Monthly Archives: October 2013

Reflections from Ireland

From Waterfallswimmer:

I’m enjoying reading and discussing John Dear’s book ‘Lazarus, Come Forth’ as part of our continuing shared journey of nonviolence. Something I read last week resonated with me and I’ve been able to think more deeply about it so thought I’d share that here. Firstly I’ll quote the passage from page 15 in the section entitled ‘The Kingdom of Death, the culture of Violence’

“Life is hard, life is a struggle. For many, life means only death. People all over the world are stooped under the burden of hunger and war, ignorance and neglect. They flee and die under the military adventures of the superpowers and elsewhere under the terrors of tribal warlords. Many labor for little; many come to early and unjust deaths. And over us all hovers the spectre of nuclear weapons and environmental destruction, both a result of a few thousand rich people spawning an epidemic of corporate greed. To protect their global control, their “national interests,” their “way of life,” sleek armies march and drill all over the globe……… Alas, this seems to be the way of the world – a kingdom altogether different from the Kingdom of God. Call it the kingdom of death, and how hard for our transfixed minds to concede its reign. There is in the nature of deathly powers something elusive. Hectic and threatening and adroit at covering their tracks, they ensnare and overwhelm us; they exhaust out mental capacities, feeble as they often are. In biblical parlance, they possess us.”

Lately I’ve been feeling very much ensnared and overwhelmed by injustices in the city I live in, the country I live in and the world I live in. This feeling takes over mentally and then physically. It’s beyond words and description but I become unsure of what I can do to change things, to bring life, and am left with a sense that maybe there isn’t anything I can do that could make a difference.

However, last weekend I found myself on the West Coast of Ireland for a swimming event in Killary Fjord which leads to the sea between mountains – a breathtaking place to be. I was walking by the water and mountains as the sun was setting and the sky turned from bright blue to deep orange and then purple, reflected in the water as the mountains slowly became silhouettes. It was so beautiful, again beyond words and I was overwhelmed by it and if I had to use words I might use love, peace and hope.

I realised that this came from the same place in my being as the feelings I might call pain, despair and hopelessness when I’m aware of and ensnared by injustices. It was the same energy but manifesting in different, almost opposite ways.

This is helping and encouraging me because I now know that if I’m feeling hopeless I can find hope in the same place, if I’m feeling pain or despair I can find love and peace in the same place.

I may find myself in the midst of a human-created culture of death, but no matter what is happening in the world around me there is life within me, I’d call it God, and even if its hard to reach I know it’s there and will keep me searching for and walking on the path of nonviolence.

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We act and pray for a world without war, the absence of violence in all of its manifestations.  We put down the sword, we blockade the nuclear bases and arms fairs, we go over the fences, we withdraw our taxes, we picket the embassies.  We live in community, we refuse to use violence even if faced with violence ourselves, we refuse military service.  We resist the ‘Pax Romana’, and through our actions, we show how our governments and economies are addicts of violence and war.

But like an addict, we have to show too that the mere absence of violence doesn’t mean we have overcome the temptation to violence, to death – I cannot believe that this is all that the peace of Christ is.  Even when we are not ourselves at war, or behaving with physical violence we repeatedly, everyday, in thought and word and deed, demonstrate the power that violence and death have over us.  We swear at drivers as they narrowly miss us on our bicycles, we legitimise our ongoing participation in systems of injustice, we fail to consider the impacts of our actions on others.  The peace of Christ, to be born again, is to live a way of life, where the culture of death has no power – it cannot simply mean the absence of something (overt, active violence).  It is a way which negates not only the violence of war and global economic injustice, but also means we encounter – and renounce – our own addiction to the culture of death that feeds so much suffering in ourselves, our relationships and in our communities.

When we put ourselves in the way of the war machine, I believe we are creating a schism between the world of violence and death, and the ways of peace, love and life that we sometimes see glimpses of appear that bit more possible.  The world of violence, which normally fits around us – like a glove – so easily that we don’t even recognise it, suddenly doesn’t quite work any more.  Like a rocket choosing a new trajectory, we begin to move away, onto a different path.  As we continue on this journey, violence will continue lack the operable power over us that it once had, and we will continue to be led on our search for something more life affirming, a way of love.

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