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The salve of the soul

Updated: Mar 13, 2022

The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world. – Marianne Williamson

Observing the events unfolding in Ukraine over the past couple of weeks has brought an emotional dizziness that at times, has brought me to a standstill. How can this be allowed to happen, how can it be stopped? Will we ever learn?

Anger, fear and sadness have been mingling around in my brain, together with an immature hatred for one country's leader, and a selfish sting of wondering how this might affect me, my son...the existence of the human race. Underneath the tornado of thoughts spiralling above, deep in the pit of my stomach there is grief. Grief of lives lost, of lives that might have been, of the tremendous tsunami of trauma for those left behind, in this world, to piece together an existence from a place of knowing you, and your nation were wanted erased. Most of all, there is grief for a disconnected planet.

We've been here before, but will we ever learn? Is it possible for human nature to change?

Some may believe things have changed since WWII, that we have moved on to a more conscious civilisation than that of the past, that we are living in an age of heightened awareness and compassion. We don't have to look far to see that's not the case. The one thing that has changed, though, is nuclear warfare.

In Dr Seuss' The Butter Battle book, the Yooks and the Zooks live on opposite sides of a long curving wall. The Yooks wear blue clothes; the Zooks wear orange. The Yooks eat their bread with the butter-side up, while the Zooks eat their bread with the butter-side down. In the end, each side have the equivalent of nuclear weapons held in an imminent sort of mutual suicide. Each side wanted peace, so long as the bread was buttered their way.

Maybe we've come to a crossroads where matters of right and wrong are no longer able to be solved by force.

The Dalai Lama sad that "to pray for peace is very good, but if that is all you do, you are wasting your time." What he meant was that prayers have no effect if they are misaligned with an action. It makes sense, that to ask for something as big as peace you'd want all your ducks in a row with a consistent story, only our storyline hasn't been so clear. As the world monetises...everything, the lines are blurred again and again when money and power are on the table.

But what do You want, war or peace?

It seems that the only option we have is to stand in solidarity for peace, always, but somehow we have pretended to tolerate the intolerable, and cooperated with cruelty for a long time. And how now, to stand in peace, while bearing witness to the barbaric atrocities that fill every newspaper and screen?

The answer can only begin with forgiveness. Forgiveness is an opening to closure in an otherwise endless endemic, multi-generational eye-for-an-eye exchange. And this is not a forgiveness because we 'should'. This is the way, and the only way, for our own chance for lasting peace. Because what's it like to live with hatred, anger, fear raging in your heart, on any level? In that state, we're constricted, rigid and isolated. In that state, we look no different than the 'enemy'. In that state, life is a living hell, and we end up punishing ourselves.

So what does it mean to forgive? Per means for, and also completely; done means to give (in both its latin and anglo-germanic roots). Perdone means to give up the right to punish. If we can learn that those starting wars are unconscious, misguided or better lack of a word, ignorant, we can see they don't know what they are doing, and are driven by unresolved trauma, fear, dysfunction...madness. (Putin, along with Trump, Hitler, Stalin and many other dictators are/were, quite literally driven mad with deeply embedded, unresolved childhood trauma.)

Things we aspire for ourselves and our nations, like freedom, evolvement and responsibility, are inaccessible in the unconscious state - but then, the world we live in is being run mostly by leaders who are completely unconscious. So how can the world we live in be free when governments and global organisations are manipulating people's unconsiousness, leading to families, cultures, nations and an entire planet that is largely fundamentally asleep?

The enlightened ones: Buddha, Jesus, the great yogis and all those living with the depth of total, wide-open presence can see that people are not free, and knowing this, understand not to hold this against them. Like Jesus said on the cross, "Forgive them father for they don't know what they do."

Our rage, anger, grief are human reponses to an atrocious situation; but we are not that rage, anger or grief. Like the weather, they are emotions moving through us, and sooner or later they will dissipate and transmutate into something else. As long as we identify with the emotions as us, we suffer, and suffering wounds the psyche.

Some situations seem so big that no matter what we say or do, we believe ourselves to be helpless. But there is always something we can do. It may be that alongside charitable action, now is the time to slowly, quietly, in whatever way feels approachable, begin to forgive.

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