All that you behold, that which comprises both God
and man is one – we are all parts of one great body.
Wednesday evening I took my nightly walk in search of stillness and a conversation. The images of the day kept coming into my mind and I found it difficult to listen to anything but the anger I was feeling. How could they? What were they thinking? How could he stand in front of that mob and encourage them to storm our Capitol? The thoughts continued through my walk and I returned in time to hear the objection to the PA ballot. Sleep did not come easy and I tossed and turned until 3:00 AM, at which time I decided to get-up and see what had transpired. As the TV came on, I heard Speaker Pelosi announce that the Senate would be returning and the ballot counting would continue. Forty minutes later Congress completed their work; Joe Biden was named 46th President of the United States and Kamala Harris Vice President. Time to go back to bed and get some sleep; not happening!
My wife had the news on when I came downstairs early Thursday. I didn’t want to watch it or read the paper; I had witnessed it. I thought a morning walk might help, but this time the conversation was different, as it revealed new questions and fears. I remembered a time over fifty years ago that I listened to my parents speak in hushed tones as they watched Walter Cronkite report on the Cuban Missile Crisis. There was a true sense of uncertainty. They were frightened, so was I. As a twelve year-old, I wondered what would happen next? I wonder the same thing today. Are we on the verge of a Civil War? What has caused this great divide, and why can’t people find common ground? What needs to be done to bring us together?
The answer to that last question became evident Thursday evening while reading Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key. He recounts the experience of Edgar MItchell, the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 14 who looked down ,from 239,000 miles above, at a tiny blue marble called Earth. He felt something wash over him, and later said he experienced a true sense of connectedness and compassion for everyone and everything. “I want our leaders, the people who are supposed to work on behalf of their fellow citizens, to have the same realization as me; the realization that we are all one, we are all in this together, and that is the only thing that truly matters.
Holiday introduced me to the idea of “Sympatheia”, a Greek concept that speaks to the mutual interdependence and relatedness of all things past, present and future. The Greeks believed that each person has an important role to play; and should be respected for it. Likewise, while our roles may vary, we need to think more about the values we share rather than those that come between us. By seeking to understand what brings us together, we can also better understand and address that which threatens to tear us apart.
There is no question in my mind that we are connected and a sense of oneness exists. At the present moment we are all feeling the pain of a nation in turmoil, but pain is a shared feeling. No one is alone in suffering or joy; it is our connection with others. The parent worrying about what the future holds for their child. The merchant struggling to keep their business afloat. The spouse grieving the loss of their partner. Each of us frightened at what we witnessed last Wednesday and wondering what the future holds.
Over the next few weeks and months we must again seek to discover the “oneness” that has brought us together on so many other occasions. As Americans, our lives and fates are intertwined. The less we focus on our partisanship, the greater our ability to understand and contribute to healing our nation. Tonight and tomorrow we will all breathe the same air. We will all say goodnight to our children and hope for a better tomorrow. We will all pray for an end to the pain and despair associated with this Pandemic. We will be enveloped in so many ways with a sense of oneness.
The peace we seek is within our grasp, but it is not found in winning an election or removing someone from office. It exists when we take joy in the success of others and we welcome their celebration of ours. Peace exists when we are motivated to treat others well, because we understand that it is no different than how we treat ourselves. Peace is found when we truly understand what it is to be one.
Embrace the Challenge