Monday, September 12, 2011

War and Peace

Apparently I always rush off the to ER on the Friday before Labor Day.  This year it was for something that turned out to be nothing, and I knew it was going to be nothing.  I have no idea why I went; I have only gone to the ER three times as an adult (including for my kids).  As I was driving over there, already feeling silly for getting worked up over something minor, I realized that I had checked myself into the emergency room of Mercy Hospital exactly one year before.

So my year of the crab has come and gone.  I went to a party on Saturday afternoon, and celebrated both the occurrence and the completion of the past twelve months. (I drank too much of Chresten's amazing home brew and belabored the point, so I don't plan to rehash it here.)  But then I got thinking.

The language around cancer (and illness in general) is often very violent.  I hear terms like "battle," "war," "fight," "survivor."  If violence is not the path to peace over geopolitical differences, how can it be the path to peace within our bodies?  How can it ever be a path to peace? 

In declaring war, I name an enemy.  It seems to me that this act makes the "enemy" stronger.  The more violent the assault, the more powerful this enemy becomes.  We see it now, today, in the current military conflicts raging in the Middle East.  But look at the other wars we live with: the War on Drugs, the War on Poverty, the War on Illiteracy and Ignorance, the War on Obesity, Mental Illness, Disease, Terror.  Have these become stronger or weaker as these wars have raged on?  Or have these wars just made more enemies, caused anxiety and casualties and collateral damage, and squandered resources and lives?  Could it be that war is never the answer, no matter how well-meaning I am? 

Now we are in the thick of another presidential election, and declaring war on "bad ideas" and "bad  government" (a redundancy, in my mind), and on each other.  Is it possible that, by staying in this constant cycle of political battle, I strengthen the opposition, or even create it?

I can be free even as the shackles rattle on my ankles, and I can work towards harmony and well-being for the whole world, by recognizing the inherent violence in the effort to bend others to my will.  (I think it's pretty hard work, but it feels like good, meaningful work).  It is possible to shine the light of compassion on the most challenging of adversaries; really, I think it is critical in order to get off this treadmill.  Even disease, ignorance, terror, poverty are not meaningful without recognizing that it is the human experience of these things that makes them important.  These issues are always about people

If "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger," what happens to that which we try to kill?