Escalation

July 10, 2007

Some months ago I attended a spiritual gathering where a tapestry consisting of some seven panels described a path to World Peace. These large panels hung over a stage and were all very artistic and colorful and each of them called for Peace. The theme of the first spoke of Peace in the Heart, the next for Peace in the family, the next for Peace in the neighborhood and so on until the last asked for Peace in the World. The idea that Peace begins with me is also the theme of a song I remember from my previous life as a Catholic. Gandhi asks us to “Be the change we wish to see in the world”. This escalation of Peace beginning with each of us seems to me to be the hope of the world and I believe it can and will come to pass.

This morning Rosemary and I were quietly beginning our day. I had just put the garbage out. I was back in the house struggling to neatly line our kitchen garbage pail with a very large plastic bag when Rosemary mentioned that there might be a better way to accomplish this. I was making a bit of a mess trying to neatly put this large bag into our small pail so I said thanks, show me how. Meanwhile, fear based anger was rising. Thoughts like she thinks I’m an idiot; she’s putting me down; who does she think she is; I can’t let her see the incompetent me. All of this took about a nanosecond but, because of my self awareness and respect for Rosie I said the right thing and watched her show me a better way to accomplish this simple task and, as I watched, the fear and anger left.

These little interactions happen to me, and I suppose all of us, every day and they can escalate into all out war in seconds. I know this because the fear based anger that began to well up in me earlier used to control my life and I would lash out defensively. I was defending, more often than not, that which I didn’t believe. It seemed as if you were calling me stupid or incompetent or fat or dirty and I couldn’t stand it because I thought all those things were true about me and they were my most guarded secrets. If you found out I had to hurt you. I had to make you believe that I was smart, svelte, charming and brave even though I thought of myself as not too bright, chubby, boring and cowardly. This fear of discovery would flare and I would attack verbally and escalate a nothing conversation into a relationship breaker.

I have a tendency to “universalize” my feelings and I suppose I’m not the only one who does so. When I think about other kinds of escalations I believe they grow in the same way that these little, personal ones do. The nuclear arms race began and continues because of the same kinds of insecurities that I felt this morning while struggling with that garbage bag albeit on a grander scale. I wonder what would happen if world leaders got together and discussed their fears, fears like we’re running out of oil or your growth is threatening our economy or I know that our way of life is not sustainable but I don’t know what to do about it.

I may be delusional but I believe that the way to Peace is through expressing the truth of our national fears and insecurities and the only way for that to happen is for me to express mine. I have found that whenever I do that I feel a sense of belonging and often it encourages the other person to open up and when that happens I feel the strength compassion overcoming the weakness of fear.

Posted July 17, 2007

3 Comments

Phil,
Your rigorous, courageous self-honesty is a role-model for me anyway. I like what you say, it inspires me.

One of the most common reactions to the massive scale exploitation, dehumanization, and alienation within our global society is that one merely needs to have peace in their heart and by this world peace will result, when truly this clearly lacks the response of a critical social critique. The social construction of ownership is the cause these grave injustices and alienations. Ownership, the source of all alienation, includes not just land, property and ideas, but the ownership of human beings themselves, through the domination and power of the sword.

i love the microcosm analogy - it was right on. by the by aren’t you the engineer in the family?

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