I read an article on the political situation in the Middle East today that struck a cord with me. It isn’t about the politics of who is “right” and who is “wrong” in any war, but in how we live in delusion and fantasy to support our own beliefs.
The article said “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
That is actually a very profound statement. Saul Bellow also said “a great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”
I think both of these statements, though given in a context of discussing wars and ‘reasons” for wars can apply to our private lives as well.
I know that for decades I was delusional about my son Patrick “repenting” of his crimes and wanting to “go straight” when in fact, he was proud of what he had done and had no desire to live a “square” law-abiding life. But I was very invested in that delusion because if I admitted the truth to myself it would have been too painful for me to accept. In order to maintain my belief in what was not true, I failed to believe what was true.
One of the inside family jokes in our family is that the “eleventh commandment” (in addition to the 10 in the Bible) which is “thou shalt not fool thyself” and boy did I ever violate that “command.” In fact, I think many of us violate that and live in some form of denial about what is true, and hold on to what is not true because letting go of the delusional thinking, the magical thinking, is too painful to contemplate.
Yet, it is only the “truth that will set you free” because it takes a great deal of energy to remain in a delusional state because on some level we realize we are not accepting reality. We stay angry in trying to fight the truth and use a tremendous amount of energy that could be used for a more peaceful and productive life.
When large groups of people are willing to die to maintain their delusions or to kill others that they hate, we call it war. Unfortunately there is in my opinion no “just” war, or “justified” abuse of anyone, but it is a fact of life that there are those who would abuse us on a national level or on a personal level. Sometimes it is necessary to fight an abuser in order to survive because most of the time appeasing them is a losing proposition as well.
Before we can accomplish anything though, we must look at a situation or a relationship without the rose-colored glasses or assuming that others always have the same values we do, or that their intentions are honorable, because unfortunately individuals and groups have differing values and moral compasses about what is “just” or “fair” or “right or wrong.”
I am a Christian and I believe in my faith, but I have no desire to kill someone else who does not believe as I do, but there have been in the past and are in the present those who will feel it is right to kill others for not believing in the same god, the same way they do.
In the not too distant history in European culture, people who styled themselves Christians were willing to burn other Christians at the stake for not believing in the same religious practices that they did. Catholic monarchs persecuted protestant believers, and vice versa. The various inquisitions and crusades were as vile as those same crusades going on now in the Middle East.
I don’t expect that there will ever be true “peace” in the world, or that there will come a time that people will stop killing and abusing others for any number of reasons, but I do believe that we as individuals can learn to accept what IS and quit believing in what is NOT true. Accepting reality, even a very painful reality is necessary for us to thrive as individuals, and that reality may mean that we must separate ourselves from someone we love.
I was gratified yesterday to read that the Sudanese Christian woman who had been sentenced to death in Sudan safely entered the United States with her husband and two children. Apparently she had been prosecuted/persecuted because one of her brothers wanted her business, so he denounced her as a Christian, though she had been raised a Christian and had never been a Muslim, because her father had been a Muslim, she had therefore violated the law by holding on to the Christian faith she had been raised in. In fact, after he initial release from prison, before she could leave the country, her brother had again had her arrested for trying to ”illegally leave the country.” Unfortunately, not all stories such as this have such a happy ending.
Accepting the truth, whatever it is, though, is the road to peace within ourselves.