“THE GUNFIRE AROUND us makes it hard to hear.
But the human voice is different from other sounds.
It can be heard over noises that bury everything else.
Even when it's not shouting. Even when it's just a whisper.
Even the lowest whisper can be heard - - over armies...
when it's telling the truth.”
I just watched Sydney Pollack’s film, “The Interpreter”, on Netflix. I’d seen it before, but because I had really enjoyed Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn together, I watched it again. This quote from the movie is stunning to me. The political figure, Zuwanie, reads what is the dedication in a book he’d written decades earlier when he had been a help to his people. I didn’t expect the film would inspire such profound thought.
Gunfire isn’t the only thing that makes it hard to hear the voice speaking truth.
Gunfire isn’t the only thing in society today that makes it hard to hear:
- Fear, hate, attack thoughts, and divisiveness makes it hard to hear
- Lies we tell ourselves and others, makes it hard to hear
- Wars, greed, and constant murders on our streets, makes it hard to hear
- Pain, sickness, suffering and death, as a way of life, make it hard to hear
- Stressful, worrisome changes in our society make it hard to hear
- Extraneous thoughts “in my head” absolutely, make it hard to hear.
I’ve been a student of “A Course in Miracles” (ACIM) long enough to know I make up these “thoughts in my head”, will one day be tired of them, and allow quiet to become established in my mind. They are interpretations I have given everything I think I see, and they determine how I experience myself, the world, and my life. I also habitually replay them, too often, as a loop, and will continue to do so in some fashion until I intervene. Continuously replaying the past, prevents me from experiencing what I really want now. I just get the past over and over again and am unable to write a new chapter.
Our thoughts have an effect and contribute to either a fearful or a loving world. These meaningless thoughts make it hard to hear the Authentic beyond this world and cut us off from the peace within. At some point we must each achieve dominion over our thinking and clear the mind to make room for God. Otherwise, these thoughts are like the guns and cannons that mask the Voice of God and keep us from the peace we truly want.
Light replaces error quickly or, over time, depending upon our readiness. The mind cleared of clutter is pivotal in that it is void of beliefs and attachments that would detain us. When we are done holding on, the change will be swift, because the mind cleared and fully present, is an open door to God. God will meet us in unexpected ways.
Representing truth and goodness, is the light that replaces all error.
Soft-spoken Tom Joad, in John Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath” speaks poignantly in what is a stand for the strength, solidarity and dignity of his fellow man – the ordinary, common man, everywhere. If you know the movie, you will recall the soliloquy in which Joad speaks of how he will be “everywhere” a man is striving to overcome injustice and working to make a better the life for himself and for his family
Henry Fonda (Tom Joad in the 1940 John Ford film) also portrayed a dynamic, rational, and contemplative character in “Twelve Angry Men” (1958), who through his steady leadership guided a jury through their deliberation in a murder trial. All aggressive bullying, prejudicial thinking, and biased demands of his fellows were calmed by his conscious and consistent presence. The will to serve with dignity and respect for the good of every man, is a beautiful and stirring element of the story. Many of cinema’s classics do the same: “On the Waterfront”, “Casablanca”, “To Kill A Mockingbird”, “Les Misérables” …. you can add to the list.
The majesty that is “Les Misérables”.
Bear with me here. “Les Misérables” has been made into movies five times in the U.S. alone, along with a TV movie, a TV miniseries, and the musical play. My mother and I watched the 1935 version starring Frederick March and Charles Laughton “every time” it aired – yes, back when we were dependent upon local TV broadcasting. What an incredibly noble man our hero, Jean Valjean, was! The TV series and movie, “The Fugitive”, had the same theme: Tough cop pursuing an “innocent” man. The musical stage production, “Les Miz”, is an absolute masterpiece.
In “Les Misérables”, Lt. Javert stridently acted to enforce the law, hounding Jean Valjean, who had broken his parole after being imprisoned for nineteen years, regardless of the good life he was now living. It’s remarkable that his downfall commenced with breaking a window to steal a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s family. It’s noteworthy too, that the compassionate action of the Bishop inspired the turnabout in Valjean’s life, when after stealing the silver, the Bishop refused to surrender Valjean into Javert’s eager hands. From that point on, Valjean lived a life of public service and selflessness. Nobility is a poignant thing to behold, and by its nature, must shine forth, unobstructed. We witness such nobility in “Les Misérables”.
We have to see people differently in order to be happy.
We do the same thing as did these staunch, fictional representatives of the law. We, in both big and little ways, hold a person’s past errors, along with our hurts and judgements, against them. When we judge someone, it affects how we treat them. Minimally, we may simply be unable to see the person, group, or entire population, as they are today. Ironically, were we to change our mind about the person or the situation, we might perceive instead, a friend whom we come to enjoy and even love. I myself recognize the burden of holding grievances and am working to change this behavior. I want to be happy.
We have to see people differently in order to be happy. Otherwise, we forever have the Montagues hating the Capulets, the Sharks VS the Jets, and present-day Americans distrusting the Japanese due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor … some 80 years ago! As well as Japanese Americans embittered against our government for the past incarceration of U.S. Japanese Citizens in internment camps during WWII. This, despite their U.S. Citizenship, and based not on facts, but merely on the fear of potential Japanese espionage. Plus, we dropped the bombs.
Both verbal and physical attacks against Asians occurred when fear and blame surfaced amid the Covid pandemic whose origins are attributed to China. Does this go back to WWII or is it one example of humanity’s tendency to judge, fear and attack those who look different, speak another language, have behaviors and customs we don’t understand, value, and on and on?
Peace comes from forgiveness. To forgive, is to forget.
These scenarios always have faces, of various cultures and nations. We know of countless atrocities committed by humanity throughout time. For us to judge a person or a nation by their worst, past behavior is careless, cruel, and undeserved. Forgiveness is the key to happiness, for in forgiveness we can lay down all doubt, fear, and confusion and come to an experience of peace that sustains and offers new life. Making peace with the past is the choice at hand. How much more do we want to endure when we can lay down our swords and tally sheets right now? A decision to live free of past hurts and errors, is a choice for peace and wholeness.
I sometimes ask myself if structures that have been built to memorialize these worst events in our history, assist to heal or rather maintain fear and the illusion of separation, one group or nation against the other. I haven’t lost a loved one because of such a tragedy. I personally can’t know of the ways in which memorials are a comfort for those who have. I only know I wonder how they can assist people in coming to forgiveness and peace amidst the thought to “Remember” or “Never Forget”. To me, peace comes from forgiveness and our ability to lay the past to rest. To forgive, is to forget, and no longer hold the tragedy in our awareness.
When we judge, we have reason to feel guilt and fear and happiness may escape us. Fear, prejudices, and hate crimes will continue across races, countries, religions, sexual orientation, personal choice, politics, and the countless differences we experience in our human mix, until we all grow up. That’s my line. I keep thinking, “I’m trying to grow up”.
Never let anyone dampen, dim, or diminish your light.
Real life, former Representative and civil rights activist, John Lewis, (1940-2020) provides us with more to contemplate:
“Never let anyone — any person or any force — dampen, dim, or diminish your light … Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won." (July 20, 2020)
Lewis’ words support life as he encourages us to uncover our own light and to act from this light towards others, forgoing every impulse to inflict pain. “Revenge is sweet” is a lie and douses the life in all of us. We tell ourselves anger feels good. It doesn’t. When we are able to choose beyond anger, hate and fear, we will never fall back. What is toxic does not attract, and in truth, can only be agents of sickness and death. These are not what we want. We must recognize we can choose consciously, and as needed, do the inner work that heals our past and gives us new ways in which to respond in difficult situations. In so doing, we become Representatives of Goodness and Love.
When love becomes a viable choice, we will no longer react in habitual patterns. We will no longer need to defend words and behaviors born of fear and hate. We will go beyond all errors in how we think and see. It’s a joyful and remarkable experience to observe ourselves demonstrating such growth – demonstrating higher principles in our words and actions. You’ve experienced this and so have I. Any spiritual seeker and Student of Life has, as we have evolved beyond such everyday entrapments of human behavior. These ideals are no mystery, and express tolerance, kindness, compassion, consideration, and regard for every living being.
This is the stuff we “like” and “love” on Facebook and YouTube videos in which a man, woman or child lends a helping hand to someone in need. It’s when someone rescues an animal caught in barbed wire or a dangerous, fast current, often at risk to themselves. I love these clips and am touched by the beauty and goodness they demonstrate ---the intrinsic beauty in each of us. It’s what Lewis, Steinbeck, and the rest, would have us live. These stories and clips demonstrate the Jean Valjean – the virtuous, in each of us. Admittedly, that’s what feels good!
* The photo is of an angel quilt captured through a glass candle.