The Human Equation of War

Photo credit: Meredith Levick

The numbers don’t add up.

You feel messier than usual.
Usually buttoned up,
holding yourself together,
keeping your emotions tucked behind a hand shake and pleasantries.

And now, and now you are a bleeding heart,
staining every shirt you wear,
tumbling through every conversation you have,
your humanity earthquaking through the every day,
shaking you to your core.

Because this morning, I noticed the first frost of the season.
A milestone of its own kind.
I witness, I gather life in my bare hands and examine.

I earthquake, like the Richter scale,
off the charts. 

Even as a writer at my core, I never lose sight of the numbers.
A compulsive counter by nature, I am quantifying as I journey,
historically counting steps and sidewalk cracks,
checking coins in my wallet and and and —

These days we read about dollars spent on
money exchanging hands between this oligarch and that institutional patriarch,
far too many soldiers who died in the line of fire,

civilians crushed beneath buildings they never had the opportunity
to ever be on top of —

not even once did they see that view.

Have you?

In one fell swoop,
we convert lives into statistics,
we lose details and memories, foregoing nuance for
a narrative that fits into a single headline or a sound bite.

Generation Y: The Sound Bite Generation.
Keep it quick, tight, they can’t focus.
We lose steam.

But what about that bleeding heart?
How do we clean that up?

Put me in a spreadsheet, and I am at home.
The columns line up, the equations do their duty,
I can make sense out of dollars and cents.
Gosh do I rely on that consistency,
the tabs that rest next to each other without much effort –
the color coded visual map of an idea that
I can get on board with.

My buttons have fallen off.
I don’t shake hands anymore. 
And the pleasantries, I lost patience.

Go right for my bleeding heart,
that’s where I am – that’s where I want us to go – 

no more wasted time on small talk
that doesn’t count for absolutely anything.

Take me to the center of your universe.
Sit me down and
look at me without blinking,
and tell me what is it that keeps you human.

I know the numbers won’t even add up.
No need to pretend you have it all together,
because I’ve seen you fall apart.

I’ll see your humanity,
the version of you that hasn’t brushed teeth yet
and blows your nose on your sleeve.

I’ll see your humanity,
and I’ll cherish you even more for that.
Don’t you know that? Don’t you feel that?

The numbers were always messier than we cared to admit,
but we didn’t quite know it yet.
The knowingness has come over time, and then in a sudden quake –
line by line, cell by cell,
the miles between us, keeping us apart,
inside stories and equations

that never add up.

But I see you, the before you, the after you,
and the now you
– and the view from right here
is spectacular,


About the Author
Meredith Levick is a senior program professional with a background in communications, client management, and organizational development. Her work experience spans the secular and the Jewish world, and she thrives on creating mutually rich cross-collaborations and supporting global Jewry. Currently she works as a consultant for a number of organizations, including Hakhel: The Jewish Intentional Communities Incubator and the Varda Institute, based in Israel. Additionally she is a non-fiction writer and poet and believes in the power of harnessing the shared nature of the human experience to relate more deeply to each other and to day to day life. Meredith holds a BA in English literature and Spanish from Northwestern University and an MA in Experiential Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Additionally, she received a graduate certification in Israel Education from the iCenter. Meredith is a proud graduate of the inaugural cohort of the Adaptive Leadership Lab, funded by the Jewish Agency for Israel.
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