Learning from our past?

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zoofence
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Learning from our past?

Postby zoofence » April 30th, 2008, 1:57 pm

On May 1, the Jewish community around the world is observing Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Generally disinclined to dwell on the past, I mention this event here in part, I suppose, because of the enormity of the holocaust, but more particularly because of the enormity of the failure at the time of the (civilized) world community beyond Germany, to take notice, to express an opinion, to react in any constructive way.

I do not know what it is about the human species that enables us to stand silently by as fellow members of the species are being misused, abused, and worse. I suppose UG would tell us it has to do with the survival instinct, and of course he is undoubtedly correct. But whatever it is, it stinks.

The United Nations has apparently decided to observe the holocaust on a different day. Their website page on the subject is here. And a few years ago, I posted on The Zoo Fence a good article about the “night of broken glass” which still seems relevant.

Again, as a seeker, I am convinced we need to free ourselves from the past and the future if we are ever to be able truly to live in, and to transcend, the present. But perhaps we cannot do any of that until we recognize and acknowledge our ability, and too often our willingness, to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the tears and cries of others. As I suggest elsewhere on TZF, the bad things that happen to others are our bad thing, too, and if we fail to learn that from their experience, then we should beware, for God will almost certainly grant us an opportunity to learn it on our own.

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W4TVQ
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Re: Learning from our past?

Postby W4TVQ » May 5th, 2008, 3:42 pm

I'm reminded of this, which I am sure you have read a thousand times ... but I need to be reminded of it:

From Martin Niemoller:

In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me -- and by that time there was no one left to speak up.

Recently on the "Christianboard" an angry atheist complained that if God were really loving He wold not let a little child in Africa die of malaria. The old escape: God doesn't conform to my stadards so He doesn't exist, etc. My thought was: there are two things that can be done about that dying child: (1) sit here and whine about how unfair it is or (2) go take the child some food and medicine.

I am completely baffled by the "mystery of evil," admittedly. Where it came from, what its purpose is in the overall scheme of eternal reality, etc. ... so all I can do about it is give to those who are on the front lines fighting the AIDS and malaria and leprosy epidemics and leave to God the problem of why.
"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

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anna
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Re: Learning from our past?

Postby anna » May 5th, 2008, 6:55 pm

It is possible that the beginning of the expression of evil lies in the very action taken, for example, by an atheist visiting a religious forum in order to argue with those with whom he essentially never agreed, nor intends to agree with. It appears to me that the glee with which an individual seeks to encounter opposition to his own cherished beliefs, is what essentially creates havoc in an otherwise orderly and sane world. Whether malaria is the indirect result of such behavior is for the metaphysicians to deliberate over, but I would not be surprised to find that there is more than likely an intimate connection between the two expressions of disequilibrium.

Of course, one has to consider why belief is so cherished in the first place, and why we consider ourselves to be what we believe in. But that is far more esoteric, and perhaps unnecessary, than simply stating that dissension based on belief and intolerance of the same, fosters more of the same, and it probably eventually manifests in the physical world in all sorts of unexpected and magical ways. There are few, much less an ego run amuck, who want to disengage from their ideas and rise above them, or, heaven forbid, discover that all ideas are temporary and relative, and thus tolerable.

That said, no doubt this atheist visited the forum just because the history, indeed the present, of much of Christianity is full of equally confrontational behavior, and so it goes, on and on, karma returning karma, a never ending spiral of intolerance and anger. It is a wonder sometimes that there are moments of peace and beauty despite this constant quarrelling over belief.

So, in the end, it looks to me as though evil occurs because of humankind's misunderstanding and misuse of the great gift of intellect. Who would have thought that such a great, heavenly gift such as this, could be so misused and contaminated to produce such a thing as the Holocaust? But it did. It didn't happen just by accident, it was originally conceived within the mind of man, based on a set of beliefs, and generated by intolerance for other beliefs.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers........Wordsworth

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Re: Learning from our past?

Postby Speculum » May 14th, 2008, 1:46 pm

Like you, I too am haunted by Martin Niemoeller's line, which I post again because it is so powerful (and timely?):

In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Those words always remind me of Edmund Burke's observation: All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.

UG would tell us, I suppose, that in the end it is about survival, struggling to survive against the perceived threat from others. And who among us dares argue with UG?

But here, as everywhere, I take refuge in my oft-repeated mantra: If God is Infinite, then God is all there is; and all there is, is God.
To me, that has to mean that somehow what I perceive as evil is just as divine as what I perceive as divine.

And, let's face it, virtually everything we perceive as evil has to do with misuse or abuse of the body, my body or someone else's body, or of the body's things, its stuff. Misuse or abuse by someone or someones of other someones. That is, persons against persons. In a word, personal.

Which inescapably brings to my mind my other oft-repeated mantra, "I am me, and you aren't me; what's mine is mine, not yours".

It is that egoic perception of reality which defines everything for us, including evil, isn't it? In order for something to be perceived as evil, doesn't it have to, in some way or other, step on that self-perception? In order to label something "evil" don't I have to believe that directly or indirectly my sense of "me" and "mine" is under threat?

But what about the insistence by every Teacher I have ever come across, that "I am me, and you aren't me; what's mine is mine, not yours" is a lie, an illusion, and an error, not to mention the underlying cause of every discomfort everyone of us experiences.

And if that is so (and, of course, it is), then somehow (in a way perhaps that makes us uncomfortable) our perception of evil, even our insistence that evil exists, must also be an illusion and an error.

In The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Universe, a computer is asked for the answer to the ultimate question of life, and, after years of calculating, the computer responds "42", which of course makes no sense (or does it?). When confronted, the computer responds,

I checked it very thoroughly, and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.

However much we may want to disagree, and feel that whatever others may say, we know evil when we see it, I suspect that here, as elsewhere, the problem really is that we don't yet fully know what the question is, or if we do, we don't really like it.
"The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust

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Re: Learning from our past?

Postby W4TVQ » May 15th, 2008, 3:19 pm

"I checked it very thoroughly, and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is."

Gotta read that book!

Perhaps the reason we don't know what the queston is lies in the confusion of form with formless consciousness. Eckhart Tolle pinpoints this rather well, comparing Descartes' "I think, therefore I am" with Satre's response to it: "The consciousness that says 'I Am' is not the consciousness that thinks." Tolle states, "When you are aware that you are thinking, that awareness is not part of thinking. It is a different dimension of consciousness. And that is the awareness that says, 'I Am.'" The part that is 'thinking' is identified with form, with its own past, its own future, its own makeup psychologically and physically.

the discussion of "ego" vs. "real person" in Tolle's book (A New Earth) is a real eye-opener. Not that his ideas are new: they were voiced by the Buddha centuries ago and are summarized nicely in the Heart Sutra, with the chant "Form here is only emptiness, emptiness only form; form is none other than emptiness, emptiness none other than form." Still, Tolle's way of stating these truths makes them nicely accessible to such as I.

Namaste
Art
"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

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Re: Learning from our past?

Postby jenjulian » May 17th, 2008, 12:18 pm

So, in the end, it looks to me as though evil occurs because of humankind's misunderstanding and misuse of the great gift of intellect. Who would have thought that such a great, heavenly gift such as this, could be so misused and contaminated to produce such a thing as the Holocaust? But it did. It didn't happen just by accident, it was originally conceived within the mind of man, based on a set of beliefs, and generated by intolerance for other beliefs.


Anna, your post is very touching and I agree with this conclusion. The intellect, divorced from the heart is a scary thing!
Art, I agree, Tolle has presented great spiritual truths in a way that will reach many that probably would never have found these teachings. I think he has done something wonderful for our world and Oprah took a stand against the screeching of the fundamentalist Christian in our country. I hope his book sets off the sparks of wisdom searching in as many people as possible.
I like this thread.
"I am what I am."--Popeye

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Re: Learning from our past?

Postby phyllis » May 21st, 2008, 1:04 pm

If we knew (really knew) that we and everyone and everything else in the universe were immortal, invincible, untouchable, and invulnerable in every sense of the word, we would not be afraid of anything, would we, either for ourself or for anyone or anything else? Then, where would we see evil in the world? In order to believe in the existence of evil, do we not have to feel vulnerable in some way, or feel that others are vulnerable? Does that make sense? :roll:


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