Not just a black issue – it’s a human issue. Are we up to the challenge?
Not just a black issue – it’s a human issue. Are we up to the challenge?
Different generation, different side of the continent, more sophisticated weapons…but folks, it’s the same old bullshit. Sending young men and women off to fight the war that lines the pockets of corporate greed and political corruption. We have learned nothing, not a damned thing.
“Lord, there’s got to be another way.”
Are you an advocate for non-violence? Do I commit on a daily basis to non-violence in my life? It is fitting that the International Day of Non-Violence be celebrated on the birthday of Mohandas Gandhi who was born October 2, 1869. Bestowed the title of Mahatma (a person who is revered and respected) he led to the independence of India from British rule by mass non-violent civil disobedience.
Concurrently reported on the same news page which tells of Gandhi and today’s celebration of non-violent actions to confront the world’s affinity for violence, is an account of a national leader suggesting in a private meeting with aides that the immigration “problem” could be resolved by “shooting them in the legs” or “topping a 2000 mile electrified border wall with flesh piercing spikes.” MSN NEWS
We can only hope that this account of the President’s words were a summary of foolish and facetious statements by one who attempts to lead by division and fear. Other actions and speech, however, confirm that our nation is not governed by policies of non-violence. Peace through enforced powers of violence is not what Gandhi had in mind when crusading for independence from Britain. It is an unsustainable truce in which the oppressed must submit to an oppressor.
Who is my personal oppressor? Yours? What inner powers keep us from knowing peace? What violence do we inflict upon our souls? Perhaps the most significant factor in world-wide violence is absence of self-love. No, not talking about ego and its deceptive need for attention, rather, the realization that compassion and tolerance of others begins with an attitude of compassion and tolerance for me. I MUST LOVE ME BEFORE I CAN LOVE OTHERS.
Are you a movie fan or prime time TV viewer? Ever question the need for all the blood and violence being shoved into your head? Yes, it gets terrific ratings above and beyond any ratings SOUND OF MUSIC or I LOVE LUCY would garner. But, it shows a complete absence of reverence for life. Self-love and non-violence begin in a place of reverence for all life, all creation, all races, all tribes, all creeds, all religions, all lifestyles. Doesn’t mean I need to understand or agree with your choices, but I must respect your right to live your choices. Namaste, my fellow earthlings. Have a blessed INTERNATIONAL DAY OF NON-VIOLENCE.
In the King James Version of the American Standard Bible there are 400 verses that mention the word “peace”. The BARNES’ NOTES commentary on a passage from Philippians 4:7,
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding…..”
writes that “this peace is that which is felt when we have no anxious care about the supply of our needs, and when we go confidently and commit everything into the hands of God.”
“….shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
The commentary goes on to say that ‘shall keep’ was translated from a military term meaning guarded and preserved lending further definition of peace as freedom guarded from the intrusion of anxious fears and alarms.
LET GO – LET GOD
In my first recovery meeting room, those framed words were hanging on the wall in front of me. “What in the world does that mean? Let go of what? How does a man do that?” Not an easy undertaking for an alcoholic dedicated to self-will run riot for his entire life. “Absolutely not, I will not surrender anything to something I can’t see, touch or talk to.”
I was urged by the others, sitting at the tables sharing their stories, to embrace steps 1, 2, and 3, the surrender steps of the 12 step program which had graced their lives with sustained sobriety.
1) Admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable. 2) Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3) Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God, as we understood God.
Surrender – once and done? Not really. It became a daily practice which for most of us continues even after years of sobriety. It directly affects the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding. Without surrender I will not enjoy peace. Without peace, life once again becomes unmanageable and insane.
This way of living, sober-living, is not about religion and Bible passages. Neither is it about performing the 12 step programs perfectly until completion. It is the way we approach all of life’s challenges and surprises. It is an ongoing surrender to the energy which we call Higher Power.
One of my most trusted prayers is the prayer of St. Francis. It begins:
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace…..”
When I reflect on those words, it is not a request to send me out into the world as a peacemaker among friends, peoples or nations. No, it is directed inwardly to create a space within which is free of worry and anxiety. The world’s insanity will probably not embrace peace in this day, but I can. Join me?
Have we ever considered what it is about others than disturbs us the most? Is it their conceit, their crass behavior, their selfishness? Or is it their love of possessions, their disregard for society’s moral conduct, their dishonesty? Of course, the next question would require us to look into our own selves wondering what it is about them that trips our trigger.
In my early recovery years, as I was complaining to my sponsor about a group member who embodied everything which I despised, he responded this way,
“All that you hate in others are elements of your own personality that you are afraid to look at.”
“Hell no, that’s not true,” I replied defensively. “I am not like that.”
And I truly believed that. But, the seed had been planted and would not allow me to rest until I took it to my quiet space within and considered my sponsor’s words. Jerry could be shallow and selfish – yeah, me too, we are, after all, alcoholics. Jerry could seem arrogant – yeah, me too, but that was due to my insecurity with others. Jerry seemed disinterested in his group members – yeah, me too, but again I was shy and felt awkward with people. Jerry didn’t seem to grasp the humility in recovery, his concept of a Higher Power was weird – really? What did I profess as a Higher Power? A vengeful, old, gray bearded, eyes on fire, lightning-spitting man sitting somewhere in the universe on his throne of judgement? How weird is that?
In due time I learned a lot about myself from Jerry. He mirrored my own ego which at that time totally controlled who I was. Eckhart Tolle in his book, A NEW EARTH -AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE, writes:
“The particular egoic pattern that you react to most strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself. In that sense, you have much to learn from your enemies. What is it in them that you find most upsetting, most disturbing? Their selfishness? Their greed? Their need for power and control? Their insincerity, dishonesty, propensity to violence, or whatever it may be? Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you.”
The initial response is probably, “no way, not true.” But, as with any planted seed, this will not disappear until it is either choked with weeds and dies or nourished and brought to fulfillment. The question becomes whether we will wither in our denial or respond and grow. That, essentially, is what recovery is about. It is much more than living without alcohol and drugs or whatever our addictions entertain. It is a continual recognition of the external forces and internal thoughts that attempt to control our true identity, that state of Being which the Buddha called anata – no self. Words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in the 8th chapter of Mark, verse 34, “whoever wants to be my disciple (follow my Truth) must deny self…..” which, in other words, is to deny ego control of our response to the world in which we live. Peace or drama? How will we choose to live?
Our world has become one of us versus them. Nationalism, tribalism, religious intolerance – they all try to convince us that we are superior to them. The them are always wrong while us are always right. Eons ago this mindset meant only that the caveman with the best clubs and biggest stones would win and the others would need to move on to find another cave in which to live.
We are not cave dwellers. We have missiles and nuclear weapons instead of clubs and stones. Our separateness cannot be resolved by conflict and violence. There will be, in a World War 3, no winners. Our species and probably earth as we know it will be eradicated.
The next time I watch on media screens a national leader or world power whom I despise, the next time I see a religious leader lead his flock astray, the next time I look at my neighbor with disgust, I must remember the lessons which Jerry taught me in early sobriety. Despite the outward appearances of polarizing differences, we are the same. What we do, how we think will determine whether this species of ours sees a 22nd or 23rd century. It’s our responsibility to grow our planted seed into selfless maturity.
Marianne Williamson, a Democratic Presidential candidate, has been on my radar screen ever since reading her book ILLUMINATA, published in 1994. Her approach to spirituality in relation to the insanity of our world focuses on individual as well as governmental responsibility and dedication to nonviolent interaction. It is refreshing to see an aspirant for political office who is not pumping international conflict and control.
Dear Lord, please lift me up and heal me.
Cast out of my mind all thoughts that are not of You.
Cast out of me all harsh and critical nature.
Cast out of me all violence and all anger.
Cast out of me all demons from my past.
For I would be made new.
It all begins within me. Cast out of me all harsh and critical nature. Cast out of me all violence and all anger. Do you realize how difficult that can be in today’s world as we are blasted every day with media reports of raging conflicts, of government corruption, of unnecessary death as a result of violence? Massacres of citizens in Syria, imprisonment of dissenters in Russia, genocide of indigenous people in African countries, suicide bombings in the Middle East, mass shootings in the USA – the ceaseless world horrors grab our attention each day as we watch the instantaneous news coverage. How in hell can I ‘cast out all harsh and critical nature, violence and anger?’
It’s impossible unless I retire to my imaginary Mediterranean island with the monks, give up all worldly connections and meditate 24/7. On that island is peace? Maybe. But living in seclusion on an island is not what Jesus taught through his own nonviolent interaction with the Jewish society of his time. He did not cave, he did not capitulate to the Roman authorities nor the religious corruption of his time. He participated and embraced all aspects of life in 1st century Israel.
Fr. Richard Rohr at CAC.ORG comments in today’s meditation:
“How is it that many Christians have managed to avoid what Jesus actually taught? We’ve evaded major parts of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): the Beatitudes, Jesus’ warning about idolizing “mammon,” his clear directive and example of nonviolence, and his command to love our enemies. I never see the Beatitudes on courthouse lawns. Perhaps we think his teaching is nice in theory but impractical in real life. Perhaps we do not believe nonviolence can actually effect real change.”
He goes on to say:
“Even the common ‘pro-life movement’ is much more pro-birth than about caring for all life—black and brown lives, refugees, the poor, the sick, immigrants, LGBTQIA people, the environment.” In fact, many “pro-lifers” I know are the first in line to oppose any gun regulation.”
I don’t have answers. But, I do have prayers to instill in my heart and examples of nonviolent success on the world scene to inspire me. The survival of our world depends on you and me. We don’t have to be heroes or national celebrities to make a difference. It all starts with me and what I harbor within. You, too. Let’s be instruments of peace.
Hindu/Sanskrit word meaning:
“causing no harm, no injury, no violence to any living creature”
Mohandas Gandhi furthered the definition of ahimsa with the following:
“….nonviolence was the active, unconditional love toward others, the persistent pursuit of truth, the radical forgiveness toward those who hurt us, the steadfast resistance to every form of evil, and even the loving willingness to accept suffering in the struggle for justice without the desire for retaliation. . . ” cac.org – Richard Rohr
These words are attributed to Jesus in Matthew 5:9:
“Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called the sons and daughters of God.”
This lifestyle of nonviolence is a choice which each one of us has the ability to pursue because we are created as children of a loving and compassionate energy force that has been named God in the Judeo-Christian tradition. We have been given the option to follow or deny this truth of the human condition.
Peacemakers are not always the statesmen and women who are at the forefront of peace pacts and international treaties. Normally these people accomplish what they do from a position of power and strength often forcing and enforcing their particular ideals of peace. Yes, they serve a purpose in the world order, but they are not the peacemakers to whom Jesus referred.
It is you and I who need to be the peacemakers in relation to our neighbors, our friends, our family, our enemies and, most importantly, to ourselves. It starts from that divine spark within every human on earth. We have the ability to be the peacemakers who bring peace into the insanity of our world which is spiraling toward a violent, fiery demise. As Jesus prophesized, we have been blessed, but we have a responsibility to use that blessing.
PACEEBENE.ORG ,a global nonviolent organization of education and action, will be leading an annual CAMPAIGN NONVIOLENCE September 14-22, 2019, working toward a culture “free from war, racism, poverty, and environmental destruction.” Let’s join and support in whatever way we can.
“Why ask about behavior when you are soul-essence,
and a way of seeing into presence!
…Forget the nonsense categories of there and here,
race, nation, religion,
starting point and destination.
…No more questions now
as to what it is we’re doing here.”
(underlining is my emphasis)
RUMI, THE BOOK OF LOVE by Coleman Barks
This short passage from Rumi, a Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, Sufi mystic, emphatically tells that instead of being concerned with the ego and its demands, the journey in this life is all about the inner essence, the divine spark. Call it Spirit, call it energy, call it God or whatever our faith traditions name this essence, this is the ultimate reality. Rumi, in naming “there and here, race, nation, religion, starting point and destination as nonsense categories”, challenges the mind to ask, “If not that, what then is important in this world experience?” Not names, not locations on this planet, not vocations, not family status, not physical appearance, not past successes nor personalities define who or what we are as members of this human experience. If we believe otherwise, we are deluding ourselves.
Of course I have difficulty with this thought process. Being reared and having lived my life in Western culture with its insatiable drive to promote the needs of self (a.k.a ego) over all other concerns, the welfare of fellow mankind and the stewardship of our Mother Earth easily become lost in the hubbub of me, me, me.
Perhaps if reared in Eastern philosophy or having embraced the ways of mystics as a young man, viewing the inner self as reality and all else as secondary baggage would not be as daunting. But, I am a typical Westerner and therefore, I struggle. I try not to compare myself with others on their spiritual trek, I only compare to whom I have been and where I have walked. My goal is progress, not perfection.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. GENESIS 1: 27
Millions of Christians are obviously dyslexic. That verse does not say that man created God in man’s image. OUCH! Have I deflated any egos, yet? If not, keep reading.
In Western culture, many of those who profess a God, especially those of Christian persuasion (and I honor 🙏 any who do not profess), conduct lives led by ego and personal advancement. Individualism is lauded, winning at all costs is admired, the boys with the most toys win. The comparison game runs rampant, many egos are shattered upon realizing they don’t measure up to that which is considered success and prosperity. I know what I speak of because, yes, I have been there and done that. I can still go there today if I am not mindful of the fact that I am created in the image of God, I also am Spirit. Let that sink in. You, me, all of humanity and all of Creation are made in the image of God, the permeating life energy which is our reality.
We are primarily spirit and our physical existence on this earth should not be what defines us. This body, this life we have created embracing materialism, this set of prejudices we harbor, this ego we strive to protect is not reality. The spiritual persona, which is exactly what God was, is, and always will be, is most often reserved for Sunday morning church and Easter time reflection, yet it should be the everyday, 24 hour a day endeavor to align with what we know to be truth – the Life proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth or the Path advised by Buddha.
In Hindu teachings it is enlightenment, Christianity calls it salvation, Buddhism names it the end of suffering (dukkha). It is the surrender of egoic and self-serving lifestyle to a transformative and liberating awakening. It is when Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, Shiva, Nirvana, Buddhahood and God, in whose image we are made, becomes reality and this earthly life is known to be illusion.
A deflated ego is a good thing. It removes any need to attain material wealth, to strive for social status, to always be right in religion and politics, to proclaim my God better than yours, to be judgmental, to fear and hate, to be anxious about tomorrow. A deflated ego ushers in enlightenment, salvation and the end of suffering. Namaste. 🙏