As I listened to the media discussion of divisive political speech following the tragic shootings involving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, her staffers and bystanders in Tucson, AZ, I kept recalling a small part of an interview I heard on NPR’s Speaking of Faith show more than a year ago. Host Krista Tippett interviewed yoga teacher and activist Seane Corn, who describes her own evolution on and off the yoga mat.
Corn began to think seriously about the energy she (and others) put into the world. She talks about teaching her students about the interconnectedness of the world, the way in which everything is a “manifestation of our collective thoughts.” She then asks people in the class if they want peace and abundance and happiness for all. Everyone in the class raises their hand in agreement. Then, she’ll say, “What about your ex-husband or ex-wife?” The room erupts in laughter. It’s easy enough to want world peace in theory; but putting that into action in everything we do, with everyone we encounter is a much harder thing. “Where am I living an interpersonal war? “Where am I creating some sort of some psychic terrorism between me and another person?” she asked during the interview. “Because if I’m not dealing with that; then I’m part of the problem.”
When I heard that interview, Corn gave words to something I was beginning to understand intuitively – that I couldn’t expect the world to be more peaceful or happier or more abundant if I didn’t at least try to embody it in my own personal relationships. What “violence” am I putting in the world when I say or do angry or hateful things? Even now, living with this intention, I rarely (if ever) live up to it. But, have I managed to be calmer and less defensive when dealing with difficult people and situations? Yes. Do I think that this helps reduce the amount of “violence” in the world in a small way? Yes.
One thing I think Corn has right, which is affirmed by my Christian faith, is the value of community and connection. That place “where two or three are gathered” is holy, even if the two or three gathered are my enemies. And, because of that, I should treat them as if Jesus Christ is sitting right with me at table. I should be able to deal with my own “stuff” enough to put something better into the world, so that more hate and violence is not born. I should be ready to listen, love and serve.
Join me, sisters and brothers, in resisting the individualism and divisiveness of our day and attempt, as Ghandi put it, to “be the change you want to see in the world.” Value our God-given spirits enough to put out there the love and peace that we want to get back.
Do the audacious. Love your neighbor as yourself. I dare you.