I grew up thinking people could affect the world. Learning about history it certainly seemed so...for good or for bad.
I remember at age 12 seeing a documentary of the Holocaust and being profoundly affected by the horror those images invoked. How could some people treat others so inhumanely? How could a uniform empower someone to choose who lives and who dies? How could one choose to live in a world if one's own family or loved ones were to be sacrificed? What was the purpose of being?
My hope for humanity was revived when I considered those that chose to risk it all to save others...or those who chose to remain with those about to be gassed, comforting others till the end. My mother taught me that remaining with the children was the only possible way. There ARE worse things than death.
Since then I've learned about other atrocities: Pol Pot's massacre of his people, the Armenian genocide, Stalin's purges, Bosnia, Rwanda, etc. The starvation in Africa. I backpacked through Europe when the first LIVE AID concert happened; I watched "We Are the World," from a television in Surrey. I had met Ethiopians lucky enough to escape the starvation during my year in Jerusalem. Operation Moses had plucked them from likely death and deposited them into another world.
Were the problems of the world to be remedied by only those in power or celebrity, or could each of us play a part? It was a narrow path to avoid each extreme__despair and hopefulness.
Acknowledging love and staying positive is a way toward wholeness.
By making conscious choices to do good by others, we can avoid perpetuating negativity. Instead of seeing the Other as an enemy to be destroyed, we see the Other in ourself. If they are negative we can avoid conflict by acknowledging the despair that we've felt ourselves.
Rabbi Hillel taught, "don't do unto others that which you find abhorrent to yourself." The golden rule actually preceded Jesus.
Hillel was inclusive; Hillel saw the bigger picture. Evidently, he was a wise sage who could see the repercussions both spiritually and physically in the world. And then there was Shammai. Evidently, he was for narrowing, for exclusion. And that has been the pull within communities till today. Us vs. them.
What we have today in the world is a movement toward a more equitable sharing of our planet's resources and a fear of want. People are waking to the idea that hierarchy is not the way. Superiority, castes and exploitation are a trap. They were never the real deal. The transformation to this new, messianic era exists within each of us. It's consciousness. Enlightenment. The examined mind, if you will.
Whence comes evil? It comes from the misunderstanding of this. It comes from the misinterpretation of stories told for other purposes. The emotive, vivid examples of fighting and killing take on lives of their own instead of remaining dark cautionary tales of what to avoid while on this Earth walk.
Recently Richard Dreyfuss, the actor, spoke of his plan for American schools to teach critical thinking, logic and civics. He relayed the story of his father behind enemy lines having tortured captured German SS officers during WWII. He spoke with abhorrence the casual slide into the use of torture by the former Bush/Cheney administration since the attacks on 9/11/2001. (Attacks that leave a lot of unanswered questions and about which Bush/Cheney declined to speak on record).
Our country's then leader gave banal advice to the people: "go shopping." Meanwhile, new military complexes were being built around Washington.
What really matters? What can heal? Retail therapy, perhaps, but that is a temporary fix; deep down we know that isn't the real answer. How we treat one another matters. If you assume you are enemies, then it's hard to act like a friend. Or at least a neighbor:
When Einstein, who declined the honor of being the second president of Israel, recommended a "privy council" of equal numbers of wise Jews and Arabs to settle disputes.
"Should we be unable to find a way to honest cooperation and honest pacts with the Arabs, then we have learned absolutely nothing during our 2,000 years of suffering....The two great Semitic peoples have a great common future." If the Jews did not assure that both sides lived in harmony, he warned friends in the Zionist movement, the struggle would haunt them in decades to come. Once again, he was labeled naive. --from Einstein: His Life & Universe, by Walter IsaacsonIt wasn't naive as we are learning today.
In time Teddy Kollek, the former mayor of Jerusalem, tried implementing this type of consensus leadership; in 1984 he spoke of it to a group of American students on Mt. Scopus. I was struck by the wisdom in this.
Unfortunately, now with people being evicted from their homes in East Jerusalem and elsewhere, this lesson has not been learned. What is wrong with sharing? We are all connected.
What if, for those who consider the concept of rebirth, we are born again not as a member of our same 'tribe' but as the other. Talk about irony. How sad then when we have power we propagate a future of hatred by treating others poorly.
All of us must constantly remind ourselves of the two different paths and why the one is more worthwhile for everyone's sake.
The great Jewish scholar, Martin Buber, saw the value of our connectedness in his seminal work, I and Thou. How hopeful I am that as a student of his student I may live to see the beginning of this so-called messianic era where each of us recognizes our roles in the healing the world.