Remembering, Forgetting

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the 100th year since the first Armistice Day, I returned from a bike ride with a Polish friend and finished reading Essence of Decision, the classic study of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As Americans and Europeans commemorate the end of the Great War and the Poles (along with several other countries) celebrate 100 years of independence, it’s worth taking a quiet moment to try to imagine what life was like for the soldiers of that war and how our own lives have been shaped by that legacy.

In the grand scheme of history, it is more than a minor miracle that my Polish friend has a free and independent country to call home. And it’s easy to forget, in the words of Essence of Decision, that there is an “awesome crack between the unlikelihood and the impossibility of … war.”

This morning, I rode a carbon bicycle designed in Wisconsin, made in Taiwan, and purchased in Alaska. This afternoon, I walked to the grocery store while listening to a podcast on my smartphone, purchased some organic vegetables with a chip-enabled credit card, and walked home to fire up my laptop. This evening, I’ll sit down to dinner with my housemates — and Poland will still be more or less free, and war seem more or less unlikely.

But, as we know, “there is a crack in everything.” Don’t forget it, even as we are lucky enough to keep dancing over it.