All killing is wrong. All killing is murder. It doesn’t matter whether you or I think there is a justification for it. There is no justification for it. If we think there is, we’re part of the problem.
The problem is that some of us think others of us are less deserving of living. Whether we believe in god, or gods, or spiritual teachings, or gurus, or nothing at all — not one single human being has the right to make that determination.
Killing is wrong. Killing is murder. To cause the death of another human being is murder, it’s wrong. It’s the ultimate form of aggression, and aggression is a way of life we must put aside. Now.
I have been immersed in the killing in the Middle East for the duration of its current incarnation. It is ugly, and painful. And that’s just from my desk in the safety of my own home. Imagine those who are there.
Killing is wrong. Killing is murder. Calling for the deaths of others is no better — it is the same aggression, the same delusion that some of us are more deserving than others. It is wrong.
Part of my immersion has been to monitor social media from the region. Social media has long been a haven for anonymous threats of violence, and this war is no different. Except that many of the threats are far from anonymous.
These threats come from anger, which comes from fear, which comes from being bombarded by killing, which comes from that belief that some of us are more deserving of life than others. There’s nothing at all wrong with anger, or fear, but killing and threats of killing … are wrong. And believing that we are somehow more deserving than others is the biggest delusion of all.
I can’t say there would be no fear and no anger without killing and threats of killing. That would be a lie, and I won’t lie to you.
But we must defend ourselves, some of us say. No “must” about it. We choose to fight violence with more violence, and if it isn’t obvious just by looking at the tit-for-tat nonsense between Israel and Hamas that such a strategy is a failure, then we’re suffering from a profound lack of connection with reality.
Killing children is wrong, killing women is wrong, killing the elderly is wrong. I can’t say it enough. Killing anyone is wrong.
Killing is wrong. Killing is murder. And please don’t start talking about abortion right now. That’s a different issue entirely, and I’m not interested in talking about it right now. I’m interested only in talking about this fatal, pervasive disease so many of us have willingly contracted. It’s called aggression.
It’s aggression when we kill. It’s aggression when we wound. It’s aggression when we wish someone dead. It’s aggression when we call names. It’s aggression when we hate. It’s aggression when we think we’re better than someone else. It’s aggression when we think we’re less than someone else. It’s aggression when we think someone … some ONE … is wrong.
It’s all the same, differing only in degrees. It starts with believing there’s a difference between us and someone else — that is the source of aggression, the primordial aggression, so to speak. But of course, you say, we’re all different, and I say, on the surface. At our very cores, we are all the same. We are all beautifully, wonderfully human. We all … are.
Some of us are desperately trying to maintain a connection to our prehistoric tribalism. That’s all nations are about, and many religions too. Tribes. Us. Them. The other. From that comes aggression. From that comes a forgetting of who we really are.
When we fail to begin at that very basic beginning, we get the world we have today. It is not human nature to behave like this. It’s learned behavior, taught to us by people who play up the fear, who stir up the anger, because they feel it themselves and they can’t imagine that it isn’t true for everyone. And if it’s not, well, then. You’re one of them. The others, the ones we fear, the ones who make us angry.
There’s nothing inherently wrong about anger or fear. They’re emotions, like any other. We don’t have to like everything that happens. And we don’t have to engage in the same behavior that we don’t like.
We can’t seek help for this in religion, even those that say things like “Thou shalt not kill,” because those religions also say they are the only true religion, setting up the aggression that leads to killing.
And killing is wrong. Killing is murder, whether done in a dark alley or an open battlefield. War is nothing more than mass murder. And it’s wrong.
There is one way to stop this madness. One simple, elegant way. It’s this: Stop. Just stop. Don’t demand conditions, don’t wait for the others to stop. Stop now. Stop firing weapons, stop calling for the death of other living, breathing humans, stop the name-calling, stop the hating, stop thinking that somehow you are better than someone else because you are not.
And neither are you less than anyone else.
And when you stop, step back and look at what you became because of unbridled aggression. Don’t think of why it happened. Just look at what happened. If you try to explain it, if you start to say “but”, stop. Sit still. Stop the stories in your head and look, really look. See those people you think of as “other”, see them as people. Real people. Just people. Stop the stories you tell yourself about them. Let that go. See their fear, their grief, their pain. Really see it. It’s hard, and it’s gonna hurt. Let it.
Now ask yourself this: Is this the legacy you want to leave on this earth? Is this the story you want your life to tell? This ugliness will not go away. It will be a stain on your psyche whether you acknowledge it or not. Do you really want to feed it? Because I tell you now, what you put into the world is what you get out of it. If you really want to seed the world with fear and violence and blood and death and hatred and anger, then that’s what you’ll get in return. It will never end.
I’m nearing the end of another weekend. Tomorrow I’ll again immerse myself in this sickness. I want it to end, and not with a “ceasefire” that is anything but and one side declaring victory. I want all sides to declare victory over war and hatred, over aggression.
It can happen. And it starts with us. The actual combatants aren’t going to stop until they look around and see there’s no longer any public support for their behavior. So tell them. Tell them all.
Killing is wrong. Killing is murder.
I’ve spent much of the last few days in meditation, more than I normally do. By Sunday evening, my mind was still and calm and the world around me was spacious and beautiful. On Monday at noon, I returned to work, where a ceasefire was ending in Ukraine, where the bodies of three kidnapped teenagers were found, where the US Supreme Court determined again that corporations are the same as human beings, where Mother Nature was preparing to unleash a torrent of destructiveness on the Midwest.
In one of those situations, no one angrily denounced anyone else, no one called for the horrible deaths of anyone else, no one prepared their weapons of killing to do their job.
Stillness and calm, violence and aggression. The contrast is glaring, painful.
Many of us feel that pain. We can’t ignore it, can’t hide it on a shelf or lock it in a dark closet and pretend it isn’t there. It’s there, even when we refuse to look at it, refuse to acknowledge it. It never goes away.
Some of us feel this pain as a desire to make it right. We pick a side (because there is always one side that’s right, we think), and we write letters, march in the streets, take up our own weapons and go to war.
And even when “peace” is made, when an an accord is signed or a law enacted and the combatants go home, it isn’t over. There’s always a winner who feels vindicated, always a loser who feels castigated. Conflict is never done when one side is right and another is wrong and we challenge that aggression with more aggression. When we do that, the peace we find is an illusion.
Peace is not an absence of war. They are not two sides of the same coin. Real peace cannot be limited, cannot be referred to as “a time of peace.” True peace is an absence of aggression of any kind. It is a natural state, calm and still. It is who we really are, how things really are. It is the very essence of our world.
Peace … is. Conflict, war, aggression … these are aberrations, things we have layered on top of our world for so long that we sometimes think of them as “human nature”. When we do, we’re only justifying that behavior, presenting excuses to keep on clashing with one another, to keep up the pretense that we are right and, somehow, better.
We all like to think we’re right. All of us. But if we are, then someone else must be wrong. The problem with that, of course, is that all those someone elses think that they’re right and we are wrong. Thinking that we are right and someone else is wrong is an act of aggression, an act of war. It’s not on the same level as kidnapping teenagers and killing them or destroying the homes of the people suspected of perpetuating that crime, but it is aggression nonetheless, and not that many steps away from a violent expression of it.
And it all comes from fear. There’s nothing wrong with fear, just like there’s nothing wrong with anger, or happiness, or sorrow, or any other emotion. Emotions by themselves cause no problems. They just are, like thoughts. We create problems from them, by combining those feelings with thought and building a story around them, by looking outside ourselves for the answers to any discomfort we feel.
Like fear. I often think that fear is the root emotion, the one that all others spring from. I also ask myself every day, what if I’m wrong? I ask myself that about everything, not just my pondering about fear. Sometimes I find I am wrong, and then I change my mind.
That’s an interesting phrase. In American culture these days, changing our minds is a bad thing. We call it “flip-flopping”, as if we are born with our beliefs and nothing ever changes. My journalistic colleagues and their political operative helpers dig deep into the pasts of politicians, desperately seeking proof of a change of mind. Maybe it would be different if we called it a change of heart instead.
Every time I learn something, it changes everything I’ve already learned in some way. Our minds are amazing like that. If left alone and not confused by the constant stories we tell ourselves, they’re capable of more than we can imagine. We could, I truly believe, solve any “problem”, beginning by dropping all the preconceptions we have about the situation and not labeling it a problem at all.
Easier said than done, but very doable. And before we tackle the perceived problems in the greater world, we need to start with ourselves.