Ziggy, the cartoon character, often climbs to the top of the mountain to seek the advice of “the Wise One.” He asks “What is the meaning of life?” Appropriately, there are comic answers to Ziggy’s inquiry. This question about the meaning of life has been asked for millennia. For me it is not the right question. My question is “What brings meaning to life?”
I got to this point of reflection after taking in all the violence and death we have been exposed to over the last weeks and months – Orlando, Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas, Rochester…. This has been exacerbated for me by speech that seems rooted in fear, hatred, blaming and division.
On several occasions over the last months, the staff and volunteers at the Center have come together to talk about racism and how it is manifested. We want to do all we can to uncover and eliminate any ways in which racism, or other social divisions might manifest themselves in our work. Last week we came together to comfort each other and share feelings about the string of violent incidents in our cities. It was a painful and important gathering. We will continue the conversation among us.
I personally reflected on the concept of hate, especially hate that is directed at those who are merely different. Hate is ugly; it can literally transform the face of the most beautiful people. Hate eats at the heart of those who hate. Hate has no useful purpose.
To my knowledge I have never been the object of hate. I am lucky. People I love and respect who are people of color, have described the consequences of hate directed at them 24/7 merely because of the color of their skin. If you are white, imagine being suspected, feared, intimidated, talked about, moved away from, excluded, harassed, profiled, and derided everywhere you go and wherever you are. I can never experience what it is to be a person of color, but I can be observant, empathetic, and a vocal ally when I see hatred and exclusion happen. I can look at my own behavior to check hatred and exclusion at the door.
There is power in good and power in evil. There are tools at the service of good and evil. The tools of evil include hatred, fear, division, labeling, fomenting suspicion, silence in the face of violence, neglect of others.
The tools of good include love, unity, naming evil, the works of mercy and justice, tending to the needs of the other, trusting, listening, respect. How to unleash the power of good is described in every scripture in every religion – Torah, New Testament, Qur’an, Vedas, Sutras and others.
We are in violent times. We have choices between good and evil many times a day. I am learning to ask myself, is my fear founded or unfounded in reality? Am I dividing or unifying with my action and words? Have I given into stereotypes and judged without learning facts first? What am I assuming about others that I have not checked out?
May we respond to the evil we see by unleashing the power of good using all the tools at our disposal. For me, this is what brings meaning to life – operating out of the power of love and unity.
Thank you for all the ways that you manifest that power of good and love by your generosity. Each gift, donation, hour of time is reaching out to those in need; is acting as the Gospel calls us to “that all may be one.”
–Christine Wagner, SSJ