WAR – WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR
“Lord, there’s got to be another way.”
“Lord, there’s got to be another way.”
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” C.G. Jung, MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS (1989)
Let’s allow those words to soak into our collective thick skulls. Consider the person in your world whom you detest, whom you would never entertain in your home, whom you would vehemently argue will go to hell. Yeah, think about that person for a moment and then let’s do a sincere soul search. What is it within me, within you, that reflects with such intensity our dislike for that person?
“Well, Larry, I have a sense of values, compassion for fellow humans, a moral compass to guide me. I am in no way like …….” (insert name here).
Okay, I get it. You and I are stellar human beings with no quirks, no faults, no skeletons in our closets. We have been nominated numerous times for sainthood and are just waiting for that moment when we will sit with the old man in the heavens pronouncing judgment upon the lesser of us – those whom we have previously decided will burn in hell.
Really? Is that who we are? Nothing more than pawns of runaway egos determined to remind others of the splinters in their eyes while ignoring the logs in our own eyes? Is that what we are destined to be? Granted, that is the human way, but aren’t we destined to be more than ego-driven bags of human flesh? I am remembering a verse from the book of Luke, chapter 6, verse 41 which reminds me that the plank I carry in my own eye is needing my attention more than the speck of sawdust in my brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3 has the same message. Are these ancient writers trying to instill a bit of introspection in me to replace my self-serving ego-stroking?
Yeah, guilty as charged. That neighbor who always rubs me the wrong way, the city councilman who seems more concerned about his image than job performance, the preacher who doesn’t appear to walk the talk, the politician who is obviously lacking a moral compass – they are all a composite of me and my own character defects. The national leader who seems to always be screaming, “Look at me, look at me, dammit look at me,” is the same small voice within me screaming, “Here I am, pay attention to me.”
The denial wells up within, but maturity, which can be so evasive, tells me that those seven deadlies – the 7 vices which challenge our spiritual journey – are inherent in each of us. GREED, ANGER, SLOTH, ENVY, GLUTTONY, LUST, PRIDE are at the center of any and all distractions from the universal truth that we are all one humanity, one organism, one Spirit simply trying to navigate the impermanence of this life on earth.
Doing life perfectly is not the goal. It is impossible. The ending of this trek is not foreseeable, but we have within us the capacity to alter the journey. What will it be? Ego driven or Spirit centered?
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” ERNEST HEMINGWAY
The very good and the very gentle and the very brave – let’s focus on those words. The world system seems to despise those who have a moral compass, those who are peacemakers, those who have the courage to march to a different drummer. Governments, religions, and financial systems do not honor a man/woman who answers their demands with “no, I will not live that way.”
We are labeled ‘unpatriotic’ if we do not toe the current disgrace posing as a legitimate government. When we kneel in obeisance to compassion and tolerance rather than stand pledging allegiance to the cloth symbol of a nation, we are castigated as revolutionary and disrespectful. Well, maybe we are. All great accomplishments in governing have been manifested by protest. No, I cannot be silent when brothers and sisters of a different color or creed do not equally enjoy the fruits of the nation they have served in battle and embraced as home.
I will not profess the creeds of religions which deny even the most basic human understanding that all creatures are made in the image of the One whom they profess as God and Savior while simultaneously endorsing locked cages of children on our border and a war in the Gulf which threatens the citizens of Yemen with epic, catastrophic starvation. No, I will not.
I will not participate in the corporate destruction of our sacred ecosystem for the sake of increased profits of corporations which have abdicated ecological responsibility in lieu of financial extravagance. While much of the world’s population lives without the basic comforts of adequate food and clean water, placating the luxuriant appetites of the privileged at the expense of the marginalized poor cannot possibly advance the survival of our species materially or spiritually.
Enough is enough. Enough corruption, enough hatred, enough greed, enough racism, enough killing. Where will we choose to stand as our country approaches the threshold of despotic, authoritarian leadership? As the earth’s ecosystem is screaming “enough” where will our allegiance be placed? The answer for each of us is within. When that quiet voice of protest within becomes a scream reverberating throughout the universe, then, perhaps, we can be assured that we have done enough.
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.
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.
“The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from being one with oneself and everything else, and from Being Itself. When we don’t know how to consciously live out of union (which is called love), we resort to violence, fighting anything that is not like us and that we cannot control.” cac.org – Richard Rohr
When we apply these words to the insanity of today’s violent, non-sustainable assault on the vulnerable people, the poverty-stricken, the minorities of our planet, and on earth itself, perhaps we can begin to understand that our solutions to these problems do not lie in answering what, how, when, but beginning with the question who.
Who are we? Americans tend to answer this question with descriptions of their physical bodies, their gender, their accomplishments, their education, their suffixes following their names, their financial gains in life, their country club status, their professional titles. JUST STOP! Stop labeling and begin searching.
Look to that interior voice which says, “you are love, you are compassion, you are kindness, you are made in the image of the breath which created you.”
“Contemplative practice teaches us to honor differences and also realize that we are all much more than our nationality, skin color, gender, or other labels which are all aspects of the passing and thus false self. Contemplation brings us back to our True Self, who we are in God.”
JUST STOP! Stop denying the truth and purpose of the higher Self. When we become less we become great. When we become “little enough, naked enough, and honest enough, we will discover that we are more than enough.” Salvation, enlightenment, end of suffering is not about ascension to the heavens, looking upward to an imaginary God, or living righteously. No, it is a downward migration into the depths of this world’s poverty of soul and recognizing that here is where reality and truth are to be found, here is where we will change the world, here is where nonviolence begins, here is where God dwells.
(all quotes are from today’s meditation @ cac.org – Richard Rohr)
(excerpts from ILLUMINATA, 1994, by Marianne Williamson)
“Hitler could never have risen to power had it not been for vast numbers of people who gave him that power. Although they did not share his hatred, they did not have a solid, moral commitment to not hate. Only a society in which there is a widespread commitment to not hate is safe from hatred. A little hate is like a little cancer. And who among us does not hate?”
Dear God Please remove from my mind the tendency to judge.
Please remove from my mind the tendency to hate.
Please remove from my mind the tendency to blame.
Please reveal to me, Lord, a way to stand in my power,
through love instead of fear,
and through peace instead of violence.
May I not hear the voice for anger, but only the voice for love.
And teach me, dear Lord, how not to hate those who hate me.
Transform all darkness into light, dear God,
And use my mind as an instrument of Your harmlessness.
I surrender to you my thoughts of violence.
Take these thoughts, Lord, and wash them clean.
Thank you very much. Amen.
If, during our time of national crisis, we cannot answer intolerance with understanding, if we cannot answer racism with deeper efforts to end division, if we cannot answer hatred with love, then we are probably no further enlightened than the intolerant one, the racist, the hate-monger.
Lord knows I have carried a basketful of stupid decisions and irrational choices in my lifetime which have determined my ‘prosperity’ status. But truly, my recollections from years past point simply to a contented life earned and learned by living a simple life.
We were not prosperous by today’s standards. But, in my eyes, we were the most affluent and blessed people on earth. Stuff and money did not matter. We did not compare to the Joneses. I never went to bed hungry, never walked to the school bus in rags, never slept without a blanket. Life was good. In retrospect, what made life good was the fact that just about everybody we knew lived as we did. We counted our blessings everyday, helped those neighbors who had fallen onto tough times, worshipped in a beautiful country church with other folks who knew the meaning of sharing, compassion, and humble faith. Oh, a few thought they were special and had the inside track to God, but most of us just accepted that maybe we didn’t really know all the answers and we tried to live a life that pleased family, friends, and neighbors and in doing so, hopefully pleased God.
Yes, we had abundant security even if we did not have money. We depended on each other knowing that the world would have to end before any one of us would abandon the other. Do we have that security today? Do you know your neighbors’ names or where they were born? Would your community feed you, house you, and clothe you if hard times hit or would you need to pitch a tent in the woods and eat bugs and lizards?
Compassion prevailed back then because we were a community of individuals who knew each house and family along the country roads leading to church, to the general store, to the Ford dealer, to the Grange hall, to the telephone office where an operator manned (or womanned) the switch board 24 hours a day, and to the undertaker’s house to which each of us would someday take a quiet journey. Everybody knew everybody else – Mrs. Johnson’s bouts with depression, the Mitchell children needing new shoes, the insurance agent’s penchant for Jack Daniels, and the milkman’s weekend trips to the city to walk on the wild side. We did our best to live right, but none of us were cocksure of eternity and none of us claimed to have the answers. Life was a mystery and we knew it was wise to leave it as such. In that simple, uncomplicated, unsophisticated bygone community of farmers, our lives had meaning. Life was precious and each member of that community had a sense of belonging.
Today’s times are troubling. The ones who proclaim to be spiritual leaders seem to be speaking from both sides of the mouth, their lives betray the words coming from the pulpits. Some houses of worship have become palatial with a senior pastor, junior pastor, assistant pastor and a staff of office help. Preaching hell and damnation for those who don’t adhere to their narrow litany of thou shalts and thou shalt nots, they go home to an equally impressive mansion with amenities and ‘stuff’ which most of the congregation cannot afford.
The gospel of prosperity and exclusion which I am hearing from numerous religious leaders nationwide starkly contrasts to the teachings of Jesus that I remember from my little country church years ago. Humility is lacking, compassion is lacking, love for every member of humanity is replaced by an attitude of tribalism. The strident position of excessively cocksure Christians evidenced today is alarming. “You are going to hell, but I’m not because I have discovered the path to salvation. I am a believer, you are lost.”
I don’t remember in my younger experience that Jesus taught any of those things which extreme-right fundamentalists are pumping from their pulpits. Maybe I wasn’t listening well enough, maybe I missed the spiritual boat just as I missed out on the prosperity boat. But, you know what? I would not trade the soul security and contentment which I learned in that country church attended by simple folks who practiced a gospel of humility and social justice. I would not trade the peace of mind I have for all the promises today’s prosperity preachers dangle from their pulpits of hypocrisy and intolerance.
Just a few thoughts from a simple man who still believes there is more to life than money.
Be persistent in asking. When in that quiet inner space, don’t be timid with requests. The answer will always be “yes, no, or not now”. But, whatever the answer may be, rest assured that our internal GPS has got us covered and will bring us safely to the next plateau of life when heeding that inner voice. Very simple. A degree in spirituality is not required to know what the conscience speaks in those quiet moments. The secret, if there is any secret, is to slow down, be quiet, silence the wandering mind, and listen. Ask for guidance and it will be given.
Seek joy and peace relentlessly. Life changes with every passing moment. We must also adjust. Our central core of understanding has an amazing capacity to adjust. What was yesterday’s hot flash is today’s old fogey flashback. When hanging on to the ‘way things used to be’ we are stifling what needs to happen now for continuing growth. Doesn’t mean giving up values or the moral compass which has been a lifetime beacon; rather, it means evolving those values to make them workable in today’s crazy world.
Only a few centuries ago when one element of society disagreed with the beliefs and actions of another, it could find new, uncharted lands to settle and follow its philosophy in peaceful bliss. Unfortunately, vacant, unexplored land has disappeared and thus it has become essential to the survival of our species to practice co-existence with next door neighbors who look, talk, behave and worship differently.
Perhaps the common denominator is that the vast majority of the world’s population wants to live peaceably, support families, have a comfortable standard of living, practice a chosen faith walk (or absence of faith walk), and leave this world a better place then when arriving. The violence advocated by an extremely small, but vocal, percentage of extreme religious adherents has, unfortunately, grabbed today’s headlines. Each brand of religion is guilty. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu each have an element devoted to hateful rhetoric and unenlightened teaching.
Demonizing an entire faith for the actions of a few of its adherents is not evolving to a plateau of world brotherhood necessary to co-exist. Rather than name-calling, fear-mongering, and instilling lies about those outside our tribe, what would happen if we allowed ourselves to recognize the divinity in all mankind? Loving another’s divine nature regardless of religious tradition does not diminish our own spiritual walk. It can only enhance the God connection.
Lead me by example and not by edict. A primary principle of Alcoholics Anonymous is ‘attraction rather than promotion’. Show me your wisdom instead of forcing it upon me. St. Francis of Assisi prayed, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
Let’s try to be instruments of peace. It could be the only chance for the human species to see a 22nd century.