Before we get to the Friday Reflection, time for some good news:
Keith Olbermann is still on TV: Click the graphic, watch, and listen. It's about sacrifice.
No more New Jersey jokes: They're actually looking down the path of abolishing the death penalty in NJ. These people have looked carefully at the statistics, consulted their common sense, and taken some excellent first steps toward a new policy of wisdom and justice. For a really great piece on the death penalty, with some marvelous reflections on the Saddam case, check out Eric Francis' piece, "The Hanged Man."
New York has a new governor: And he just might be a good one. In his first state address, Eliot Spitzer called for publicly financed elections to remove the influence of big money and special interests from campaigns. It's a cause worth taking up, and thanks to the folks at Public Campaign Action Fund, you can write your local legislators and let them know you're with the new Governor of New York on this one.
A Shopping Holiday (or holiday from shopping): These folks tried something that most of us wouldn't dare to dream of, and they found that it was not only easier than they'd thought it would be; it was illuminating. Could you try it? No shopping for a year (thanks to Nearly Redmond Nick for the link).
The 110th Congress starts cleaning House—its own: The Blue Congress took over today, and promptly took one baby step toward clean government. They've got a long way to go, so we'll have to keep an eye on them; but this is encouraging indeed.
Life Beyond Thought: And finally, a reminder that in a world of corporate demigods and the tyranny of intellect, true greatness is achieved in and by the ordinary, beyond the narrow space of calculation. If you haven't heard about it already, read the story of Mr. Wesley Autrey.
Friday Reflection: Beyond Ignorance and Violence
What is worse, ignorance or violence? They are probably related—and intimately at that—perhaps as cause and effect, respectively. We grow in life by finding both within ourselves, and exterminating them. Find ignorance, and then disperse it, and you will have peace. Do not attempt to tame or disguise your violent emotions; but examine them: trace them to their source, and take back the energy that feeds them. Then you will be free from fear. All it takes is effort, and trust in the currents of the universal consciousness, and your deep connection with them.
Bush, Cheney, and all the spoon-fed rich ideologues of this world have never learned this simple lesson. That is because they were never allowed to. And so they resort to what every unloved and undisciplined child will turn to: a program of shrill fear-mongering fed by the passive-aggressive delusion. As the Zen poet of the Rinzai Roku said:
Though gold dust is precious,
When it gets into the eyes
It clouds the vision.
What the fools and demagogues of Washington lack is not intellect—there are many smart people among them—but maturity. We are being governed, in short, by children; or more precisely, by spoiled brats who never learned the lessons of maturity, and thus never grew out of the pit of ignorance and violence.
There is teaching in this for all of us who survive the depredations of these urchin kings, and our capacity to understand that teaching will help to influence the course of the next generation, and the one after. Think of this the next time you are moved to act aggressively or in hatred, whether at work or among your family. You can torture a man with weapons, or whip him with ignorance; it is torture just the same.
This is why some of the more illuminated psychological and spiritual traditions of the world have emphasized maturity. In the Bodhisattva's Vow, which is repeated thousands of times per day by Buddhists all around the Earth, the closing verse reads as follows:
May we extend This mind over the whole universe
So that we and all beings together
May attain maturity in Buddha's Wisdom.
Why, you may ask, do these people not ask for peace or universal brotherhood or the resurrection and the life of their God or Prophet? Because they know that maturity means all these other things, and so much more. They know that maturity is the path to freedom and liberation from the round of ignorance and violence; they know that illumination is not a glorified or ideal state achieved only by arhats or gods, but that it is an ordinary state of mind that arises in every mature thought, word, and act. They recognize that maturity is the secret of evolution, and that all the renewals and bloodless revolutions of society begin with a transformation within the self.
Evolution happens neither through the design of a god nor the theoretical conceptualizations of a biologist. It happens through the choice of each individual who lives his or her life in the open awareness that extends the mind across the universe toward the realization of maturity—not in a distant Heaven or Nirvana or Utopia—but in the living presence of every relationship, within every moment.