Thich Nhat Hanh’s best known book is probably Being Peace. It’s profound.
Here’s what struck me most recently. He’s talking about how everyone suffers – blacks and whites, Palestinians and Israelis, Indians and Pakistanis, etc. etc. etc. and says this:
There must be people who can get in touch with both sides, understanding the suffering of each and telling each side about the other.
That sent shivers through me the first time I heard it and, fortunately, does every time I read it. My mind tends to take off and wonder how I might understand the suffering of those I disagree with, and how I might tell those who agree with me about the other.
I almost always disagree with Glenn Beck. (I once heard him express real compassion for an individual.) When I think deeply about what he says and how he says it I believe his suffering is probably fear. When he and his small gang of men begin talking about conspiracies or liberals I’m reminded of junior high school boys smoking behind the fence, afraid they will get caught out. When I hear that fear I can’t help but feel some compassion.
Sarah Palen confuses me because I associate women with compassion and understanding which she seems, to me, to be lacking. Yet I also hear fear in her – in this case fear that she will not be accepted. That’s a fear I know and when I look deeply within myself I remember a time when I tried to be tough in hopes people would like, or at least respect me. How can I not feel compassion for someone who shares that kind of feeling?
For me this sort of exercise hurts. It requires a stretching of my imagination and initially I don’t like it at all. I’d rather be right and know that ‘they’ are wrong.
In truth I haven’t been able to let go of the idea that Beck and Palen are wrong.
In spite of that, when I reach to understand, when I dig to find compassion, when I can stick with it long enough to experience some real sympathy for a person I know is wrong, some of the energy comes off my judgment. Some energy is freed up somehow. The rightness or wrongness of our two positions doesn’t seem to matter quite as much.
Does this make any sense to you?
Love and blessings,