As horrible and down right mindless as the current violence in the world is from the downing of MH17 to the omnipresent fighting in the middle east, there is something far worse: the inability of human beings to recognize their common humanity. Despite the hundreds if not thousands of peace groups, reconciliation organizations, and judicial tribunals designed to settle disputes. Despite all the religious groups purporting to be ambassadors of peace and spiritual architects of a better human being; and despite all the gurus with their sing-song feel good lectures and meditative practices, the central thing that is missing from all of them is a recognition of our common humanity.
To illustrate how prevalent this is throughout the world here is an example from my home town. I live in a small idyllic-seeming town of not more than four thousand people. There are several tribes of indigenous people surrounding the town. Ethnically they are all the same, except for their tribal affiliations. On the surface they appear peaceful. However, every year during at festival known as Inty Rami(the sun festival) the tribes participate in festive celebrations highlighted by grudge killings. It has gotten so bad that the government sends armed troops to keep the peace. It is a microcosm of what we see going on all over the world. It is the rule, not the exception. I need not mention the gang warfare in American inner cities.
When confronted with the clear contradiction between the way the world is and the way it should be a litany of excuses worthy of a two year old caught with his hand in the cookie jar ensue. You probably have heard them all. The lazy religious leaders yield to inaction predicated upon inane interpretation of prophecy: the rapture is coming soon and we god fearing people will be taken up into the sky and the godless will be left here to be punished. The crazy Islamists kill people with the excuse that Allah sanctions their actions and will reward them after death; academic and postmodern philosophers chalk up the human condition to “human nature” and shrug their shoulders while at the same time deploring violence of one side or another in continued human conflict.
Perhaps the post-modern academics have got it right. It is our own nature that betrays us in the end. For centuries philosophers and theologians have pointed the blame squarely on the bad angels of our nature. Seventeenth century political philosopher, Thomas Hobbs asserted that without some form of near diabolical control over our natures the life a man is, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” Jean Jaques Rousseau pointed out that man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains. Hobbs furthered declared that mankind is in a constant state of war caused by conflicts over limited resources and a sick kind of covetousness. In The Republic by Plato while contemplating justice one of the participants in the Socratic discussion declared that not only is a state necessary that provides for the basics of food, shelter and clothing, but its residents would eventually want a state at a “fever pitch” with all kinds of luxuries.
To the degree that human nature is satiated with living life at a fever pitch, being in a constant state of war, or enslaved by our own greed seems a small price for most of us to pay. We can watch the evening news, indulge in social media and read the latest screed from a representative of one side or the other in the most recent heinous conflict and dismiss the worldwide sickness with a sigh that carries away our care—if we care at all.
If there is a silver lining it is this. Human nature is also capable of almost unfathomable goodness, even to the point of attaining transcendence. However the greatest irony of all is that the very quality that distinguishes human beings from other life forms, our sententiousness, allows for the expression of our bad angel. That is the kind of thinking that leads us to believe that we are right when we are wrong, innocent when we are guilty; and causes us to hate rather than love(including loving our enemies), prosecute wars instead of seeking peaceful solutions, murdering our children instead of nurturing them and on and on and on. . .And what is more, it’s always the “other” person, or the inchoate, “they” who are really to blame for all of the world’s ills.
So what are we to do? I have spent many computer bytes exhorting people to oneness with God, being as careful as I could to explain what this really means-see here for example. Perhaps that is all too esoteric and otherworldly. Maybe I should just echo the words of the song writers, Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett who penned, Man In The Mirror. It’s most famous line is, “If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change.” Yes, this is far more easily said than done. And as I have said before and will say again and again, it begins with a recognition that your nature has been separated from God’s Nature. If the earth’s six billion inhabitants called a time-out, an earth-wide sabbatical, and took an honest look at themselves, it would go a long way toward ending the global conflicts we find ourselves in. But alas, we spend most of our time casting stones at the poor whore who stands our midst. But, honest self reflection will cause the stones to become heavy with our individual culpability until they fall to the ground and we sheepishly slink away, convicted by the Light. And for that,
To God Be The Glory Forever and Ever