Large expanses of water have always held a terror for me. Yet, in spite of that, or perhaps because of it, when I’m confronted by great waters they captivate me. Looking out over the water it is lively and ever-changing yet deceptive. Deceptive because the glimmering beauty of the surface says nothing about the waters themselves. Hidden below are the unimaginable depths where darkness and cold are filling abysmal chasms. Mystery stretches from the fine sand gently tossed by rolling surf to hidden cliffs and sea mounts rising from the crushing depths. It is all beyond knowing, beyond human experience except on the most simplistic level. It’s denizens are there too, below the glinting waves. Small, exquisite creatures drifting forever in the dark to gargantuan, monstrous beings that graze or prowl or lurk ever only giving hints of their presence. In them especially the mystery swims past, unannounced and unknown.
It’s more than just the Mystery that inspires my terror. Knowing that it is free …that is the frightening part! We frail humans are continually setting boundaries; seawalls, dikes, dams, jetties or harbors as though we were true Gandalfs crying out, “YOU …SHALL …NOT …PASS!” And it seems for all the world that we have exerted effective authority when really all we are observing is coincidence. We stand in our assurance that our will prevails until one day, without so much as a how-do-you-do the waves are marching on our walkways, rolling up our streets, exploring the recesses of our basements and knocking on our doors. Regardless of our intentions and conventions the waters are free.
And such is life. I think you can see the parallel. Life presents itself with the readily available glittering surface that captures the eye but within it is the terror, the mystery, the uncertainty. We do all we can to control it. We set out rules, our societies, our cultures, our laws and our firm expectations. We cry out all the more loudly in defense of our necessary boundaries telling life, as though we actually had the authority, “YOU …SHALL …NOT …PASS!” We find peace in the respite of coincidence as life seems to obey, until it doesn’t. It is then, when the truth of things become plain, that we tremble in terror for life …is free!
I like this. You see the vast water holds a terror for me in the depths of its mystery but that is why I love it so. It is vast, powerful, beautiful beyond comprehension, terrifying in its wild majesty and it holds my heart and mind and spirit enthralled. And such is life.
And such is God. Have you ever noticed that the larger the part of creation we observe the more distinctly we can perceive the presence of God? I can at least, you too probably if you look for it. And how like the sea! Or the forest, or deserts or the starry fields of space! Vast, deep and with infinite complexity held in awesome simplicity. Mysterious and terrifying.
And how do we deal with great and overwhelmingly powerful things? We try to build a wall around it, control it, set acceptable boundaries. Post signs. With God we create theologies, doctrines, religions, temples and say to the infinite, “This is as big as you get, as far as you go. This is my comfort zone and the area of my control. Beyond this point, ‘YOU …SHALL …NOT …PASS!'” Coincidence will always prevail for a while. We hold our selves secure in the knowledge that we have it all figured out. We find our peace. The wards hold, until they don’t. The sea will be the sea, life will be life, God will be God. The mystery and majesty and uncontrollable nature of it all will overwhelm us and suddenly we know the terror of being small, helpless and facing forces forever beyond our control. And ain’t it grand!
Everything as it is, all things as they truly are. Truth. Reality. Staring into the abyss and being enthralled by the wild majesty; at home in the midst of the Wild. Failing to contain the uncontrollable we find two paths. We can either scramble under blind terror to rebuild the walls of fancy and recreate the illusion of control or we can find ourselves falling helplessly into the arms of what is and was and will always be.
Choose to trust. There is no other sane choice for us. Let the unknowable mystery take you, overwhelm your defenses and fill your heart with the exquisite terror of uncertainty. Isn’t that what falling in love is all about?.
We are an opinionated people. Just going to put that out there. In that vein I will quote Dirty Harry: “Opinions are like a**holes. Everybody has one.” There are other parallels between the two but I will leave that to your imagination.
Most responsible, intelligent people would probably insist that if you are going to have an opinion then back it up. What’s your data? Where is your evidence? Almost to the point of “Prove your opinion is Truth or go and don’t come back until you can!” Not really a reasonable approach when dealing with an opinion but understandable given our usual approach to most opinionated things:”You have a differing opinion? The fight is ON!”
It’s not reasonable to take the idea of ‘back-up’ data too far because hey, it’s an opinion, not a fact. Yet we confront differences as though all who would disagree with us are obviously denying the facts. Opinions are everywhere, especially in politics. Some are based on a lot of data, some are reflective of emotional involvement. Most are a mixture of both. Yet it remains opinion, none the less.
I watched the Republican Debates last night with my daughter and son-in-law. Wow! Lot’s of opinions! Both on the screen and in the room. Bear in mind that I have voted Republican in every election I have ever voted in. With few exceptions I voted straight ticket. At those times the R-Platform was closely reflecting my own opinions about how things should be governed in our country so I had no problems voting this way. My involvement and my interests in issues has changed my opinions in several areas. Immigration is one. A lot of my family and friends are entangled in the immigration quagmire that we have in place of rational and efficient immigration policy and implementation. I know enough to know that there are no simplistic answers to such a complex human problem fraught with such deep needs. My stand on this issue has distanced me from most Republican candidates.
My opinions on how this country should be interacting with nations internationally and responding to current threats has also changed. This has distanced me from both parties. Oddly, even though my stance on international affairs is predominantly non-violent my position on gun laws is firmly in favor of keeping the populace armed. I know, weird. In a country of highly polarized politics I find my feet on both sides of the aisle.
One area that hasn’t changed, and will in all likelihood remain intact, is the linchpin for me. This opinion remains as it is not because of facts or data or any conclusive evidence whatsoever. It hangs strongly in my heart as an immutable force even though I stand in full awareness that it can never be an arguable fact. This pivotal area that cannot change is the unborn’s right to life. It remains so strong and unassailable not because of what I know … but because of what I do not know.
Ajahn Chah, a Thai Buddhist teacher I respect, made a statement once that I have never forgotten. He said in effect that what you know gives you knowledge but you will not have wisdom until you accept what you do not know. You see, not only are we opinionated as a people, we are arrogant as well. Even though we do NOT know everything we hold opinions like we do. Unless we factor in our ignorance any stand we take will be out of balance. Lacking conclusive facts we have ignorance, or perhaps, non-knowledge: what we do not know. If we keep in mind what we do not know, what we cannot know, we have a chance of wisdom.
Opinions, like beliefs, take what we know and then take a leap. But we cannot leap too far. We have to keep in mind, “what if I’m wrong?”
Here’s how it goes with me. While a mother’s rights are a valid issue as well as the freedom of choice, for me it cannot be the critical issue. When I look at an babe in arms I have to ask, “When did the ‘fetus’ become this awesome, miraculous human being?” I know there are lots of opinions in the matter. Since 100% of the genetic make up of the human individual is present at conception there is the entire gestation period to work with in trying to decide at what point are we dealing with a person. Truth is …we don’t know. I don’t think it is something we can know. Facing that towering question mark I am left with the real question, “What if we are wrong?”
We may play God every day in many ways, consciously and unconsciously, but that doesn’t mean we have the right to. If we don’t know, and we know we don’t know, then how can we take the chance on being wrong? What if we are murdering a child?
That is not a popular question today. Contemporary culture has gone to great lengths to dehumanize the unborn. It’s not a baby, it’s a fetus. It’s not a body, it’s just tissue. It’s not a person, it’s at best an inconvenience and at the worst a problem. History is replete with examples of the use of dehumanization to validate abuse, persecution and killing of sectors of the human family. Slavery in this country, the holocaust in Europe, women still in some parts of the world, and to some extent even the ‘War on Terror’ we are currently waging. I have never trusted any action that is predicated on dehumanization, especially if it is an area where the judgments are made based on prevailing opinion.
So, where does that leave me? Well, knowing what I don’t know now I have to choose to err on the side of life. Both “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” are based on an opinion formed from inconclusive data. Either could be wrong.
But what if we are killing children?
January 22nd was the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Since that time, there have been nearly 56,000,000 abortions.
What if we are killing children?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed
by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are
Life, Liberty and
the pursuit of Happiness.”
– Excerpt from the Declaration of Independence
I got up early this morning and seeing a lay of fog around the house I hurried to get dressed to get to the waterfront before the sun rose. My son-in-law was already up and instead of a misty sunrise I was treated to a pleasant exchange over coffee dealing with the separation of church and state, original intentions of the founding of our nation, the differing beliefs concerning a ‘living constitution’ and a “fixed constitution”, a few applicable current events as well as an exposition (by me) on Christ, the place of faith in the government and Christ’s teaching methods. Yeah, we are that kind of family. I still got out of the house in time to see the sun low on the river and a gentle mist rising from the surface, dancing lightly in sunlight on calm waters. No cause for complaint on either the homefront or the waterfront.
Normally, I try to avoid discussions of religion and politics. Yes, I write about spiritual matters and the occasional patriotic thought but that is rarely a discussion. More of a teaching at best, confession at worst. I avoid discussions in these matters for the most part because in both it seems that the tendency to confuse belief with truth is endemic and such discussions rarely result in any good outcomes. The discussion with my son this morning was lacking in that frustrating element but served to highlight by contrast how much of the discussions in the media and over kitchen tables these days are tainted by it.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.
The nature of “Truth” has been a question people have struggled with since times immemorial. Lacking authority to proclaim absolute accuracy I have a adopted a working definition that has held me in good stead for some time now. It is gleaned from Buddhist teachings but I think that it fits without compromise the teachings and person of Jesus as well as the thoughts of the Founding Fathers. Simply put Truth is the way things are; each thing as it actually is.
When we look at any thing (ANY thing!) we look upon the truth of it but our perception, our understanding, is altered by our filters. Likes, dislikes; fears, desires; memories, expectations and a quadrillion other duelistic positions that force our eyes to judgement and in so doing we color the truth. The Founding Fathers (with whom I agree in this) believed in self-evident Truth. Truth so profound, so common, so obvious, so repetitiously dependable that it stands apart, impervious to our filters. In the context of the formation of our nation they were ‘certain unalienable rights.’ They were absolutely convinced that the God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was just the way it was and because of that fact they could not but act against the powers they saw as acting against this truth.
Not all Truth is that easy to act upon. You see Truth is big and even what we can see cannot be completely understood. Sometimes its because we color it and thereby distort it and other times because we just cannot see the whole picture. The apostle Paul spoke about this reality of life when he referred to our now seeing as though through a dirty window and that we see only in part. He gave hope that one day we would see clearly as though face-to-face and that we would know even as we are known but for now we need to keep the humility of our limited humanity about us.
So what do we do then? We do what we always do. We take what we know, our understanding as it stands now and we connect the dots. We see the best we can and make our best guess at the rest and we believe. Truth is the light that shows us the way, belief is the path we choose to walk within that light.
Whether its politics, religion or just interpersonal communication there will never be peace until we start the conversation realizing that what we see, what we hear, what we believe is colored by our bias’ and perceptions. The proper question is not “Why did you say that?” or “How can you take that stand?” or “How can you live your life that way?”. It has to begin with realizing we don’t see the whole picture and our inquiries need to be purposed to increase our understanding, not establish our belief as Truth. “What I heard hurt me, what did you mean to say?” “I don’t understand what has brought you to this position. Can I ask why it is important to you?” “What I see in your position is contrary to what I have come to believe but before we can come to an understanding know that you don’t have to share my conclusions for me to love you and value you.”
Call me a dreamer but I think we can communicate and share and grow from each difference we encounter. If we each hold a part of the Truth doesn’t it make sense to share?
These are the smiles that try men’s souls. And women’s. Kids, eh, maybe not so much, they are pretty innocent as a rule and still trying to process their parent’s fears but none the less easy to spark a connection with. But the adults, yeah, you can definitely lay down a trial and know the outcome that reveals the cloudiness and distortions imprisoning their heart. It’s not hard to read and you can definitely get better with practice. Aaaand what am I talking about …
My premise is that when we share a smile we touch our common heart. I do it every day, several times a day and have been blessed over and over again with a cut-through-the-crap no-baggage-allowed honest-to-goodness brief-but-beautiful contact with hearts held by other souls but uniformly the same as mine. The rub has developed by my encounters with the sullen few that will ignore my smiling greeting or give a cursory nod while retaining the frown that has their face locked in place. Some will smile lightly and then glance away as though I had entered a private setting with secrets that could be revealed. A rare individual will meet my eyes and will turn away almost angry or with at least a wave of sadness like I had thrown them a lifeline but they felt it too late, they had drifted too far from shore and had no hope of returning. The most difficult of all are the professional facade generators. The politicians of life that create a willful response designed to create a personae to hide behind and still give a positive appearance. Yeah, tough nuts those and probably the hearts most deeply buried in the mire of life.
So here is my mission, and your’s, should you choose to accept it. Sharing hearts is always rewarding and a step in the right direction in revealing our innate unity, especially in these days when division and animosity seems to be rolling so forcefully through our species. It is sufficiently fulfilling that I have no fear of the practice being discouraging no matter how many clouded hearts I meet. Therefore I will press toward the shadows and open myself to see the nature of the darkness. My hope is that I can get sufficiently sensitive and insightful that I can let my smile and my eyes and my heart conform to the need and help the clouded heart find the blessing of sharing a moment with a fellow human without judgement, without expectation and with unconditional acceptance.
This may sound a bit silly: militant friendliness. Maybe it is. Or a bit crazy. Don’t care. It may be a small thing but the reality is big things are made up of small things. World events, while overwhelming, are built from moments and relationships and perceptions made person to person, heart to heart. I cannot create universal world peace but I can share my heart with one person at a time and fill that moment with all the peace and love I can muster.
It’s the least and possibly the best I can do.
Everyone remembers what they were doing, where they were, how they felt that day. We remember the Towers falling, the tragic loss of life, the shock, the fear and perhaps the most pervasive feeling among us: uncertainty. We struggle to find the proper way to memorialize our loss. We struggle because our compassion, our grief is not allowed to be felt unalloyed. The same source of our compassion is used to justify cruelty. Our grief and loss is cause for our violence inflicted on others. We hurt as a nation and we seem to believe that if we make others hurt as well we will somehow be healed.
We as a nation have always known that we are special. If for nothing else than the ideals upon which we were founded we stand unique and proud among the nations of history. One nation, with liberty and justice for all are the words we used to say. I grew up with that pledge being reaffirmed every morning. Pledging allegiance to a flag which was the symbol of our great nation, a nation which pledged in return to hold those words sacred: Liberty and justice for all. It is not for that ideal, or the others that we hold dear, that our enemies hate us. I believe we are hated for our failure to live up to them. We were once a beacon of hope and I believe we genuinely wanted to be, tried to be that very thing once, but somewhere we lost our way. Politics are a convenient scapegoat as are economic interests world wide. Other things just became more important. Less noble men and women with more craven motivations took the helm and our course changed. We were left with monuments to our ideals and a shadow nation that hid behind media spin and public ignorance while it toppled governments, climbed into bed with monsters and stepped on the rights, dignity and value of human beings all in the name of national interest and its accompanying bottom line.
Since 9/11 we have followed the trajectory in the light that once was hidden in the shadows. We wage war without declaring it. We capture, incarcerate, torture and kill without due process or any attempt at justice. We uphold regimes we need and withdraw support from those we don’t, regardless of our history or their loyalty to us and our ideals. We stand by without remorse as millions are displaced and live lives of hell on earth, all the while we spend billions on weapons of war. How much of the human suffering is caused today because of our self-serving choices yesterday? How much of the military budget is ‘needed’ because of threats in the world we have spawned by our own actions?
I know this is not the usual flag waving patriotic fare this day normally inspires. Sorry. It’s that picture. You see I now realize that while most people look at that picture and see the towers that were attacked and that we lost I see the Lady. In her I see the actual victim. I feel her loss most keenly of all.
Early in March of 1862 the Union forces under Gen. Burnside began the attack on New Bern, North Carolina. His attack with superior numbers, trained troops and naval support soon broke the lines of the undermanned and poorly armed Confederate defenders. The Rebels routed and burned the bridges across the Trent River to block pursuit in such haste that many of their number were cut off and captured. They fled under canon fire from the Union steamships unable to regroup but still showing enough presence of mind to burn wharves stacked with cotton bails and warehouses filled with turpentine and other goods. If they could not defend against the ‘damn Yanks’ they would most certainly not supply them. The air over the town was covered with the pall of smoke, quiet but for the crackle of fires. The few remnants of the population left behind were furtive figures in the smoke generally looting at will when Burnside’s forces entered the town.
New Bern fell to the North that day and remained in Union hands for the remainder of the war. Today, little is left to testify of that battle but historical markers here and there commemorating different aspects of the battle. Memories fade quickly like battle scars upon the landscape. War, such an unspeakable horror when it is upon us, can so quickly becomes a romanticized tourist attraction; an aside and diversion from our enjoyment of the day. Maybe that is the problem. Or part of it. We patch things up too quickly. Living memory of the war that saw 2% of the American population killed died when I was nine years old. The last remaining soldier that fought in that war died in 1959. With his passing the War became 2nd hand history: pictures in a book.
Maybe we should leave some bombed out buildings standing. A field with sun-bleached bones might tell a tale even without lips and tongues to speak. We just forget too soon.
The refugees in Europe today will stand testimony that war is still hell. The Europeans may have forgotten but the refugees still have the smell of smoke about them. We have forgotten too. Once, we, as a nation knew what was important. Once we were the promised land and a refuge. Today privilege and comfort have become too precious. Our compassion is of the flavor ready to send money and resources toward the need but not to let the needy come to us. No. There is no room. We don’t have the means. It would require sacrifice, it would require having to actually be close to them.
Perhaps we should take the Statue of Liberty down. Maybe put up some condos on the Island. I understand the view is to die for.
I heard someone say yesterday that they were ready for football weather. On my walk this morning I could not but concur. I got a bit of a late start this morning and the sun was already starting to climb above the deeper air sharing its warmth. No problem with that but my poor body is still used to the dry Colorado air and doesn’t know how to handle the humidity here yet. I grew up in Indiana, Florida and Kentucky and went to college in Tennessee so I know I can adjust but wow, today was not that day! I navigated into the shade whenever possible but I still felt like I was swimming at times and by the time I got back home I was soaked through my clothes, yet again.
That being said it was, yet again, a good walk. I took the River Walk around the crescent of the Neuse River shoreline circumventing most of the town. I enjoy how easily the past peeks through the aspects of the city that time has slowly changed. As I have mentioned before the Civil War has had a deep and lasting effect on this area. While the riverfront is now concrete and steel hand rails, docks, yachts, yacht clubs and riverfront hotels the slow tidal stream of the Neuse seems to belie the present superficial nature of the shore. Once it hosted steamers and cargo ships, wharf’s were stacked with cotton bails and war turned bright days dark only to give way to light again as life renewed and times changed. I am reminded how things appear now is never a permanent thing. No more than how they once were. Each has it’s stake in reality and each is deserving of its due, not to be ignored or forgotten.
I am still trying to get my head around what it must have been like in the South before and during the War. While evolving economic necessities may have blinded good people to what we see now
as evil I wonder how much was just hard-hearted choices and stubborn fear of change. Given my present viewpoint and frame of mind I find it impossible to accept slavery on any level. I am continually challenged to understand the human heart that first conceived leading another human being in chains to a crowd of fellow human beings and selling that person for money. Yet an entire major section of our country came to be involved in the practice, so much so that the southern economy came to depend on it. I hope that being inside that kind of thinking, understanding it, never comes easy for me.
My favorite part of my walk is the end nearest our house on the water. It seems to be a popular spot for crabbing. Locals will go there and toss a chicken leg on a string into the water believing a bird-leg in hand is worth blue crabs in the net. Its fun to watch the slow and deliberate patience of the crabbers. I will more often than not stop and chat, asking questions, joking or wishing luck. The smiles are many and the laughter quick and free.
I remember an older gentleman surrounded by his family: grown kids and grandkids. The little ones had poles and he was moving back and forth helping them bait and cast while watching his crab lines. There was a lot of chatter and laughter as I approached. I caught his eye and we exchanged smiles. I commented that it seemed that he was surrounded by the best things in life. I could see the truth of my words rise up in him and with a smile that commanded every inch of his face he let the joy bubble out with a heartfelt, “LORD, have MERCY!” I chuckled and continued taking a bit of the warmth with me.
That grandfather was ‘black’. This grandfather was ‘white’. It didn’t make any difference. We shared the smiles of a common heart.
Sitting in the coffee shop enjoying my coffee it started to rain. The morning sun was still bright and the mixture of rain and sunlight matched my own emotions. The coffee shop is the turnaround point on my morning walk. This is a small town and my mornings of late have taken me to the river path and eventually into town. The pleasant but brief respite over coffee I indulge in is usually as much an excuse to watch the people as to be off my feet for a moment. Looking out the window I was sure my reaction to the rain (both wonder at the sudden, gentle beauty as well as some consternation over the return leg of my walk being in the downpour) would be shared by my fellow patrons.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the rain and I love walking in it but usually it is planned and an umbrella is part of the planning. This morning I didn’t even have a hat. Still, the attraction of walking in the warm rain surrounded by sunlight was enticing. I have been around long enough to know that when rain and sun grace the earth together one will soon pass. I waited, still sipping my coffee, watching the quiet contest unfold wondering with a smile if there were somewhere I could place a wager.
Customers continued to walk in, some more wet than others, but few of them left. My sanctuary was threatening to get crowded but there was no sense of urgency hovering over anyone. They sat at tables with friends and acquaintances engaging in smiling conversations or alone, like me, immersed in a book. Each, in their turn would look toward the windows and for a moment watch the rain and the sunlight.
I think I was the only one in those few moments that actually held the rain and sunlight in the center of my thoughts. The regular group of men along the wall were discussing current events and enjoying the juxtapositioning of curmudgeonly gruffness with more progressive humor. Two were partaking in a brief tutorial on Microsoft Word. Both men older one seemed to have kept up with the new technological media of life while the other had dragged his heels and was being left behind.
Three generations of one family walked in. The mother/grandmother, the daughter/Mom and the two kids. All of them recently arrived from the Mojave Desert area hosting a strange aversion to the rain. Mother/grandmother felt compelled to explain the situation to me as we crossed paths at the trash can. I smiled. Took a bit for me to stretch my head around living without a familiarity with the rain.
True to form both the rain and the sun faded away at the same time. I smiled again, my dualistic thinking thwarted. Life always has a third choice. Stepping outside I bravely pointed my feet toward home under unsettled skies and was rewarded by a mischievous splat on my bald spot from a dripping, overhanging tree. I kept walking, feeling, not for the first time, that I was already home.
sunlight holds the rain
gentle and kind, comforting
together we smile
“From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia…could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.”
― Abraham Lincoln
I am, at this writing, in an area steeped in the history of our two great wars, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. I have heard it rightly said that the first birthed us the other defined us. I would add that neither are finished with us. I am beginning research on a possible story set in the midst of the Civil war and in my reading I am haunted by the echoes of the thoughts and divisions our nation felt prior to the War still resounding through our land.
It saddens me to see how fertile the ground of our American culture has been, throughout our history, for hatred and anger and violence and how rare the growth of compassion, kindness, understanding and redemption. The slow growth of the needed fruit is there but it struggles and needs constant tending and attention. The other, like weeds, still springs up overnight and repeatedly threatens to ruin all the good work that has been done. Still, with eyes blind to reality, we look beyond our borders at a world we have too often wronged and injured and choose to think, “There! There is the danger we face!” but in truth I think Lincoln got it right. As did Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
The rising division, or perhaps the general spirit of division, seems to find its borders between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and by extension along racial lines uniformly rather than the old ‘North and South” demarcations. In this current arena, as in the past, hatred, anger, resentment and violence is seen as holding sway, and that magnified through the enflaming eyes of the media.
The Civil War’s issues were not as clearly defined as generalizations would indicate. History will, if allowed, make the struggle over slavery. The wrongful oppression of a people solely on the basis of their skin color was certainly an evil that needed to be addressed and rectified. There were other equally evil issues of the time that were not addressed at all then. Cruelty, injustice, exploitation and other crimes committed in both the North and the South in the name of Profit were and still are rampant with any difference being only one of degree. That horrendous war was not driven by outraged morality as much as economics and the destruction of the Southern way of life, best accomplished by the freeing the slaves, made slavery more a pawn than a Cause. There are many books written and debates unending about all the factors involved in what caused this great schism of our nation. I cannot give a definitive answer. I only know that while much was changed few things were permanently rectified.
Sadly, that while the institution of slavery was rightly done away with, the raising of people of color to an equal status, making true the founding basis of our nation “that all men are created equal” is still ongoing. You can legislate what is acceptable but cannot change the human heart from the outside in.
Today we find ourselves still trying to find our way out of the dark valley of our history. Dr. King’s dream was of a day when no man would be judged on the basis of the color of his skin. The light of that day, while breaking through at times, has not yet come. Indeed, the hatred and bigotry that was once the purview primarily of the white American is now the rallying cry of both camps. That is not a step forward for any of us.
It has been my heart’s constant grief that Dr. King was not allowed to live out his life and do more to complete the realization of his vision. One of his most famous quotes (which he borrowed from the Buddha) is that hatred cannot overcome hatred, only love can overcome hatred. He understood. As a follower of Jesus he knew the radical teaching to “Love your enemies” as the only effective response to evil. Today the momentum of events seems to be carried by too many people that do not understand. If there will ever be a chance for his great dream to come to reality then the old paradigm can no longer be allowed to thrive. We can no longer confront evil with evil, injustice with violence, bigotry with hatred.
More and more I am finding the thought within me that the Civil War happened because the Revolutionary War was never really finished. What was begun as a political revolution to found this nation with it’s lofty ideals must be continued and brought to completion as a spiritual revolution if we are to ever be whole; one people. We must finally realize that hatred, anger, violence and the like is indeed like the Buddha said, a poison we drink thinking the other person will die. We cause our own suffering and it will only end when we cease to be destructive and begin to be redemptive. We need to know that we are each of us connected … and family … and that nothing is more important than family.