The Chant

A text for peace...

The Chant is an excerpt of The Tree Book which I am currently writing. It is a text about the coming of peace in the midst of turmoil and the miracles that can happen while we think everything is over...

Breathless, Luke knows that he cannot carry on. He hides behind a blackened car. It is too hot. The dust dries his throat. He wipes the sweat off his forehead with a shaking hand. His chest can barely hold his heartbeats. All around, screams follow explosions in an infernal endless sequence. Everyone escapes the chaos. Children run beside the women who hold the youngest ones. In the back line, the men desperately attempt to slow down the enemy’s progression. But they know, deep down, that they barely have a chance to survive.

Luke closes his eyes for a while. He believes in the furtive illusion that if the flow of images stops, reality would change. Of course, it would not! The cries, the mothers’ screams to hurry the kids up and the running steps that beat the ground… these sounds alone are telling the horror.

Suddenly, a loud explosion resounds.

Yells. Clouds of dust. Luke lets out a scream from his knotted guts while crouching down, his arms covering his head. He shudders. Time exists no more. Reason too has shattered. Sobs rack his entire body. He is scared, terribly scared.

After being still for what seems an eternity, he opens his eyes. Slowly. The blend of gunpowder, blood and burning saturates the air with sickening exhalations.

Luke needs to throw up.

Yet, in the midst of the surrounding cacophony one sound catches his attention. The fear that held him down with implacable grip rapidly fades away and vanishes.

Luke listens.


These cries draw his attention with persistent intensity. He wants to stand up, but his whole body aches. His muscles do not obey his mind anymore. Which mind? It feels like it exploded and spread out. Somewhere. Far away.

But here it is different. He senses the call in his belly. It’s urgent. He must act now! He grips the car door with no more windows and tries to pull himself up. The cries guide him. His eyes levelled with his hands, he can see now. He gazes through the black carcass of the vehicle, then through the flow of legs all scurrying off in the same direction; and over there, on the other side of the street, in full sunlight but hardly visible under the woman’s still body spread out over it, the baby screams. The piercing cries are the only sound that Luke now perceives. His eyes riveted on the tiny body, he stands up, walks around the car, crosses the street pouring its fleeing horde and gets closer to the screaming child swaddled in a blood stained cloth; he lifts the shoulder and heavy arm of the dead woman and takes the baby. He holds it tight against his chest and whispers soothing words to comfort it. He strokes its back, cradling it instinctively, wipes its tears with his dirty hands and presses his cheek against its one. Holding the baby in his arms is the only thing that matters. The only reality there is.

It is too hot. Luke loosens the cloth to give it more space and puts it back in the shade of his body while murmuring gentle words.

The baby calms down. Luke too.

The image of his own mother cuddling him comes to his mind. Her love, her joy. Their joy. Securing and nurturing. Luke reconnects with sensations long forgotten and cries. The little body against his, he feels reassured. Together they are strong. Stronger than anything. They are indestructible.

Luke smiles.

And then from the core of his heart, a chant is rising.

Like an echo, it starts resonating deep within his being. It gradually increases and expands. Luke feels his chest vibrating against the baby and sings louder now. He doesn’t know this song. He has never sung like this before. He did not even decide to sing.

This chant is given to him. It travels through his whole being, inhabits him and fills the intimate space of their presence, the two of them. Then it diffuses all around them, gives itself and reaches out to touch the others.

The children are the first to hear it. While they are carried away by their frantic run, they cannot help but slow down and stop, ready to abandon the protective hand that pulls them away. They are ready to give up the escape, the fear as well as the promise of a happier horizon... to listen. The first ones were scolded and taken away. But now an increasing number have succeeded in breaking off the frenzied flow to stay with the man who carries a baby and sings.

The children stand around Luke and listen.

Some mothers, reluctant at first, are forced to stay. They too listen now. Then, from the growing crowd, one child joins his voice with Luke’s. A few others follow. Then more and more of them. The voices of the women finally rise. All together they sing and rediscover joy, peace and strength. Luke can hear and see them. They realise in turn that their singing makes them invincible. The communion of their voices, unknown to them until now, lifts their spirit.

They no longer see or hear explosions.

Neither are they aware of the transformation they provoke all around them. In the vibrating field of sound that expands, the power of their choir brings about unbelievable actions: the fallen walls rebuild themselves, colours start shining again, the shards of glass reassemble and the bodies torn apart reform…

The armed men who perpetrated the attack are now approaching, pointing their guns to the odd group of women and children gathered around Luke. Incredulous, and suspicious of them, they want to shoot but they cannot.

An increasing halo of peculiar light is surrounding those who sing. The weapons are lowered; some are dropped on the ground. One of the men falls to his knees. Another one follows. The rest keep standing, dumbstruck. They are unable to understand what is happening. Hit by the light and touched by the powerful vibrations of the singing, they are entirely drained of their will to kill.

Moreover, an unexpected transformation takes hold of them. Their reality dissolves and collapses under their very eyes. Their beliefs are swept away while revealing themselves as many lies and illusions. They now reconnect with their truth: from within each of them emerge images, voices, memories, desires and dreams from childhood, joys, laughter, beloved landscapes and faces. Bit by bit they retrace the distant path they have left as they were deluded with beliefs and certitudes, acts and reactions, renunciations, resistance and abandonment, obsolete dogmas and absurd conditionings on which they held tight, desperately and blindly, making them the breast of their life, or even mistaking them for Life itself.

In a state of despondency where their consciousness is slowly awakening again, they step aside and let the children, the women and the man with a baby walk by and sing.