Skip to main content

The Power of Insight

The fifth of the five spiritual powers is the power of insight. Thich Nhat Hanh maintains that the power of insight "is a sword that cuts painlessly through all kinds of suffering, including fear, despair, anger, and discrimination." He goes on to say that an insight is more than a notion and Hanh's key teaching is the insight of impermanence.

I look for stability through democracy and social justice perhaps because it offers some comfort that others might do unto me as I would do to them.

Because of my attachment to social justice I act according to what I believe is just and fair. I raise my family on ideas of justice and kindness and empathy.   Self-interest to me is contributing to a world guided by laws based on a reverence for life.

But at the moment what I hear and see in the news, in social media, on the internet, on the radio, goes against all the notions of justice, kindness and empathy. I feel outraged not just because I fear something bad will happen to me or my loved ones, but because I believe that when we get rid of that social contract built on the golden rule then all that remains is fear, despair, anger and discrimination.

As I look deeply into this problem I realize that my community is rich with many acts of social justice and kindness. Every day yields signs of  this. One on one, in small business, there are many acts of generosity, signs of care and concern. The violence that fills media is happening to someone else. But this insight does not make me feel better, or powerful.

Hearing about the massacre of women and children in Houla chills my bones even though it is far away from my children and grand-children. Yet impermanence suggests there is nothing to guarantee the safety of my loved ones - that the justice I expect today will not always be here. But impermanence means also that I can't anticipate how we will deal with this horror and how we will respond to it on a global scale.

So as I watch my expectations eroding in the face of impermanence, feeling absolutely powerless to find a response that is likely to hold what I value, all that remains is the civil acts I do here and now.  And these acts demand more than the golden rule - they demand compassion.


Popular posts from this blog

About Humanity

"A chosen people is the opposite of a master race, first, because it is not a race but a covenant; second because it exists to serve God, not to master others. A master race worships itself, a chosen people worships something beyond itself. A master race believes it has rights; a chosen people knows only that it has responsibilities." Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Not in God's Name, Schocken, New York. 2015.

As someone who does not identify as a chosen people or part of a master race, I ruminate about how to respond to the world, particularly that part of the world I cannot endorse. So I am comforted by the people who have taken on ministry and who feel responsible enough to care for community.

How do I act on a feeling of responsibility without assuming that I know what other people should do, or what we should do? It's very easy to slip into a political preaching that suggests I know, or that my being a good example means that others should follow it. Or worse yet, create…

Creating Chaos

A very important article in The Guardian analyses the rise of hyper-masculinity and the phenomenon of Angry White Men.  "Sociologist Michael Kimmel is one of the world’s foremost experts on the phenomenon. - His recent research has looked at topics including spree killers (who are overwhelmingly male and white), as well as the relationship between masculinity and political extremism."

In the article there is a report on a study on testosterone where 5 monkeys are observed. The one who rises to the top beats up number 2 and number 2 beats up number 3 - and so it goes down to number 5. 

"So the experiment is: he takes monkey three out of the cage and he shoots him up with testosterone, off the scale, and puts him back in. What do you think happens? When I tell this story my students always guess that he immediately becomes number-one monkey. But that’s not true. What happens is that when he goes back in the cage he still avoids monkeys number one and two – but he beats the …

The Ultimate Goal of Patriarchy is the End of Life

I want to clarify the line between men in general and patriarchal values propagated and imposed on human society.

In order for patriarchy to succeed, it had to kill more efficiently than the nine months gestation it took for a woman to give birth.  So the craft of war  became more than simply defending territory. It became the ritualized erasure of our human nature for the rule of centralized power. 

And no, it hasn't succeeded in diminishing the human population on this planet but it has succeeded in sustaining an ideology of what it means to be a man. 

Civilizations built on myths of great conquerors. Histories about the exploits of the greatest killers. Inventions of race, religious ideology and ritual that transformed the teachings of thoughtful prophets into crusades. Endless games of winning and losing.
Men who celebrate life through medicine, science, education, art, philosophy and poetry must be dismissed as soft, shamed as effeminate. 

Men who have been raised with love, love …