I’m sure you’ve heard the aphorism, that violence never solves anything. It is a good line, one I have previously used myself. In the long view it even has some truth to it… violence often does lead to more and more complicated problems over time.
The problem with it is that in the short view (and most human beings live in the short view) it is demonstrably untrue. Violence can seem, for awhile, to have solved some problems rather neatly. Violence, be it the violence of a mob in Cairo or a planned strike under the cover of a mob in Benghazi… violence can seem a viable solution to a problem, even an attractive one. Why attractive? Because somehow we continue with the myth that killing people creates some kind of finality, some kind of closure, in a visceral denial that we are all interconnected and interdependent.
And yet, I’ve come to realize that there is a deeper truth about violence, one that, in my experience, comes as close to an absolute truth of anything I have ever encountered… and that is this. Violence begets more violence. When one violence is perpetrated, it created a continuing cycle that creates more and different forms of violence, spreading out in a wave from the initial point.
In fact, I wonder if there really are very many new initial points of violence, and if rather our reality is made up of a continuing harmonic of violence stretching back to the dawn of human time.
I also want to clarify what I mean by violence, for I am talking about far more than physical violence. I might strike you, which is an act of physical violence. In reaction to my striking you, you might go home and be emotionally violent to a spouse. That spouse might then tell a child that the God they learned about in Sunday School must be dead for such things to happen, perpetrating an act of religious violence on the child’s growing faith… And on, and on, and on.
We all live in these cycles and waves of many different forms of violence each and every day of our lives. It is a spiritual practice to intentionally seek to interrupt these waves of violence when they come our way. It is a spiritual practice to notice the wave, the form of violence that is perpetrated upon you, and respond with loving kindness. It is a spiritual practice to transform that violence within your spirit.
As one person doing this, the wave will likely crash around you and flow on… but as one of millions? Perhaps we can, one day, break the cycle of violence that has plagued humanity since the dawn of our awareness. Perhaps we can break the cycle in which, in this small part of this ongoing wave of violence, an Israeli-American committed an act of religious violence upon the Islamic faith, and then many enraged by that act committed these acts of physical violence upon Americans, leading us now to political calculations around another act of military violence upon Muslims.
Without such millions of people seeking to intentionally interrupt the waves of violence of all forms, we are stuck forever battered by the surf.
Yours in faith,