#Brussels

#Antwerp

#Antwerp

 

#Ypres

#Ypres

 

 

#Brugge

#Brugge

#Ghent

#Ghent

 

#Leuven

#Leuven

 

 

 

 

Stunning Cathedrals:

Notre Dame du Sablon, Brussels

Notre Dame du Sablon, Brussels

Cathedral of St. Michael & St. Gudula, Brussels

Cathedral of St. Michael & St. Gudula, Brussels

Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp

Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp

St. Catherine's Church, Brussels

St. Catherine’s Church, Brussels

 

The Brilliant Artistry of Flemish painters, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)

Saint Sebastian, Rubens 1614

Saint Sebastian, Rubens 1614

Self-Portrait, van Dyck

Self-Portrait, van Dyck

Self-Portrait, Rubens

Self-Portrait, Rubens

 

William II, Prince of Orange, van Dyck 1632

William II, Prince of Orange, van Dyck 1632

 

Christ Ascending the Cross, Rubens

The Raising of the Cross, Rubens

Christ Descending the Cross, Rubens

The Descent from the Cross, Rubens

Assumption of the Virgin Mary

Assumption of the Virgin Mary

Filling our brain with these images is good for the spirit and soul. I’ll bet your mood lift when you glanced at these photos. That’s not to say we should ignore terror threats or turn our eyes from the world’s ugliness. But, we should also remember the cornucopia of goodness and beauty that exists in the world.

Today, Jim and I will pause to celebrate our Thanksgiving tradition and give thanks to the bounty of good fortune in our lives. In addition to our wonderful family and friends, we are thankful for the past two years living in Belgium. In the years to come, I know we will remember our time in Brussels, not for the last weeks living under threat of imminent and serious terror attack, but for the amazing beauty of the country. Thank you Brussels, Belgium for enriching our lives with your culture and for providing us a beautiful home into which we welcomed so many people we hold dear.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Arkenbergs!

Puhi

Puhi

Sadie

Sadie

 

Jim & Todd

Jim & Todd

Comments

comments


1 Comment

  1. Jim Arkenberg

    Spot On!!!! I love it – so true. We have been given an amazing gift to live in Belgium – albeit too short. 🙂 Glad we are on the journey together. 🙂 XOXO Jim

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