I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” J.R.R. Tolkien
No matter where you stand politically, it’s impossible to deny that this election cycle has strengthened the seeds of misogyny, xenophobia, and racism throughout our land. I’m sad to see that this type of dialogue has not been limited to our small corner of the world. Regrettably, similar ideas have found traction in burgeoning populist movements around the globe.
I firmly believe that this type of thinking has no place within civil discourse and should be rejected in all its forms. Born out of fear and fueled by the seeds of hatred, racism, sexism, and xenophobia can never lead to anything other than a destructive end. As such, I believe that it’s our human obligation to do everything in our power to resist such beliefs as they arise. We should also do what we can to contribute in any meaningful way possible to the eradication of hatred and fear both individually and collectively.
In order to make any meaningful progress in this arena, I think that it’s essential to recognize that we all posses seeds of hatred and intolerance in potential form. It’s easy to think that such emotions are the unique province of bad or ignorant people. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. We are as human beings, an assembly of varied characteristics - some positive and others negative. All of these characteristics, good and bad, are part of our common cultural heritage. They’ve been passed on to us from previous generations in seed form as ideas, cultural norms, and unexamined beliefs.
Many of these seeds lie dormant in our mind. However, when conditions are right, they have the potential to awaken and become strong. When this happens, these mental imprints begin to replicate themselves and as they come to dominate our mental space, have the ability to influence our actions. Ignorance, fear of one another and hostility accelerate the growth of the negative seeds within us more than anything else. When left unchecked, these emotions inevitably create a fertile field within our mind, and in that space, our most destructive impulses are able to grow to their full potential. The consequence of this is an ever evolving worldview that inevitably becomes more divisive, intolerant, and self-centered.
Because of this, I think that it’s critically important to keep a close eye out for hatred and intolerance in our own mental outlook as we non-violently confront the divisive and hate-filled dialogue that has overtaken our political discourse.
This is a challenging task, but not insurmountable. In the 1950’s, economic interest won out over human interest, and the Himalayan Kingdom of Tibet was wrested away from the people who had occupied it for millennia. During that time, thousands of people were killed, families were separated, and the Dalai Lama as spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet was forced to flee for his life.
Since that time, the Dalai Lama has gone on to win a Nobel Peace prize for his work around the globe and has come to be known among many circles as a living example of kindness and compassion. When asked how he has been able to maintain joy in the face of such hardship, the Dalai Lama has always said that he’s been able to maintain a joyful outlook because of, not in spite of the fact that he hand his country people have lost so much.
I find this to be incredibly inspiring. Rather than embracing hatred and fueling his anger, the Dalai Lama has chosen instead to use his negative experiences as a motivation to deepen his connection to others. To do this, he spends some time every day in spiritual practices that enable him to weaken the destructive seeds within himself. At the same time, he also works to cultivate love and compassion for loved ones, political opponents, and perfect strangers as well. By doing this, he has been able to maintain a joyful mental outlook as even as he steadfastly continues his work to right social injustices and expand universal human rights.
Election aside, the current harvest of destructive dialogue has risen from seeds planted long ago. I’m hopeful for the future though. Nothing lasts forever and other, newer seeds are also growing. Our society is becoming increasingly more diverse, millennial voters overwhelmingly supported the first female presidential nominee in our nation’s history, and millions of people around the globe are speaking out against the cancer of sexism, racism and xenophobia.
Moving forward, I hope that you’ll use the coming months and years ahead to take care of the positive seeds within you. Be kind to one another, take refuge in your practice, and above all else, till the field for the future by inspiring through your daily example.
Peace to all