This morning I attended my first ever meeting of a Unitarian fellowship (is that the correct terminology?) The lovely ladies over at HeddaDabbler invited me along with them, and it was a very interesting experience. From what I understand, each Sunday a different person is invited to speak on a topic of interest to the community. This week, a professor of religion was there to speak about Evil in the Modern World. He was simply fascinating. Using the text of a 20th Century Vietnamese Buddhist thinker, Thich Nhat Hanh, he spoke on the interconnectedness, or the interbeing of all things.
A metaphor he used, which I found very appealing, was that of a wave on the ocean. He said that a human's life can be seen as a wave, moving onward toward the shore. As the wave hits the shore, the particular being of that particular wave has come to an end, but the water is drawn back into the ocean, and continues to be a part of the whole. This was one of those truths that, when you hear it, you wonder why it has never occurred to you before.
He then went on to discuss how, in our modern world, much of the evil that is done is done in the name of the good. That is, he spoke of how the crafters of the WTO and the World Bank and all these other promoters of the globalization of the economy, bring their organizations into effect believing in (or from the position of) the ideology that bringing open access to a free market economy in developing nations will actually help those nations in their development. As it turns out, this is not the case - but the people behind the WTO are not sitting around rubbing their hands and thinking about how delightfully evil they are.
He also discussed the post 9/11 Bush administration's devision of the world into the Evil and the Good - the with us and the against us. This division, he said, is flawed (obviously). Particularly because the people who committed the particular evil on 9/11 did not become evil in a vaccuum. They were trained and brought to their position in life - to the position that caused them to make that terrorist act - by the very "good" people they were attacking - back when the U.S.A. used them to get rid of the "evil" of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The hubris of the U.S. government in using these people and this place for their own "good" ends, had a direct effect on the situation that followed - there is always a blowback.
He also spoke of the ecological crisis, and of how absurd it is for we humans to consider ourselves as separate from the environment we have allowed to come to this dire precipice. How can we consider ourselves to be clean and healthy when everything we live in and consume is so polluted?
I'm not explaining it very well, but I came out of there thinking about how very interconnected we all are. About how living a life of compassion and thoughtfulness, and participation in the world is such a wonderful ideal. I felt uplifted and inspired to live a more full and connected life.
And then, as I was driving home, I passed a Jewish cemetery. It is a lovely looking place, I pass it almost everyday. But today painted across the Star of David on the sign outside the grounds, was a bright red spray painted cross. And it occurred to me that it is easy to think about evil in terms of the geopolitical - that is out there somewhere, non personal. It is a different thing altogether to encounter evil in the personal. How does one go about becoming a person who desecrates a cemetery? How does one come to hate another religion to the extent that they will vandalize a burial ground? a religious space? How does one come to see ones self as so very separate from another group of people that they could defile their sacred space in that way?