Monday, January 23, 2006

Ordinary peace

Violence was almost unheard of when Helena Norberg-Hodge began studying the Ladakhi in the 1970's. (See Learning from Ladakh.)

How do we create that kind of everyday joy in our lives today? How do we create the peaceful life of the Village of Ordinary?

Compassion, the Dalai Lama tells us, is the path to peace.

If this is true, do we have to have compassion for everyone? Can we only be at peace when we love the most egregious murderer/torturer?

Where lies compassion for one who would kill and torture for greed or power? How do we love a man like Clarence Ray Allen (see Why do we kill people) or the grandfather who molested, or the president who started a killing war with lies?

We can only, as Pema Chadron says, start where we are.

Every single day, in tiny ways, we must begin again, right where we are, to make peace.

So for everyone reading this and puzzling how to develop compassion for the back-stabber at work, the spouse who cheated then got a better lawyer and took everything, the dictator who used biological weapons on his own people, the murderer and rapist, perhaps Clarence Ray Allen, here are two tips for growing compassion and peace in your heart and life.

Start where you are tip:

Try smiling at every person you meet for an entire day.

I guarantee you will be surprised at the difference it makes.

Come back here after you've tried it and tell the rest of us what you experienced.

Growing compassion tip:

Listen to people apologizing for almost anything including, yes, murder in Act 2 of This American Life's November 5, 2004, show Apology. (You will need to select "o4" from the sidebar menu, then scroll down a few episodes to "Apology.")

Come back here afterward and enter a comment about what you felt for and what you learned.

Lastly, don't forget that smile at home, where peace begins.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Why do we kill people? Yup, this one hurts

Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?

Holly Near, Entertainer, Teacher, Activist

The State of California killed another man this week.

Clarence Ray Allen was convicted of killing a lot of people. He set up some of the murders from his prison cell.

From the news reports, it appears that he was a cowardly, ignoble, disgraceful example of the human race who did nothing to redress his wrongs or show remorse for his actions. In fact, he seems to have gone to his death proud of his life work.

Reading Allen's story, I am hard put not to feel hatred for him. My personal ethics are sorely tested.

Still, if I judge Allen for his heinious crimes, so must I judge myself, for there is no good killing, and the State of California, my state, killed him in my name, and in yours, if you live here.

There is more to it than that, though.

Somewhere along the way we, the global family of Clarence Ray Allen, failed him. We failed because we did not meet the fundamental needs of the child who grew up to kill.

One of the guiding principles of Ordinary is that every child is wanted, welcomed, and nurtured throughout her lifetime. Every child deserves to be loved and raised in a healthful, peaceful environment.

Such children grow up to be strong, responsible, nuturing adults possessed of the capacity to give more than they receive.

It is our responsibility--yours and mine--to create that environment so that no more children become adults with a desire or need to rob, torture, or kill.

The task is daunting. I am only one person. You are only one person.

Neither you nor I have a right to stop before we begin just because the task is overwhelming.

Pema Chadron tells us, start where you are.

So I begin, and I urge you to begin, by making peace in your life every tiny step of the way.

At work when conflicts rise, at home when the dishes pile up, at weddings, funerals, and holidays when family get-togethers revive unresolved pain and suffering, take timeouts, breathe, dig deep in your heart for compassion.

Do whatever it takes to turn that moment of conflict and suffering to peace.

Most especially, if you have children, teach them through your example how to live peaceably in the world, how to respond with forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and love.