What is the Litany of Better Angels?
For every act of terror or disaster in this world, there is also somewhere an act of humanity, courage, bravery. For every oppression there is a fight for freedom. For every horror there is beauty. We have glorified for too long the perpetrators, the villains, the leaders and dictators; but deserving of our memory are the victims and the heroes who stood up for themselves and in the defense of helpless others. The honour of history should not go to the actions of the shooters, the charismatic leaders, the mass murderers, the despots. It belongs to the common people who sacrificed and lived, or sacrificed and died, to save or better the lives of others. We need their stories to remind us that humanity is in balance, that for every evil there is good, and not all is lost. There has to be Good in this world. We have to let the Better Angels of our nature* heal the damage. So let us be The Good, and let us have mercy on each other.
My intention is to create a series of poetic texts based on the stories of common people showing uncommon courage. These texts will then be posted on the Litany of Better Angels website and distributed via social networking to artists and creators in every corner of the earth, to be recreated by composers, writers, visual artists, filmmakers, and all other artisans in every discipline. My desire is for this project to become an international, cross-cultural, multidiscipline collection of compositions, artistic works, texts, and films that can be accessed by anyone through a database that will ultimately contain every work created in relation to the original texts.
What is a litany?
Commonly found in western religions, a litany is a form of prayer used in services and processions, consisting of a number of petitions. These petitions may be to God, the saints, or other religious figures. The word litany comes from the Latin litania meaning “supplication”. The litany usually includes a plea for God to have mercy on the people, in the form of an eleison (from the Greek “have mercy”). In the Litany of Better Angels, the eleison is a plea not from God to have mercy on us, but for us to have mercy on each other.
*The term “better angels of our nature” comes from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address in which he pleads with his country to avoid civil war.
Do you have a story that you think belongs in the Litany of Better Angels? Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'll be launching my fundraising campaign on indiegogo.com as soon as I have all the details worked out. Regular updates will be posted on Facebook, Twitter and this blog.