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Friday, November 7, 2014

Fight for Peace

While my son was battling through a year of intense chemotherapy  I began to explore avenues of self-realization that I had been interested in all my life. I believe the world would be well served to adapt some of the tenets I have discovered. 

 My search led me to Tai Chi Chuan, which is one of the three so-called “internal” martial arts of China. They are considered internal because the core of the disciplines is to guide the body’s energy with the mind. Meditation is an integral part of these disciplines.

  I was already meditating. My wife has obtained certification to teach meditation so it is part of our lives. I felt as if I needed the fighting aspect though. I was psychologically abused by a violent alcoholic as a child. Escaping into the Navy led me into a another violent world of harsh realities.

  So I fought. I have fought all my life in one way or another. It’s as if it was an engine by which I was driven. Argument, anger, fists and fright evolved into a personality of aggression that was only tempered by a fierce love of God.

  I took Krav Maga,  Punching and kicking and wrestling were  fun I was like a kid at Christmas. I thought I had found myself. The thing is I began to have injury after injury until finally I blew out and old shoulder that had been surgically repaired a few years back. I had to question my process. Though the fighting seemed to release the germs that confounded me the repercussions were unacceptable and obviously not intelligent for a man in his late fifties.

  The slow forms of Tai Chi Chuan and the qi gong that go hand in hand were healing. I dodged the orthopedic surgeon and began to look at options. Tai Chi is sometimes called “moving meditation”. I was steadily drawn deeper into the reflection of yin and yang. In my mind’s eye peace lay resting at the end of a forest trail.

  This deep conflict of fighting versus peace had torn me asunder until I surrendered to God yet I continued in many ways to fight. Moving into the martial arts I became aware once again that they are not about fighting. They are about not fighting. To protect and defend means to do what is necessary to neutralize violence. Often the best thing to do is dissolve that violence with reason and love.

  As I continue to ponder this issue I can’t help but wonder what the world would be like if its leaders could make this core shift of perspective. That is to say, if the primary motivation of all the peoples of the earth were to “do no harm” … where would we be?

You see I have come to realize that it takes no courage to fight back. It is instinctual and motivated by fear. What if one’s goal were simply to protect life and promote justice doing as little harm as possible to the antagonist?

  What if we sought to wage peace rather than war?

  What if we saw ourselves in the eyes of every person? We are all part and parcel of the same bouncing molecular universe. Our worst enemies are no less than an extension of ourselves. Call it brothers and sisters in Christ, Sangha, community or any of the infinite number of names; we are all from the same seed at some point. We are as leaves on a tree … grains of sand … stars of the eternal prescience that is boundless reality. If we were of sound mind, why would we visit violence upon ourselves?

  But that is another matter entirely. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

How To Honor Them: Memorial Day 2014

I was leaving a church when I turned on my car radio. Garrison Keillor and a female angel voice were singing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in two part harmony.

My mind exploded to a vision of a soldier dragging his wounded brother out of harm’s way while under fire.

Then came John John saluting the caisson, rolling green hills dotted endlessly with the stark white faces of courage waiting through eternity for a truth that will lay their souls to rest.

My heart trudged a muddy trench in cold rain. A wayward boot stood full of water. I passed a dazed corporal, blood dripping from his ear.

A mass of maimed, dismembered corpses of blue, gray and darkening red rotted in the noonday sun of a southern field

The drummer boy ducked as shots whistled in his curly red hair. Crimson tunics marched doggedly into a maw of blistering shot that knows no prejudice, brooks no dissent.

“My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord …”

And I wept. I wept for the fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who lie beneath the earth of our discontent.

I cannot help but wonder if we have betrayed them. We stand at their graves and hold them in our hearts yet we live as if our hate were all that mattered.

Would they have us fight at every turn? Would the dead send their children to the war that stole their lives?

So I said the prayer that has rang in my heart since I was a small boy.

   Help us Lord to honor them … all those lives sacrificed on the altar of freedom. Help us Lord to feed the wolf of tolerance and grace rather than hate so that their lives will not be wasted. Help us Lord to wage peace not war that our flesh might know a future that only our hearts can imagine.

On this Memorial Day 2014 let us remember … true courage is to encourage the love of all mankind. Yes we must always be prepared for the wolf that will not listen but we do not honor the dead by becoming that wolf.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Goodbye Jimbo

  I’d push you in jest when you had begun to use a cane. You’d act like you were going to whack me with it and we’d laugh.

  You recognized my rough edges and that made us brothers somehow. You’d come by the car lot during the workweek. Each visit you’d complain about my entry steps. I worried a little that you’d fall.

  I’d slap you on the back and tell you to stop your damn complaining and we’d chuckle.

  Sometimes I’d come down from the balcony to see you in your seat with Ruth where you always were.  We’d joke and tease until it was time for worship. I always felt the better for it.

  One day I realized that you were struggling. Life had gotten hard on a proud and tough old guy. You looked at me through those oh so sad eyes and my heart broke a little.

  I hugged you for first time ever. We both got a little misty so I slapped you on the back and made some crack and we chuckled. 

  Goodbye old friend. I suppose God’s got some entry steps too. I’m just glad you don’t have to struggle anymore.

 I suspect you’ll complain anyway … and then you guys can chuckle.