Listening to, reading and watching news reports of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I'm struck by the refrain of terms that reminds me of human responses to other disasters, natural and man-made. Injuries, death, destruction, sickness, shortages of electricity, water, food, shelter and medical care, inadequate preparation and/or slow response by the authorities, refugees, refugee camps, despair, desperation, violence, looting, sniper, shoot-to-kill.
The song "One Love, One Heart" by Bob Marley keeps running through my head, as I see the parallels to other examples of human suffering in Asia (following the tsunami), Iraq and countless other places.
Let's get together to fight this Holy Armageddon (One love)
So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom (One song)
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation
Sayin', "One love, one heart
Let's get together and feel all right."
I'm pleading to mankind (One love)
Oh, Lord (One heart) Whoa.
I ask, "How can I BE the peace I want to see in the world, today?" Not, how can I CREATE the peace- but how can I BE it- because it becomes clearer and clearer to me that violence and war are not just "out there" but also inside me.
She goes on to suggest that we can either try to identify and empathize with others, or seek to differentiate others from ourselves; essentially choosing to view others as "us" or "them". She gives examples about substituting "some of us" for "them" or "they" as we think about what others have done (and I would extend this to what others are going through). In her audiobook "Your Heart's Prayer", she further extends this from "some of us" to "sometimes I".
I believe that most people, placed in similar circumstances, will tend to have similar responses, with respect to their feelings, thoughts, actions and reactions. I also believe that people can learn new, possibly "unnatural", ways of feeling, thinking and acting (Scott Peck, in "The Road Less Traveled", ponts out that it is natural to defecate in one's pants, but most of us learn new behaviors in this dimension of life). Oriah Mountain Dreamer, in her poem, "The Invitation", says:
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I can empathize with the suffering and the responses to that suffering in the wake of hurricanes, tsunamis, military invasions and diseases. I hope that these events will create openings and opportunities for people to rise to meet their challenges in a loving and compassionate way.
"Let's get together and feel all right".