There are days when the world's pain is almost too much to bear. The news this past week has been horrific, and promises to become even worse.
In all of these terrible situations there are good people, people motivated by love, working quietly behind the scenes to ease suffering as best they can but we ask ourselves again and again, "Why do we hate each other so much?"
What is it in us which can so easily be manipulated to dislike, mistrust and despise each other? This isn't just a problem at the national and political levels. I've had ample opportunity in the last year to see how small, initially compatible groups of five or six people, working on a common goal, can be twisted into a ball of razor wire by one person determined to cause chaos, who does not mind sinking to lying and deceit to achieve their goal.
Power, or even the illusion of power, is addictive. Lots of people get a dose of crazy when they are given power, even in a relatively small group. Without an extremely skillful leader discussions soon degenerate into power struggles which have no relevance to the issues, especially when you have a person who constantly stirs the pot of controversy.
Having served on two boards of directors in the past several years I have deep compassion for politicians and diplomats who strive to keep the peace when faced with power-crazed ego-maniacal autocrats, dictators, tryants and warring tribal leaders.
Which is why I found the following hymn of compassion from Lewis Richmond's book, Aging as a Spiritual Practice so very useful.
May I be free from suffering
May I be happy and at peace
May we be filled with loving kindness
May we be free from suffering
May we be happy and at peace
May all beings be filled with loving kindness
May all beings be free from suffering
May all beings be happy and at peace
Of course we know that we ourselves, the "we" of our families, and all beings are not filled with loving kindness, nor are they free from suffering, happy and at peace.
But this is what we long for, for ourselves, and everyone, even those who sow discord. Acts of cruelty and hate do not bring peace, but deeper suffering to those who inflict them. Even a "victory" won by violence brings guilt to the perpetrator. Guilt may be hidden under bravado, but the pain it causes is still there.
And this is my prayer for all, from the Taliban strapping on a belt of explosives to the board member who sows discord and mistrust to further a personal agenda.
May we all be filled with loving kindness
May we all be free from suffering
May we all be happy and at peace
Because if we were - truly - how could we hate?