“One of the chief tasks of our time must surely be to build a global community in which all peoples can live together in mutual respect; yet religion, which should be making a major contribution, is seen as part of the problem. All faiths insist that compassion is the test of true spirituality and that it brings us into relation with the transcendence we call God, Brahman, Nirvana, or Dao. Each has formulated its own version of what is sometimes called the Golden Rule, “Do not treat others as you would not like them to treat you,” or in its positive form, “Always treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.” Further, they all insist that you cannot confine your benevolence to your own group; you must have concern for everybody — even your enemies…Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.”
— Karen Armstrong
I have felt lonely most of my life, but never alone. Since the early age of seven I have been convinced that none of us are ever alone even in the darkest moments of our lives. That conviction has never changed. I have always believed that The Universe was designed to work, that God or Dharma, Yahweh, Allah, whatever name you wish to use, was always near, that despite the darkness we may ever witness in our world it could not and does not exist apart from the Light which is within each of us. Thomas Merton wrote, “The fact remains that our task is to see and discover Christ in our world as it is, and not as it might be. The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present and that his plan has been neither frustrated nor changed.”
Having “felt lonely most of my life,” early on my salvation was found in seeking out “Community”. The more and more I was privileged to experience community with others, the more and more I became convinced that, “Community” alone was the salvation of the world. “Community is the Spirit, the Guiding Light,” a way out of this madness which has imprisoned humanity for much too long. No matter whether it be the teachings of the Dharma, the Torah, the Gospels, the Quran, all without exception culminate their lessons in “loving thy neighbor,” “loving ones enemies,” “being a refuge for the stranger,” “defending those who cannot defend themselves,” “ending poverty” as a moral issue and not just a circumstance of the times.
All of the teachings and great teachers have placed on the shoulders of each and every one of us the utmost responsibility of establishing the Kingdom of God; The Pure-land, on Earth the only way possible — by being “Community” for one another.
Einstein wrote that, “Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Thomas Merton warns us, “To think that you will ever find your True-Self by barricading yourself inside your own world, shutting out all external reality…cutting yourself off from other men and women by stuffing yourself inside your own mind and closing the door like a turtle, is one of the worst illusions.”
For decades now we have been living in a culture of hyper-individualism and indifference to the suffering in the world other than ours. While today we are witnessing a new possibility, individuals and groups of individuals, who have chosen to no longer ignore the truth about suffering and its cause, or to isolate themselves from the world as it is, standing up, kneeling, placing their very lives on the line, their very bodies between themselves and the forces of greed, hatred, and indifference, there is still so much work to be done.
“We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity.”
After a lifetime of dedication to “self-fulfillment” and a society and culture which has promoted for so long “individualism” one should not be surprised by the difficulty this challenge brings with it. But the difficulty does not lay in the challenge itself but rather in the work that will be necessary to transform our world. After decades, if not centuries, of a culture of “greed, envy, and ambition,” often cloaked especially in todays society, in both religious and spiritual rhetoric, the work of transcending selfishness which is embedded in our very social structure, will always prove to be difficult. Nonetheless, whether one is religious, spiritual, or none of the above, if we fail to meet this challenge we will most certainly fail the test of our time. In so doing, conflict, national and global polarization, poverty, injustice, and the pains of countless and senseless wars will continue and compound.
Do Not Be Daunted
“The Talmud states, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
We must not allow ourselves to be daunted or distracted by the enormity of the work ahead, or by emotions which may, when indulged, persuade us to give up or turn back. Far too often the goal or objective is lost only because we allow ourselves to be distracted or daunted by emotions that can and will at times overwhelm us.
Confronting cancer every day of my life often leaves me with emotions and feelings that would have me give up. It is then, when I contemplate those who now also are dealing with cancer or some form of terminal illness. It is then I remind myself of the words hanging on my refrigerator door — “Never, Never, Never, Give Up”. Or I may reflect about my parents and their parents lives during the great depression and a World War; about the people of Europe during those wars, and the numerous senseless wars ever since and how they have left millions of people in grief, fear, and horrific living environments.
Whatever it takes to remain steadfast and committed to realizing and actualizing “our better angels,” and to creating a more enlightened society and a world for all its people and sentient beings — That dream, that hope, must always be held central in our minds and in hearts, in our words, and in our actions.
As the Talmud suggests, “We are neither obligated to complete the work, (we may not see the work completed in our lifetime), but we are neither free to abandon it.”
Please — Remain Steadfast, Upright, and no matter how difficult Never, Never, Never, Give Up. Remembering always “You are Not Alone — We are More Together Than Alone.” Our World is witnessing the rebirth of Truth, a vital Truth, one which will require all of us to Love and Support one another if we are ever going to truly bear it, and bring it to its fullest fruition.
I Love You,