A Voice in the Wilderness

Somewhere along the way we have to ask ourselves: Was Einstein on to something when he said that you can’t solve a problem by using the same energy that created it?

Can you bring an end to violence with violence? Can you bring an end to war with war? Can you bring an end to someone else’s anger with anger of your own?

There is a delicate balance here that begs to be struck. To sit back and do nothing after the witnessing of abject cruelty and rampant violence — even though it may not involve or affect you directly — may simply not be tolerable to the mind of a person of conscience.

If you saw a woman being attacked in an alley as you happened by, would you keep on walking, reasoning that it doesn’t involve you or affect you, and therefore you should do nothing?

Likewise, if you saw men, women, children and even babies suffering cruel and agonizing deaths after being attacked with chemical weapons, would you look the other way, saying that it doesn’t involve you or affect you, and therefore you should do nothing? Or would you risk getting involved — and involving others who are even less affected than anyone, being third-party removed — in the name of what feels “right” to you at the depth of your being?

There is a delicate balance here that begs to be struck. This is precisely the balance that U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to find in response to events in Syria.

Is it our job to “police the world,” making sure that its leaders do what we think is right and just and good, even if it could cost some of our own their lives?, people in the United States are asking today. Is it our place to let the rest of the world sort itself out without our intervention at any level that involves force, so long as the violence is not inflicted on us?

This appears to be the question of the moment in the minds of many. Yet the posing of that question in that way suggests that all this is what is often called a “Zero Sum Game” — or a proposition in which one participant’s gain exactly equals another participant’s loss, producing a balanced outcome.

The challenge here is that there is more than one way to produce such a balance, where the pendulum rests squarely in the middle, or the scales hang evenly, or the seesaw winds up perfectly level. To produce such a balance, one would have to use equal force, for sure, but would it have to be identical force?

In the case of nations, some would argue that economic force could be as impactful as physical force. Yet if one participant’s economic condition is buttressed and supported by a third party, the second participant’s use of economic force could wind up having no effect whatsoever. (The same could be said about physical force, for exactly the same reason.)

How, then, does one’s intervention stop from becoming meaningless? Or worse yet, harmful to oneself?

This is what keeps occupants of the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House up all night. It is what turns the hair of Presidents noticeably grey noticeably quickly after taking office. It is why being the Chief of State of any nation in the world can be an endlessly thankless job.

What is the spiritual solution to the world’s dilemmas? Is there even a good one to be considered? This is a question that I am asked a lot these days. It is a question I ask myself a lot. And that brings me back to Einstein. Was he right?

I’d like to put the question you to, here — and the specific issue of what, if any, an effective response, spiritual or otherwise, might be to the use of chemical weapons in Syria — before I offer my own observation.

I shall read your comments below with great interest.

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