We are emerging from a very contentious election in the US. I am saddened as people around me talk about the other side as though they are evil, ignorant, and not worthy of any respect.
I recently read Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, in which he encourages “malice toward none with charity toward all… Let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds…”
The speech was given on March 4, 1865 and Lincoln died on April 15, so its promise was never realized. 155 years later, we are faced with the same tasks. How can we soften our hearts so we let go of malice and find compassion for each other?
Here is a Buddhist exercise: every time you find yourself criticizing someone, identify the human goal behind their behavior. Then, you can think “just like me.” For instance, Donald Trump is refusing to concede the election. He doesn’t want a shadow cast on his power and his view of America. He thinks he’s right about things and doesn’t want to face losing… Just like me.
Adding “just like me” reminds me of our common (confused) humanity.
We live in separate realities. I don’t rub elbows with anyone besides my caregivers right now. Kinship with other people is a thought experiment for now, but a worthy and necessary one.
“What infuriates me about people on the other side is…”
“What we have in common is…” [List as many as you can.]
You may also want to read:
Greater Good Magazine’s What Can We Do Now?
Great reminder Kate:
Your piece brought some random thoughts to mind which I will share>
I looked in the face of my “enemy”–the other”–the “them”–and saw myself.
Martin Buber wrote that we are brought up to see the world through an “I-IT” lens. By treating everything as objects, we can then label, classify, assign meaning, value, etc. It helps us get through life. But we miss a central way of knowing until we see the “I-Thou” relationship. I take this to mean seeing the sacred nature that we share with everything else in the universe. To see “that of God” or the Divine in others to use a Quaker expression. George Fox wrote: “walk cheerfully across the world ANSWERING THAT OF GOD IN EVERYONE so that that LIGHT within us may be a blessing to others and the LIGHT within in them may bless us. I hear the I-THOU” relationship in Fox’s invitation. It’s interesting that Fox uses the word “answering” rather than “speaking”. When we answer, we must first LISTEN for that of God in all we meet. Fox was addressing Friends, but I think we could answer that of god in all creation. We might live more in harmony with the natural world if we applied this wisdom. I believe this is a tradition among most indigenous peoples that we would do well to learn if we want to survive.
Thanks, Stephen, for reminding me of Martin Buber and for the quote from George Fox. If we recognize the sacredness of everything and everyone around us, we are so gobsmacked by the miracle of it all, we want nothing more than to live humbly with it. Some humility among humans would be a good thing…