… and let it begin, with me.
Anyone else besides me now singing that song in your head (if not, read my title and then the first line of the blog …)? I feel that the last week or so have been somewhat stressful for many of us, especially us in the USA. The media news has not trended in a positive light what with growing tensions between us and the Syrian government, us and other countries around the world, our economy, etc. In that vein I have reflected on this blog post, myself trying to make sense of where we go from here. In previous blog posts I have reflected on ways of coping, psychologically and spiritually, with tragedy, so what next? Do I move on, as if the topics have been exhausted? Is there more to say? In my own reflections I came to understand that much of what I had said in my previous blogs focused on the reactions to an event. Maybe the reflection needs to focus on preventing the events.
You may ask, but how can we prevent this potential tragedy? For me, the answer comes from an essay, written in 1961, entitled “The Root of War is Fear“, written by a Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. Here is an excerpt:
If people really wanted peace they would sincerely ask God for it and He would give it to them. But why should He give the world a peace which it does not really desire? The peace the world pretends to desire is really no peace at all. … to practically everybody peace simply means the absence of any physical violence that might cast a shadow over lives devoted to the satisfaction of their animal appetites for comfort and pleasure. … So instead of loving what you think is peace, love others and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed — but hate these things in yourself, not in another.
If we want a world of peace, or, if we want peace between us and our neighbors, or us and our family, then we must first look deep within ourselves. Merton exhorts us to notice, not our flaws per se, but rather those deeply entrenched feelings of hate and injustice. It is not necessarily that big cruel world out there which is keeping us from a true inner peace; it is ourselves!
Yet, as easy as Merton’s quote makes it sound, we all know it isn’t that easy in practice. In a previous blog post I spoke in detail on this topic, even offering a counseling technique I often use (check it out here).
As we continue to listen to the media news, I challenge us to reflect on the Merton quote. Spend some quiet time reflecting on those areas of our life which needs changing. Honestly try, one day at a time, to think and to react differently to the world around us. Focus on those feelings and thoughts which really matter; God, family, love. Honestly, nothing else matters if we truly live in a way which honors those three values. Try it! I have faith that not only can we make the changes within us, but as we do so, we will be changing the world!