Although I seldom, if ever, post explicitly political posts here, my political leanings should be evident in the nature of this blog (mindful and eco-conscious living and travel).
That said, tonight, after viewing a number of heavily-politicized posts on Facebook, in news, and elsewhere, I needed to take a break. I am privileged enough to be able to set down my computer, grab my iPod, and go for a walk. My neighborhood is safe, the streets are well-lit and paved, and I have the time to spend by myself, getting some exercise and fresh air.
When I did so, a strange thing started to happen. As I thought about the upcoming presidential election and all the bickering and bantering that comes with it, I also listened to good music. As I thought about the varying viewpoints, many of which I deeply disagree with, I looked up at the bright white moon, how fixedly and nonchalantly it was rising in a hued blue-pink sky.
As I walked, I passed by an elderly lady and her caretaker, who smiled and said hello, both out walking the woman’s dogs. A middle-aged man had stopped to take out his camera to snap a photo of the moon (it was quite beautiful). I passed an elderly Asian man with a walker (who I often see on my evening walks) who shuffled at the slowest pace I could imagine, yet did so with such gusto and happiness you would think walking was the most delightful thing known to humankind. He smiled at me and said an exuberant ‘Hi!’ and I beamed back at him.
On facing front lawns, Obama and Romney signs waved at one another in the growing Santa Ana-inspired wind. Palm trees bowed to hummingbirds, daisies and roses exhaled petals into the breeze.
I thought: is it truly human to be so adversarial? Aren’t we, despite these seemingly irreparable differences, innately similar? I also thought that perhaps if we all took the time to breathe, to watch the world with awe and reverence (to be, as the elderly man with the walker, as perfectly happy to be walking) that maybe we would have no time to fight (I have to think we wouldn’t have much to fight about!).
Because, when it comes down to it, we were all once babies, will one day be elderly (hopefully!). I remember a friend recently telling me that when she sees a Schitzophrenic man bantering with invisible enemies on a city street corner, she feels deeply sad as she realizes: That person was once someone’s child.
As I walked tonight, the Santa Ana winds growing in intensity and the moon gaining prominence over the dying sunset, I thought about what it would be like to truly love those that we think we hate. Now I am not saying this in a pedantic way in which I claim I am good at this: trust me, I fall into gossip and selfish thoughts probably more than most! Still, what if we imagined ourselves giving foot massages to our perceived enemies, what if imagined them as babies, or elderly incapable of walking from the bed to the bathroom. What then? Would we love them? Would we be able to see past our differences and wish them all the love and goodness in the world? And if so, what would that mean for our society, the world?
I wonder if perhaps we really could heal the world’s problems with foot massages (the thought of George Bush and Hugo Chavez rubbing each other’s feet is one such image that comes to mind), and, if incapable of rubbing feet, then what if we simply tried loving the heck out of the people that we think are spreading the most evil in the world? (Hence the title of this post.)
This would, on a small scale, involve loving those who had wronged us in our own lives—perhaps a parent, a sibling, a friend, a neighbor. It is a strange concept for humans who live in a world that appears to thrive on conflict, on drama, on gossip, and on differences.
But heck, when it comes down to it, NONE of us knows why we’re here (sure, we may have a plethora of ‘Gods’ to turn to, but they don’t seem to have many explicit answers either). And it seems that, ultimately, we all want and need the same basic things: clean air to breathe, to have enough to eat and drink, to live without fear.
Sadly, we do not recognize that we all have an equal right to these things. Some of us are born into positions where we have to fight harder for them, others less so. To return to politics (yikes!), this is why I have such a difficult time understanding a political leaning that wants and wants and wants so much money and material goods/investments without understanding that for all the things one person has, there are likely many things taken away from others (i.e., clean air and water taken from people in China where factories that make said ‘things’ pollute terribly). That’s not to say we don’t all have a right to want, but wouldn’t it be lovely if we all made conscious choices in our lives when it came to our purchases and daily consumption? The world is in a terribly unfair balance and I don’t quite understand why one person’s right to excess material wealth is more important than another person’s right to basic human needs. But I digress…
During the Vietnam War, young Buddhist workers tried to practice loving kindness while they were being mistreated by their ‘enemies.’ Many of them died during service. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a poem for his young brothers and sisters on how to die nonviolently, without hatred. It is called “Recommendation”:
promise me this day,
promise me now,
while the sun is overhead
exactly at the zenith,
Even as they strike you down
with a mountain of hatred and violence; even as they
step on you and
crush you like a worm, even as they dismember and
remember, brother, remember: man is not your enemy.
The only thing worthy of you is compassion –
Hatred will never let you face the
beast in man.
One day, when you face this beast alone, with your
courage intact, your
eyes kind, untroubled (even as no one sees them),
out of your smile will
bloom a flower.
And those who love you
will behold you
across ten thousand worlds of
birth and dying.
I will go on with bent head,
knowing that love has become eternal.
On the long, rough road,
the sun and the moon
will continue to shine.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh
I don’t know why we’re here any more than any of us do. But I do believe, and my evening walks like the one tonight affirms in me, that there is more beauty in not knowing than in knowing, more peace and contentment in love than there is in hatred. So I guess we will just have to start there. I’ll be handing out foot rubs to anyone who asks. Leave your requests for dates/times/locations in the comment boxes below. Ha.