War is a stupid way to settle differences, or to deal with one’s enemies. The Japanese waltzed into Pearl Harbor, for what? We waltzed into Iraq, for what? It’s a bit cloudy, these days, isn’t it? But, one thing we can say with crystal clarity about the Pearl Harbor decision and the Iraq Invasion decision is that the deciders overestimated their own strength and power, and underestimated the resiliency and determination of the opposition. There seem to be a lot more people out there willing to blow themselves up to kill a few Americans than we thought. War always reveals something someone didn’t think about. After the Battle of Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull dismissed the coalition forces he had gathered to destroy General Custer and the Seventh Cavalry because he though a defeat of that magnitude would send a message to Washington to leave the west alone. The hardest lesson is learning that “they” don’t think like “we” think they think.
But, what are you going to do? Not stand for it? Rail against it? What would constitute effective resistance? How would you form a movement against war, against violence of all varieties? How would you practice peace? Who would you include? Who would you exclude? How would you enforce compliance to your practice? Would you ostracize, excommunicate, those who don’t follow along? How violent that? Is coercion ever non-violent on all levels? Are boycotts non-violent? How do we ensure cooperation without threatening someone with something? Hitting them is just a quicker way to get what we want. The more we want, the more violent we are going to be. Want to be peaceful? Limit your wanting. That was the Buddha’s idea. Limit your wanting to a rice bowl and a robe. No war. Nothing to it. Until we try it. It as difficult as anything there is. Could it be the way to peace? Instead of getting them to give us what we want, we give up wanting. What do you think?
I think we have to figure ways to rein wanting in. We have to live within legitimate limits. We’re back to what is a prop and what is a tool. What serves the image we would like to project, and what serves the genius, the gift, the self in its emerging? We have to move away from the idea of constructing an image to the idea of unfolding a self. This is the heart of revolution. This is an act of war, this talk of moving from image-making to self-development. This is as radical and as subversive as it gets. We join the revolution when we rein in wanting.
Join the Revolution! Live Soulfully! Could be a bumper sticker. How could we live as long as we have lived without knowing better than we do what feeds our soul? What is Soul Food? And what is merely attractive to the eye? We can be addicted to many things that do not serve the soul. Discernment is the spiritual task. Knowing what we are doing is all there is to know. It takes a while to settle on what matters. Live on! It will all become clear with time.
The path to peace is limiting our lives to the things we need for the soul’s joy. What’s it take to bring our soul alive? Imagine your life, and start taking things away that don’t serve your soul. What are you left with? What are the things you can’t lose without your soul shrinking, and shriveling, and wasting away? Ask of everything you consider buying, “Is this a prop or a tool? Does it serve the soul?”
Don’t think I’m talking about living cheaply. My soul has expensive tastes. My camera equipment alone constitutes many rice bowls. The chair I write in, and the key board I write with, and the computer I use to print the photos, and the car, and the house… These things are not cheap, and I would be empty without them. So, I am not suggesting vows of poverty and lives of destitution. I’m simply saying, “Know what you need, and how it serves your soul.” Spend time with those things. Let the rest go. Let’s see how that impacts the world.