The Zoo Fence
a commentary on the spiritual life

The Real Battle
by Ashley Ryan

This article was written in reaction to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, against the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. It is powerfully relevant to those events, but for seekers its true relevancy extends far beyond. Please see also Nancy’s thoughts on this subject here, and the entry at TZF’s The Gazebo.

Over the last few weeks, I, like most Americans, have watched, in shock and disbelief, the inhumane acts that human beings inflict upon one another.

I began to ask myself what I could do to help. Having no medical expertise, little money, and being unable to give blood, I wondered if I could do anything to help those hurt by the tragedy. I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the needs of the world, and utterly helpless to do anything constructive to alleviate the pain all around me. What could I do, as an individual, to help ensure that the world becomes a more peaceful place? I could not join the army, so how could I add my support to the struggle to make the world a safer place?

After much prayer, I realized that I am NOT helpless. None of us is. No matter where we are, or how little money we have, there is something we all can do. It is the most important thing: We can all join the campaign of ridding the world of evil, because the real battle against terror is not fought with guns or bombs or even bank accounts; it is fought in the human heart. The real battle is with our own inner darkness.

Each one of us has patches of light AND darkness within. We have anger, prejudice, attachments, and ego lurking in our souls. We may not blow up buildings, but we may blow up at our spouses, our friends, our children, or the driver of the car in front of us. We may not cut others with knives, but we cut with hurtful words, gossip, and jealousy. We do not hijack planes, but our egos hijack attention, praise, and control at the cost of others. We may not ascribe to radical religious dogma, but like the terrorists, we are usually convinced that we are right, and refuse to keep an open mind to what others have to say. We may not hate America, as “they” do, but we do have our own prejudices against people who are different from us, whether it is towards people of a different culture, skin color, or gender.

Here is where the real battle against terrorism must be fought. (Yes, it needs to be fought “out there”, as well.) But, the most important battle is within each of us, so let us not forget to go to that battlefield. The battle is against our own hatred, prejudice, fear and attachment. If we each commit to fighting the battle there, by ridding ourselves of anger, violence, greed, attachment to praise and ego, then soon there would be no need for military forces or other external might.

The real terrorist lies within each of us. It is that terrorist that we are called upon to track down and disarm. That terrorist is our own desire to be right all the time, to dominate others, to gratify our egos at other’s expense. What we see going on in world events is simply an extension on the macro level of what is going on within each of us on the micro level. It was hatred and jealousy and bitterness, lodged in the human heart, that led to the horrific acts of September 11. If we each look within, and rid ourselves of the seeds of hatred inside ourselves, however small they may seem, we will soon rid the world of hatred for good.

Making the world a peaceful place begins with — and within — each of us.

Editor’s Notes:
(1) When she sent this article to us, Ashley had not assigned a title. We chose “The Real Battle” precisely because it suggests to us “The Greater Jihad”, Muhammad’s own term for the spiritual struggle every seeker undergoes with his or her own faith and commitment, about which please see also here and here.
(2) For additional consideration of the events of September 11, 2001, please see the article at TZF's Gazebo and Anna's article “How Could This Happen?

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Sea Gulls
“Sea Gulls”
by Nancy Russell

But seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness,
and all these things shall be yours as well.

Matthew 6:33

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Qur’an II:156

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