Paying Attention Bill McDonald’s
April 2018 - Volume 18, No. 4
Dividing the World in order to Save It
I’ve heard preachers do it. They’ll define an enemy and then work to ‘save’ the people from it. I see so many of our politicians do it (as well as our divider-in-chief in the White House).
They say it’s the devil’s favorite tactic. Divide people from each other - and they will feel much better, ‘safer’, superior (or inferior).
Take, for example, the debates about gun control. Personally I believe the statistics that demonstrate I’m much safer where I live in that I don’t own a gun. But I can appreciate some of those who argue otherwise. I don’t like the way the argument is dividing the world around the issue of saving it.
Dividing the world sells guns. And books.
It motivates voters.
It enhances (and destroys) property values.
It defines neighborhoods.When did we first conceive of “gated communities” - and their logical analogs, the ghettos of our world?
I remember back in the time of Viet Nam, when an unidentified American officer explained why Ben Tre was leveled during the Tet Offensive in early 1968 - “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”Regardless of civilian casualties.That was not a small town, it was a provincial capital. The toxic logic of that war (our war) was revealed - we had to destroy an entire town, including it’s women and children, in order to save them (i.e. from communism).I remember the sick feeling in my heart when I first heard this - “What have we become?” Maybe there’s some small redemption in that I can’t shake that memory. Even when I was ‘safely’ thousands of miles away.
I’ve just come through the Church’s ritual season of Lent, the Crucifixion of Christ, and the mysterious emergent hope of Easter. So maybe I’m more than usually fresh and ‘raw’ from the contemplation of such things that humans can do for and against each other.
In my work as a mental health professional, I often wear myself down in the struggle of others, individuals and couples, to “hold things together.”This especially in a time when so much and so many are falling apart.
There’s a great (universal?) temptation to take that which is divided within each of us and project it onto others.Some of the sources of guilt and shame that people carry, are the results of others successfully projecting their own ‘sins’ onto others. People can do this. Families can do this even down numerous generations.Neighborhoods, cities, nations, governments, races…
And it seems it’s humans that are the primary offenders.The natural world seems more free of this tendency to divide.(There are, of course, those who will argue against me here.)
But it’s also the glory of being human that gives us the ability to love, to care and live in empathy with each other, to be able and willing to sacrifice ourselves for each other, as well as to cherish the deep mysteries of each other.
One of the deep mysteries of life is the commandment and the mystery to love each other. In the Bible, it’s after Easter that the commandment to love each other becomes so central.
It’s the very opposite of dividing the world in order to save it. The struggles of life can teach us to love. My fortune is to know people who seem to be getting pretty good at it.
How about we each bet our life and work on the promise that it can be true?
And just maybe the ironic conjunction this year of Easter and April Fools Day is the ultimate proof.
The 13th century Persian Poet Rumi, may give us some insight about these matters:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”