The conflict in the Middle East is heart-wrenching and heartbreaking, and it brings up a range of emotions. We feel deep grief as well as anger, even fury, at the senseless loss of life and the devastation. There is fear about the outbreak of what could be a world-changing war. There is deep pain as we wonder, who have we humans become? Even though we may speak out against violence and give money to those whose lives are torn apart, there is also the feeling of helplessness: how can we make a difference in this global cataclysm?
All of these emotions are natural and appropriate, but if we seek a deeper understanding, we can also engage with how conflict plays out in our own lives.
My friend, Charles Eisenstein, wrote a deeply moving essay on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict asking us to step away from simplistic notions of good and evil, right and wrong, victim and perpetrator. He asks us to recognize “the devil on everyone’s shoulder” – the voice of anger, blame and vengeance that speaks to us when we are in conflict and demands a reaction.
To be angry with your spouse or child or parent or friend who you feel has wronged you or a political leader who you despise is of course a human response. And if you place yourself in an echo chamber of that anger — which is easy to do online and in conversations — your positionality will only get stronger. You’ll get angrier and angrier, and then it can boil over into something you regret.
I say with all humility and respect that perhaps the MidEast conflict is challenging each of us to look deeply at the way we respond to people we feel have harmed us or who have opposing ideologies and seek to understand rather than to blame. Charles Eisenstein writes about the futility of blame and the cycles of vengeance it launches.
We will never exit the thousands-of-years morass if our explanatory template is always to look for who is right and who is wrong, who is innocent and who is guilty, who is good and who is evil. It is not that such concepts are invalid. It is that they do not give us the understanding we need. So, instead of blame, let us seek to understand…. Understanding is what allows action to be effective; it is what liberates us from ignorant stuck patterns.
In this time of great sorrow, anger, and fear I urge you to explore ways to bring out the best in ourselves and to delve deeper into material that will support our understanding, our activism and our well-being. The Center for Greater Good has provided rich resources for this as well as for reminding us of our human goodness.
I leave you with this beautiful quote from Rumi:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing,
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
Doesn’t make any sense.