Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Peace Making and Inner Transformation (1.3.09)

[This is a companion piece to my previous TPM blog / directly below here - also started during the 2006 War on Lebanon - both efforts to take all the emotions prompted by events which I found so anguishing, trying find ways to place them in some healing context.  I offer this here as a way to help all of us as we struggle to cope with whatever difficulties we are currently experiencing, including this recent escalation in Gaza to a ground attack.]

Why do we have wars?  What makes terrorists?  Or bullies?  This is a very important question, because only if we answer it accurately, can we ever have peace. In the face of aggression, we see more aggression.  Indeed wars and aggression are often justified by citing prior aggression or potential aggression, which "can only be met" with violence, people often say.

I submit that hostility and aggression are aspects of all of us.  Unless we admit that - to start with - we are simply viewing bullies or terrorists or warmongers as different humans than ourselves, sub-humans who merit being destroyed.  And we rationalize our wars and executions as a kind of virtuous activity, different from the carnage pursued by those we deem worthy of extermination.

If we take a look at our reactions to wars, crimes, atrocities, anything which bothers us, we notice we feel scared or tormented, pained or frustrated, angry or outraged.  These are normal human emotions.  And we have to own them.  But notice what happens when we find ourselves full of rage or pain or frustration.  Something in us wants to lash out.  We want to channel all those painful emotions.  We feel an urge to act on our rage, to vent our frustration.  Even if we urge war or the death penalty, this urge to action is coming from our own emotions - and we seek a solution through destructive actions, whether we act on our own or urge others to act as our surrogates.

But what if we learned to tolerate those painful feelings?  What if we learned to pay attention to the feelings and to calm them down inside ourselves?  What if we tried peace making, the transformation of pain, of anger, of frustration, of rage into peace and compassion?  What I am suggesting is of course not an easy route to follow.  Some might call it a "way of the cross."  Others might term it meditation or mindfulness.  You can situate this process within many traditions - but it remains essentially the same:  Essentially transformative - if you give yourself to it heart and soul for an extended period of time.

I believe that we are all called to inner transformation. Each of us, in our own way, within whatever tradition we choose to follow (or not), can allow ourselves to be transformed through the renewal of our minds and hearts. We may not be able to personally guarantee world peace.  But on a daily basis we can endeavor to immerse ourselves in the pain and suffering of the world, whether the small world of our own lives or the larger world of society, economics, politics, even religion - sadly.

The task is to simply "take in" all the pain, terror, suffering, sadness, anguish, hostility, madness of things going on - seen on television, the internet, the newspapers.  Take it in.  Let it sit there.  Dwell with it, painful as that is.  Allow this world of hurt to dwell in your heart.  Without doing anything more.  Take it into your heart. And dwell there.  Cry some tears, if you need to.  But do not let yourself do anything more.  No matter how pained or enraged you may begin to feel.  No matter how strongly you want to eject all of the evil and madness that begins to seethe, ejecting it onto others or into action.
If you try this, slowly - over time - you will find a change occurring within your heart. .  The stony heart that would stone your neighbor or enemy is replaced with the understanding that the other person, like you, is prone to strong and painful emotions they want to eject onto others or into action.  Slowly, your compassion for your own inner struggle - to make peace where there is turmoil - becomes a lens for seeing others with compassion.  Slowly, you will find your inner mind being renewed.  Indeed you may find compassion and a greater sensitivity to suffering growing.  You may find yourself surprised by becoming super sensitive, more caring, open, even exposed and vulnerable.  It might even be a bit scary at first - but stick with whatever feelings arise.

And the Peace "that passes understanding" will come to dwell in your heart and mind.

Peace Making starts with each individual person.  We cannot expect more of others, whether leaders or nations, than we expect of ourselves.

Some people are able to do this quite alone.  Without the support of a group.  But often the process is so painful that most traditions urge you to find a group to start you on the path.  However, no matter what path you choose, ultimately you arrive at a point where you need to leave that path behind (because it's no longer marked) and, in effect, strike out on your own - with nothing to guide you except your inner life and your devotion to this inner transformation. 

There are others on this site who can guarantee, as I can, that this process is worth it, though extremely demanding.  Many may be willing to offer suggestions, whether here or in separate blogs.  In its simplest form what I'm urging is no different than  "the your neighbor... love your enemies."  No different than practicing "compassion toward all beings."  No different from the type of non-violent self-discipline that Gandhi or MLK urged.  I'm telling you - it's all the same.  Certain traditions have developed specific practices, which assist this.  Among Buddhists, the Tibetans have taken this to a high art - such a high art that the Dalai Lama did not attempt to work on "compassion" until he was in his 40's.  Because... we're talking about "embodying" compassion.  Making it central to your being.  But that's not really where you start.  You start at the hard part, working on your anger, your resentment, your fears, whatever inner knots you have that get in the way of a compassionate heart.

Think of the process like this.  You want to go down the path of peace.  But the path is full of rocks, ruts, alluring sidetracks.  The path is steep.  It's full of bad weather.  Negative people.  Nasty events.  And your job is to clear your own path.  To either remove the inner obstacles (that appear to be outer) or to ignore those along the way who want to sidetrack you, discourage you, incite you, scare you.  Your task is to find ways of managing your own emotions so as to continue hiking.  And you need to make it not only all the way to the top - where you must let go of whatever you find there -  but back down to the bottom, bringing your peace process with you and continuing to "wander" among your fellow persons - with whom you are now united more closely than you could imagine.

Peace.  Compassion.  May you be gently guided along the way.



Great TheraP. You can have no real compassion unless you are fully aware of the hurt suffered by the other person. You cannot have empathy with someone unless you fully understand the pain. You cannot truly love someone unless you love that someone as he or she is; with all the flaws.
And you cannot sue for peace unless you have studied the history, the causes for the war in the first place. You cannot act as mediator between two factions unless you understand the destruction that has occurred on both sides; that has been perpetrated by both sides. You cannot point fingers and accuse one side of a conflict, without taking into consideration the sins of the other side.
And you cannot deal with the bigot, with the prejudices in others until you deal with your own internal bigotry and prejudices; the ugliness that abides in all of us.

Beautiful, DD. So well said.
I would say that human empathy is remarkable precisely because sparking it does not require anything more than perceiving that another is distressed.
Did you know we have specialized neurons, "mirror neurons" - whose purpose, among other things is empathy. Some people may be born with more or more sensitive mirror neurons. It's also possible that certain practices may enlarge these mirror neuron networks or somehow make that system more prominent in terms of brain function. Fascinating stuff!
Thank you for this post, which is compelling, and for the one that preceded it. I look forward to those you will write next, and to the discussion that will ensue in comments on all of the above.
I have recently become fixated on the similar supposition (and maybe fact) that part of our lashing out behavior, whether as a culture or personally, is based in our unwillingness to experience pain, even momentarily. We have somehow lost the ability to bear the pain -- and the sometimes excruciating shame -- that accompanies recognition of mistakes. Rather than feel that pain, we refuse to acknowledge our mistakes...and having failed to do that, we are therefore unable or unwilling to redress them.
This seems to be true of our culture whether we are talking about our government, or about the people we know and with whom we interact.
I am sometimes frightened and always discouraged by this. Why? Because a society based on the nauseating premise that "Love means never having to say you're sorry" doesn't begin to understand the destructive ramifications of that belief. Writ large -- invasions of other countries and the death of millions written off as "collateral damage." Writ small -- a license to harm within the community or the family, not only without remorse, but without recognition that remorse and redress are required to change the pattern.
Thank you for contributing so much to consideration of a better way.
It's up now, WW:
Your voice is so valuable here. I look forward to your comments on the new blog, now up.
I so agree with your analysis above this.
Peace be with you. Peace be with all of us.
Forgive me, WW. I thought your comment was to the previous blog. I came here via my dashboard.... Ok, I now get to admit I made a mistake! May the universe make use of that. Yes, your points are so apt. I'm laughing at myself here. :)
Well, you sent me on wild goose chase looking for another post! I'm laughing with you!
Thera, I had a weird dream last night. All of us ladies here at TPM (sorry guys, I can't accept responsibility for what I dream)got together here in Sac to put together a fabulous Disney Princess party for my granddaughter. It was an unbelievably creative party...all sorts of extras that had never been thought of before. Somehow it evolved into the creation of a "Women Take Over the Running of the World Forum" and by the time I woke up the world was at peace, we all had health care, and no one was hungry. I don't know how we did it, but it was an amazing thing to behold. I was sorry to discover it was a dream.
I have no idea what that means, but I wanted to share it with you.
Thanks for this post. You know the quest I'm on. Your thoughts will help.
Stilli, its ok with me. We screwed things up for so many thousands of years. Its your turn.
Wow, thanks for sharing that! Thanks for having it! It just shows how deeply, how firmly you long for this. I wish it would come true. But at least you had it for a while.
Your post brings back the memory of the rare and beautiful act of forgiveness by the Amish toward the school shooter who brought horror and death to their community. It was a rare enlightened and blessed moment at a time in this nation so obsessed with revenge. Their forgiveness lifted all of humanity, all of the Universe just a bit higher on the way out of the well of hatred and revenge and closer to an eventual day of Peace.
Thank you for that. Yes, every act of kindness, especially acts of forgiveness, are so powerful. Such a beautiful, hopeful thought. And it really happened. We can all learn so much.
You know, that exact memory came into my mind. I have the advantage of having several Amish neighbors, traveled with them, been invited into their homes, and they are truly the embodiment of Therap's Inner Peace essay.
Over and above their act of forgiveness, we can learn a lot from the Amish. For well over a century, most people have essentially snickered at them in their buggies and carts, in their homespun cotton, farming their fields without powerful, modern machinery, their home canned/preserved foods and so forth. They have been viewed as an anacrhonism and an absurdity in a world that has passed them by. But, the pollution they produce is miniscule. Their families overall are strong as tempered steel. Their lives are focused on eachother and living a simple but rich life in a community of people that cares for eachother and others.
Of course they are by no means perfect. They have problems and difficulties and pathology in their families and communities. Despite those difficulties, the major problems that the wider world outside of their community experiences... violent crime, organized mass violence and murder by the state (aka war), environmental destruction, the inhuman stress of the rat race on individuals and families simply aren't their problems. The simplicity of their lives, the absence of a manic pursuit of material possessions, their focus on living humbly before God are not easy in a world awash in competition, acquisition, and the pursuit of power. They are more self-sufficient than almost any other group of people in our society and their carbon footprint is minimal. One may not agree with the theological tenets that brought them to and keep them in that lifestyle, but it is hard to argue that their lives are not exemplary in many ways.
Perhaps it is the human scale in which they live their lives---their way of life that allowed them the emotional strength and capacity to forgive as they did.
Once again, oleeb, your comment lifts this blog to another level.
Thank you for being you. And for honoring this thread with such beauty - by honoring people who do strive as community to live by what they believe.
Who knows if ultimately our wider society may need to learn from their values, which are so needed, especially right now?
i appreciate your emphasis on hard work... It is the hard work of a lifetime, a cultivation that requires constant upkeep.
What you are advocating are techniques that have existed for a few thousand years. The success of the few moves the many. Our sages, martyrs, poets, and bodhisattvas are like scrubbing bubbles-- they work hard so we don't have to. I am joking. A little.
I think your best work on peace came by directing us to Guernica. Picasso (not a saint by any measure) crafted a piece that can open compassion and invite discussion. This individual exercise is well-intentioned, but taming the monkey is vastly more difficult than letting it roam. One Guernica is worth a million exercises as far as moving us to peace.
Sounds like you're saying, if I understand you correctly, that Guernica "opens us" to empathy - and in that sense, I think, any of these images of current or past wars and injustices act the same way, to open us to compassion. Working with a guru or spiritual guide, even a therapist, can do that as well. The beauty and also the wildness of nature as well. There are so many routes. If we are open to them.
Thank you so much for your careful attention to this. And you are right that the "work" is not really "work." It's almost like letting go...
And your little "joke" (as you called it) actually is in common with stories in several traditions that thanks to 10 unknown good
persons, the world endures.
TheraP, beautiful piece. (I've been offline for days coping with the Pure Evil of the Stomach Bug from Hell, but I digress.)
I wanted to comment that, while I agree with all you say, I must also point out the transformative power of channeling our rage into affirmative action that can also affect change.
In my own case, my rage and impotence and frustration over my son's deployment into a war I opposed threatened to destroy me at one point, until I set up a blog and began to speak out against the war. I did so under my real name, and made no attempt to disguise my son's service, which in turn brought many many military families "out of the closet," who had also opposed the war their loved ones fought in but felt that to speak out would undermine their loved ones' service. (It does not.)
In time, we were able to join our voices in a chorus through such organizations as Military Families Speak Out and Blue Star Families for Obama, to get involved in the political process and to throw the bums out who were responsible for starting the war and who threatened to drag it out indefinitely if they remained in power.
By channeling my rage into action, I no longer felt powerless and helpless, and with the election of Obama and the promise to bring home combat troops in a reasonable amount of time, I have felt a great sense of personal satisfaction.
There is no doubt that the methods you describe have powerful healing properties--which is why I recommended your post--but there is a flip-side as well when it comes to our frustrations and anger that can have positive results too.
Perhaps it depends upon one's nature as to which approach is most effective, and is therefore up to the individual, of course. Either way, the point is to find a way to let go of the kind of rage that threatens to destroy, and embrace an approach that transforms and empowers us and, in turn, our world.
You make excellent points, Deanie. And thank you for coming to share them. Yes, you are correct. And indeed, my two most recent blogs are the result of just such a process. But "the result." I actually found myself unable to write for nearly a week - just so many feelings washing over me. So yes, "right action" is clearly transformative. Which is so well described in the Bhagavad Gita.
Whatever one writes about such endeavors is always the wrong thing to write. TS Eliot speaks so well of that in the Four Quartets, how reality is always eluding our ability to put it into words. So I much appreciate all the efforts here to correct and add to what I've written. I think it helps us all.
Bless you, Deanie.
I have to concur, Deanie. Positive action in the face of events that threaten to overwhelm us can do much to dissipate that negative energy inside. So both approaches, yours and TheraP's are beneficial - necessary, really, if we are ever to overcome the worst of human nature.
TheraP: I want to thank you for this wonderful post. You're so right: without recognizing the negative emotions within ourselves there's simply no hope of overcoming them. I know there are countless instances of Jesus mentioning that exact concept in the Bible, but for 2,000 years, few of us who are Christians have seemed able to grasp it. I believe the same sort of idea is present in other religions as well. Self knowledge - what a concept.
Thank you for these beautiful words, Wordie, and for your presence on this site. It really warms my heart to see so many people striving to make our country and our world a better place. And yes, like Martha and Mary - both approaches are needed. :)
I am so moved at this moment. I just have to say that.
Blessings upon you.
Thank you for this latest gem, TheraP.
Transformation occurs in such tiny increments one hardly notices the change until years have passed.
I get up at 4:00 A.M. on work days to meditate on a Zen lesson and do yoga to be prepared for the day ahead. I have to be in bed by 8:00 every night but it's well worth it.
My work environment is highly dynamic and can sap every last bit of energy when I'm not mentally prepared. Mindfulness is absolutely key to sustaining the necessary understanding, empathy, and compassion I need to reach others effectively.
Albert Ellis had a great line, something to the effect of "you CAN stand it -- you have too!"
That may be the only line from Albert Ellis that has ever moved me! Thank you for that and for your kind words.
I greatly admire your hope for peace. We need you for your basic ambition. But I disagree wholeheartedly with your proscription for attaining it, the core of which is in the following quote.

The task is to simply "take in" all the pain, terror, suffering, sadness, anguish, hostility, madness of things going on - seen on television, the internet, the newspapers. Take it in. Let it sit there. Dwell with it, painful as that is. Allow this world of hurt to dwell in your heart. Without doing anything more. Take it into your heart. And dwell there. Cry some tears, if you need to. .... If you try this, slowly - over time - you will find a change occurring within your heart.

This proscription is perfectionistic, unattainable. No one can tolerate repressed hurt. It's repressed because it's impossible to endure. Thus, your prescription creates more of the problem it's designed to reduce; it makes people more angry at themselves--for being unable to attain this supposedly attainable ideal. We see this in the PC movement that has terrorized racists for being racists; note that many of the judgmental views of racists are, like your view of violent people, velvet gloved but subtly harsh, perfectionistic ones. Moreover, your underlying psychological explanation--that people are failing to tolerate their pain--misses what many of us think is the root problem, unacknowledged self-hatred. Violent people especially are suffering from devastating levels of self-hatred. Asking them to sit with that, which you're implying, is a proscription for suicide. It is well-established that a high percentage of incarcerated serial killers, for instance, kill themselves. That's what happens when their distractions are taken away from them.
It can seem obvious that your proscription has the cart before the horse. Especially in the case of violent people we want to affect, empathy for others comes reliably only from having been profoundly empathized with. The vast majority of therapists who work with violent people echo your approach; they are trying to get them to empathize with victims. It doesn't work. It's moralistic, subtly judgmental. What's working is genuine, intellectually credible empathy for the perpetrators. Once profoundly empathized with, they naturally feel for others. That's just human nature. If you are loved, you will love others.
Speaking now as a Christian theologian and minister of the Gospel, I disagree with your view of Jesus. His example wasn't centered on sitting with torment. It was caring for and respecting troubled people no matter what they do or say--unconditional love/respect. That's the heart of the Christian message. It's not focussed on other's suffering and sitting with one's torment as preconditions for loving others. It's focussed on seeking unconditional love for yourself.

Consider the lilies of the field.
I understand what Preach is saying, but reading the paragraph on taking in the pain sounds a lot like Tonglen meditation. When I first learned of it, it seemed the opposite of what I was always taught to do in meditation (and I am a Christian - a Quaker). But as I continued to practice the meditation, it does change the hopelessness the heart can embrace in the midst of chaos and discord. It and Preach's description of Christ's message are not an either/or situation, but a both/and manner of retrieving inner peace and compassionate, agape love for all.
You know 4 aKinder, there can be no challenge without crisis. Without crisis, what would we be left to do?
Very insightful, DD. :)
That is exactly the practice. Tonglen. And in my view it is a process that strives to produce what Jesus called for. Love of enemies has never really been implemented by Christianity. But Buddhists take it to another level and really work on it and teach practices that foster it.
I think we're on the same page here, 4akinderworld. And I love your handle by the way.
I'm a fan, TheraP.
I think we spoke once (during the campaign) about music and therapy. I know first-hand the value of each.
Bless you, 4akinderworld. Yes, I think you asked about my musical note. And it's good you're here.
Repressed pain is not so because it is impossible to handle. It is just simpler not to in terms of survival.
Simpler (as you say) in the short run. But not in the long run. In the long run, repressed pain is pain you have no control over. It goes underground only to surface, unconsciously, in places where you might least expect it. Like denial, which it is, it works very well in certain situations - but again works against you (often) in the long run.
Thank you... What you write is spot on. However, how does the need for unconditional love reconcile with these tribal animosities and our collective idolatry of taboo? Much of these negative vicious ideations are given force by our orthodox moral caretakers. How is unconditional love possible when Rick Warren can casually damn homosexuals or Jews as being taboo from Christ's forgiveness. Why is belief in the myth and adherence to dogma the prerequisites for paradise? Why not unconditional love as prescribed by Christ?
That's the reason I will not return to church. Our spiritual authorities still have the audacity to tell their members that heaven is open... But not to YOU. That will always bar Christ's message from raising our western values from the tribal mire.
Teachings like you mention have done great moral harm. I extend my sympathies to you in that regard. Perhaps you can find a church or denomination which honors your sacredness without imposing arbitrary limitations on your behavior. In my view the only things that should apply are what would apply to 100% of the people. Things like love your neighbor and love your enemy. I now see the source of some of your frustrations.
Peace be with you.
If you will allow, TheraP, I posit that the main issue to resolve is actually more simply tribalism.
There are very few people who lack sufficient empathy as described in your post. (There is a significantly higher number of people who are disinclined to have a constructive emotional reaction to things.)
So, the problem is not the lack of empathy in itself: it is that empathy is usually suppressed to apply to the smallest possible number of people, or "us." "They" are those excluded from the circle at any given moment.
This and other traits converging to manifest as tribalism have been advantageous thus far--or at least not disadvantageous enough to wipe out the human race (yet.)
Cynically, I would argue that changing or overriding this basic nature is, if not actually doomed to fail, at least a far more time-consuming process than the alternative: using those very traits but altering the premise.
If it is the perception that the most advantageous route for one's tribe is to momentarily set aside the past and focus on the current and the future, it is the route that will be taken.
It is possible to add the emotional component to the raw calculation, in a reduced capacity: understanding that by and large "they" are just as fed up and eager to move on as "we" are.
In summary, perhaps it is less emotion that is needed?
A reading recommendation: "Watchmen" by Alan Moore (it is a graphic novel, but let that not detain you. You can get it at B&N.) There is a movie coming out too, this year, hopefully only slightly butchered.
Your presence here is most welcome and your thoughtful comments are very valuable. I will take the time to respond to each.
A. You are right. There may never be more than few who feel impelled to work on themselves. I've noticed that since childhood. But these few are still needed. Very much. They are like catalysts, working against tribalism, trying to get everyone to see the bigger picture.
B. I think your addition of tribalism is excellent. And in a sense I could reconceive what I've written as an effort to urge people to a transformation beyond tribalism. Lux Umbra Dei once spoke eloquently of that - of taking a world view instead of a narrow one (you'd say tribal and I like that word here).
C. Now I'm going to add something related to this effort to move beyond tribalism. In my post, when I speak of how the media and the fast news cycle and the ability of normal citizens in the middle of a conflict to become reporters, I think this immediacy of news is actually breaking down the tribal propaganda machine somewhat. You might ponder that and tell me what you think. But it does seem to be happening to some degree. (Or maybe it particularly upsets the most sensitive of us - I'm not really sure.)
D. But you are certainly right that if we can alter the tribal premise - more quickly - then we should pursue that route. Nevertheless the one I propose will, I think, always be necessary. People are needed who devote themselves to this "worthless work." I think there is value in it. Value in and of itself.
E. You mention setting aside the past to look to the future. And that reminds me of that wonderful post by quinn about the shaman woman. It also reminds me of an article I just read at The Guardian - talking about how Israel has been too much focused on its past with not enough future perspective. Again - this comment of yours dovetails with mine - you're urging frontal lobe coping: delay of gratification; restraint from knee-jerk responding; consideration of consequences for the future.
F. When you say "less emotion" is needed, I'd offer "subdued emotion" - or something like that. We don't want to eliminate emotion - but to soothe it or to help people find calm, tranquility - ideally. But essentially that's what you're saying of course. And I trust you understand that the whole point of what I tried to write is to calm down the inner feelings not to incite them.
Again, may I offer my sincere thanks for your thoughtful words and your willingness to think deeply about this.
By the way I so miss Lux Umbra Dei, his wisdom, his wit, his humor, his humility. I wish we had him here right now. This is a painful time to be without wise voices.
I'll take a look at the book you mention. I look forward to more discussions with you. You have no idea how much I've appreciated these comments of yours on this thread. :)
I took a look at the book. I promise you I will read it: 651 reviews at Amazon!
TheraP, does this approach also apply to domestic political opponents? To this website's premise? Isn't this website operating on the assumption that party D is right, good and moral, and party R is wrong, evil and immoral? If the mission of this site continues to be demonizing the opponent, is it possible that this only makes the opponent fight harder for their own preservation to the point of sabotaging the success of the opponent?
In a word: gridlock.
You know, Mike, this post has to apply to everything. As does the post before it. People are "moral" or not - not parties, not nations or factions. So it really comes down to people. What I propose does not negate calling people out when they betray their wider principles.
Now, as to this website's premise, you'll have to take that up with Josh. But I do not believe the website itself has a "mission statement" - which you could then say they are failing to live up to. Nor do I think you could characterize the "site" as one entity - to be branded as good or bad. Everyone here, yourself included, is free to express whatever opinions they choose to express. And each of us can be called out or called to accounting - as all of us are to one extent or another.
I do agree, however, that hardened positions make it hard to discuss issues honestly and work together to resolve problems. And yes, my blog would call all of us to work on ourselves in such a way that we try to see what is best for all of humanity - that is my task (however imperfectly I carry it out). So I do not see Democrats as the best of humanity ... just a party... in one country. My view is far wider than just this country. My view includes our planet and all people on it. I personally feel more a citizen of the world than a citizen of this country. Just as I feel a "person of faith" much wider than just one faith tradition.
So I think you're going to have to take each poster here, whether management or main page people, or anyone at all who comments or posts, as a separate individual person. Following their own conscience, as I'm sure you are.
I hope this begins to answer your questions. And I thank you for reading and commenting and for whatever work you do, inner work, to contribute to this site, our nation, the world.
Peace be with you.
Now that Obama's in the driver's seat, things are calming down a bit here. During the "campaign" a war-word, when there was anxiety that thought he might not win, things were getting pretty venal around here. The atmosphere was one of jumping the gun before evidence was in. You get that right and it is like a great night at the slot machine. You get it wrong and it's character assassination.
Isn't the problem we ought to address our own personal gridlock, if I am reading Thera correctly? (I am just catching up on the west coast on Sunday afternoon.)
Knee jerk demonizing is where we civilized humans seem such expert practitioners. Our opponents by definition have no choice but to demonize right back at us and so the immoral dance continues. Righteousness of Self creates gridlock.
Norm, you listening?

I like the way you phrase that - "our own personal gridlock." Well said!
Well, Aeschylus (ancient greek dramatist), in his Oresteia, chose to end the cycle of vengeance (each side being equally riteous and disgusting) by lowering Athena down from the cosmos to create the first judicial system. 'Course, Athena applied bad science. And was a god that everyone had to listen to. I loved this post. And I am terrified we've got to find a god, or become a god, to rid us of those less desirable human traits!
"or become a god"
If you consider early Christian theology - "theosis" or "divinization" is indeed the result of what I've described.
But we may need an army of us. The more of us committed to this, the more we feel a sense of solidarity.
Thanks for pointing out how Aeschylus in the Orestia deals with a cycle of vengeance. Very sad that this has been going on so long. And interesting that only a deus ex machina could "solve" things.
Thanks so much for your comment. Peace be with you.
Saint Seraphim of Sarov: "Acquire the spirit of peace and a thousand souls around you shall be saved."
The Soviets rolled over the Church where his relics were honored and built a WMD R&D/research facility there.
That is a beautiful quote, Mike. And a true one. I've met monks who can definitely have such an effect on people. Some monasteries have that spirit of peace in them. And some people. I'm sure more people are "taught" by peaceful souls than all the sermons many who are not peaceful could muster!
A link which shows one Israeli woman who is keeping her sense of common humanity with people in Gaza - even though she currently has a son fighting there. I'm leaving this here for future reference as I think it bolsters what this blog was trying to get at:
I hope this Israeli woman can become a person, as the quote from Mike7Woodson above, whose efforts to maintain a "spirit of peace" will save a thousand souls around her.

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