Last week I watched my fifteen-year-old grandson belt out the old Beatle’s tune “Come Together”, a peace song originally written to support the presidential campaign of Timothy Leary against Ronald Reagan. I doubt this modern teen knew the song’s background, but he did a fantastic job of putting the message in my head- as well as prompting my legs to want to get up and dance! The juxtaposition of fond memories from the 60’s with the sight of my teen- age grandson singing as though he was on a rock stage, was staggering. What’s even more poignant, is the realization that the call for unity, for peace, feels even more necessary today than it did fifty years ago.
The message: Join Hands
The other night I joined a community discussion in order to learn how we all can combat hate speech- peacefully. With so much anti-Semitism, racial bigotry and immigrant hatred around us today, the necessity to learn how to live in harmony with one other is vital. We no longer are fighting a war thousands of miles away, a war that was killing our youth and ripping our country apart. We are experiencing battle scars in our own backyards.
We boomers, who lived through the 60’s, who protested, carried signs and passionately cared about creating peace, are finding ourselves fighting a new battle. Instead of wrestling with those who were waging a war against communism, we are struggling with those who are rebuffing the refugees from war. Instead of feeling kinship with those across the globe, embattled by bombs, guns and napalm, we are connecting with those in our neighborhoods who are gunned down by our own citizens. What was a faraway battle is now everywhere we turn.
The questions asked of the experts were expected: How do we fight hate speech without adding to the violence? How do we respond to those with whom we strongly disagree? The messages from the panel- a former skin head turned activist , a legislator, a peace advocate, and an educator—were consistent: join together, support one another, find compassion. The idea that we can fight hate with love, combat violence with compassion, is not new. Yet, in this world that is as baffling to us in our 60’s and 70’s as it was when we were in our 20’s, we must keep returning to that same message, and persist in attempting to discover how to make it materialize.
We Are Our Own Elders
As the elders in our community, we do have some wisdom to share. We have been through many rounds of protest, disruption… and dismay.
We have witnessed a life-time of Israeli-Palestinian conflict; peace in the middle east, even with several peace accords, seems even more far off than it did decades ago. We have experienced excitement with the election of an African-American US President only to encounter despair as the election was followed by an increase in racial tension and violence.
Nothing stays the same
The flip side of this depressing perspective, the idea that high hopes will only be followed by disappoint, is gleaned from the teachings of the Buddha, that the core of life is impermanence. To hang onto the joys of today is impossible; likewise, the despair that descends upon us with disappoint will eventually lift.
With that knowledge, we can dig deep to share with the younger generations some thoughts as to how to turn the hatred and fear that we are experiencing today, into acceptance (if not love) and tolerance (if not compassion). Our years have given us experience, as well as wisdom and perspective. We have danced with joy and cried in disappointment. And we have experienced change….
From “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”, we learn that from difficulties and obstacles, if used well, come strength. We are not to give up, but instead, look inward, learn and persevere. As we reflect on what is, and let go of attachment to any particular outcome, we can open ourselves to the universe, to compassion. With the knowledge that we have surmounted challenges, we are empowered.
The Dalai Lama advises us that, in today’s world, we can no longer resolve our problems on our own, that we must be interdependent. Just as the panelists recommended, that through support of one another we can overcome hatred, the Dalai Lama tells us that through active compassion, a continuing commitment to do what is necessary to alleviate the pain of others, we can heal the world.
As I reach out to learn about your pain, and do my best to both understand it and alleviate it, I am not only helping YOU, I am healing the universe. As I persevere through my disappointment and despair, I can catch a glimmer of hope, while gaining the courage to persist. With the knowledge of support from like-minded people, i am emboldened.
All We Need Is Love
The Beatles were wise in telling us to “Come Together”. Really, all we have in this world is each other. If you and I together can find compassion, care and loving kindness for even those that make us so angry, those that espouse hatred and rejection, then not only can we feel more at peace within our souls, we are ultimately planting peaceful seeds around our planet.
Maybe that’s all we need right now. Maybe that's all we can hope for right now.