This is long, so if you’re in a hurry, feel free to move on past it.
I’m not sure if anyone has ever read the novel “Illusions” by Richard Bach. Great read when I was a teenager, and I’ve reconnected with it lately. In it, Bach describes a “Messiah manual” – basically a book that, when you open it, has exactly what you need to know at that particular moment – not practically, mind you, but spiritually.
I always thought that amusing…until lately. You see, since I started the Tao of Maud project, it seems like it keeps happening to me. Admittedly, the books I have around tend to be deep-ish these days (The Art of Peace, Zen Bones Zen Flesh, The Radiance Sutras, etc.), but even so, these lessons are still coming to be pretty specific.
The process, according to Bach’s book, was you focus your mind on the question, and then you open the book randomly. Any page. The answer will be there. I haven’t tried this with a cookbook, but I think it might actually work there too – the food I need at that time.
Today, with all the turmoil in Paris, I was feeling unsettled. So I sat down to work on the ToM project, to look for appropriate quotes, and I randomly opened up “The Art of Peace” by Morihei Ueshiba (translated by John Stevens). It opened to this:
“As soon as you concern yourself with the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ of your fellows, you create an opening for maliciousness to enter.”
And that stopped me cold.
Yes, what the extremists are doing in Paris is reprehensible. The taking of lives in this manner bothers me to the very core of my being. And the messages that prompted them to do so seem to be a twisted corruption of what is, by my own reading, a faith that shares so many common tenets about peace and kindness. But it feels like acts like this are pushing us into a no-win struggle, where each side claims only it has the true path, where everything must be black or white. As it says, good and bad. And when we think something is bad, is evil, how far are we willing to go to stop it? And how does that change us?
Look what we’ve done as a society since 9/11, in the name of fighting evil. We’ve changed to the point where we now not only look outside for enemies at the walls, but we now consider anyone inside who disagrees with us to be just as bad, just as evil, and just as subject to the same style of treatment.
Before you think I believe I’m immune to this, I am not. Recently I have gone head to head with a number of people in a certain fan community because of what I perceived as, frankly, the evil nature of it. They seem to want to corrupt characters designed for children in ways that are perverse and they’ve gone so far as to bully one of the more vulnerable members of the community to commit suicide. When I’ve questioned why they don’t at least try to emulate some of the moral values depicted in the program, I was attacked on a number of levels by many members on public forums. But my judging the entire community on these actions means that I then responded aggressively in response to many within the community, including members who had never behaved like their counterparts. How was I any different?
Are all members of any group evil because some do unspeakable things?
Well, ask that question this way – Are all Muslims evil because some do unspeakable things?
The answer is obvious. You watch and guard against the unspeakable acts. But passing judgment against? That’s a dangerous path, as likely to damage you spritually as them. And it’s the worse kind of damage – a corrosion of what you believe in until, eventually, it’s a weak shell of what it might have been.
Do I have an answer, a magic bullet solution? The only one I can think of this this – awareness. Know that the only true change you can make is to yourself, but in doing so, you may inspire others to think – and that will make them aware as well.
Thank you for putting up with my wordiness. I just felt I needed to get this out of my head and onto virtual paper today.
Everyone, please, be well today, and treat yourself gently. You are all special to me.