Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jesus Was Right

We must resist the urge of falling prey to the conviction that compassion is merely touchy-feely, utopist non-sense. Despite what St Augustine, Anne Rynd, or the Religious Right might have you believe about our species as a whole, Jesus’ message still stands as a compelling example of our potential. Turning the other cheek continues to be a powerful psychological "tool" because it essentially deprives our "enemies" of their sense of entitlement to self-righteous anger. Jesus may or may not have died for our sins, but one has to admit to the brilliance of his teachings. You don't have to be a Zen sage to know that it's much harder to hate someone who shows you love when you cause them harm than responding with the hate that’s expected in return. From an evolutionary stand point, we have powerful psychological drives which prompt us towards revenge, but we have also been endowed with a discerning mind that can be utilized mindfully and trained with compassionate awareness, enabling us to make wise decisions in our lives and thus have a profoundly positive impact upon those around us. Compassion is contagious, but don't believe for a second that this doesn't take a great deal of commitment, hard work and deep courage to maintain in the face of adversity.

It's easy to have strong spiritual convictions when life is easy and uncomplicated but a person who harms us deeply hardly deserves the satisfaction of bankrupting our spiritual convictions, destroying our inherent compassion for others. It's a spiritual choice not to be consumed by hatred and ignorance. To forgive someone who has harmed us does not mean you approve of that persons behavior. It merely means that you understand that person has taken their suffering personally and that it is their ignorance which has 'allowed' them to subdue their innate compassion, thus enabling them to commit great atrocities. Good people sometimes do bad things, especially in the name of righteousness. The sin hypothesis is a spiritually destructive myth that feeds upon this impulsive drive for revenge. When others are seen as innately evil (and thus “other”, as we all tend to consistently view ourselves as “good”) it is much easier to withhold our compassion from them. Without deeper understanding one cannot have compassion for others. If one is consumed by hatred for someone who has committed horrible deeds, that person is also unwittingly consumed by their own ignorance. True faith resides in the potential of humanity and the fact that everything is workable just as it is. We wouldn’t have survived as a species if this were not true. The impulse for revenge can inevitably be worked through.

Humanity has the potential to transcend its Bronze age dualism which discriminates and divides people into separate tribes of “us verses them” out of a deep-rooted, 'habitual' fear. Evil arises from ignorance of our own true nature, not some erroneous cultural meme that states that humanity was born selfish and inherently bad. While the inclination for revenge might be strong, one must be mindful of the fact that we are much more then a collection of driven impulses. The fact of the matter is that we have more that connects us as a species then that which divides us. It is only our own ignorance prevents us from seeing this truth. Dogma is just another name we give to our rigid ideals that is nothing more than an illusion of a discriminating mind. Answering hate with hate only multiplies hate, and merely allows evil to creep back into the world as the inevitable result. We may not have the power to radically change the world to match our ideals but we do have the power to change our own unconditioned thoughts (and thus the way we feel and behave) and thus have a profound impact on those around us. In this manner, we are planting the seeds of positive growth and meaningful change. This is what Dr. King, Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi and others like them have shown us. If their work has been pure silliness and empty words, never having had a true impact on this world, we would not still be discussing them to this day. We owe it to them to continue this work as what they have humbly shown humanity is nothing more than the true potential of our species.

I refuse to "celebrate" the death of anyone, even if they have killing thousands of innocent people. I do not mourn for their death, I only mourn for their ignorance.

Whether it was Dr. King who said these words, or someone else – they still speak truth to our existence:

"I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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