Sunday, August 20, 2006

Japanese BBQ

I had dinner at a friend's house last night... and he has a Kamado and it is awesome! As a food geek, these things are like the ultimate toy on my wishlist! They are so well insulated, and they can be used screaming ot, or at low low temperatures, depending on what you're doing. My friend did a slow-roasted brisket (6 hrs) with one (small) batch of charcoal. So cool! And they're really pretty, too...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

'The Way to Peace'

My Friend Steve wrote the following:

Dear friends,

I find myself deeply troubled and disappointed as I consider the global situation, as I'm sure many of you do. However dark these times may seem, I do believe there is hope. I wrote the following as an expression of the frustration and despair I feel, and the hope and faith I find growing amidst that dispair. I encourage any of you who find hope, truth, love, compassion, or anything else of redeeming value in these words to pass this on to as many people as you can.

Many blessings and much love,

As violence continues in the Middle East and around the world, it is easy to do any number of things. One can despair, deny, ignore, rejoice, laugh, cry. Whatever of these one may do when violent conflict arises, it is safe to say that most people take sides, urgent to be on the "right" side, instantly becoming entrenched in polarized conflict with the "other" side. Some people do it because their life depends upon being on the side of their neighbors. In the United States, where those of us not personally serving overseas are a relatively safe distance from the conflict, there is more room for debate about which side is the "right" side. No matter which side a person takes, the process of taking a side in violent conflict is nothing more than rationalization. If the history of violence among human beings has taught us anything, it's that any action, no matter how much suffering it brings to the world, can be rationalized. I will not deny that it brings me great frustration that few people seem to understand how this works. Not that they can't apply this principle to whatever "other" side they believe they are fighting against. It's always easy to see the faults in one's enemy's rationalization for violent action when we are stuck in our own polarized positions. When we look at our own rationalizations for our own positions, however, we always find a convenient "but"- and as a good friend once told me, "but" is a very stinky word. Look at all the "buts" in this war on terror. Of course we want peace...but they hate America...but they hate freedom...but they're trying to wipe out Israel...but they're EVIL! And of course, the "other" side has just as many stinky buts as "our" side does.

Many people I have interacted with are pacifists, I suppose I can include myself here. One could say I take the side of peace, and refuse to take any other side in violent conflict. Because I want peace I refuse to take sides. That is because each side always blames the other for the violence, and therefore neither side takes responsibility for creating peace. Hezbollah says "we will stop killing Israelis when they get out of palistine." Israel says "we will stop killing Lebanese civilians when Hezbollah stops killing Israeli civilians." Or as I like to call it, the "well they started it!" rationalization. Yet, there is danger in taking the side of peace. Anyone seriously interested in peace would do well to be cautious of making an enemy out of those that engage in violence. Simply thinking of another human being as one's enemy is violence on a very subtle, yet powerful level. It is very easy to become self-righteous for those who take the side of peace, and self-righteousness can lead to further rationalizations for violence- and why would anyone who desires to see a more peaceful world choose to bring more violence in to it?

I recently watched a documentary about the Weather Underground. In case you don't know, the Weathermen (later when they were forced into hiding, the Weather Underground) were a militant splinter group off the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) during the 1960s. Their stated goal was the overthrow of the American Government "by any means necessary." Their opposition to the United States Government was based upon the fact that the Government used violence and oppression against the people in Viet Nam, as well as poor and black people in the United States. They wanted a more peaceful and just world- something I believe most people desire. Their belief was that anyone not with their revolutionary cause was an enemy and a potential target of aggression. They carried out many bombings intended to destroy symbols of oppression without killing anyone (the Capitol Building, the Pentagon, Police Stations, etc.) However, as their war continued, a few members of the group decided to up the ante and target human beings. They planned the bombing of a policeman's ball which, had the bomb they were building not exploded prematurely and killed three members of the Weathermen, could have killed hundreds of people. It is astonishing how easily people can justify violence in the name of peace. Even so, as I watched the documentary I found myself empathizing with the cause of The Weathermen, defending their actions, and rationalizing my defense of their actions. It took me some effort to step back and observe what was happening within my own mind- which made me appreciate just how seductive violence can be.

So how do we find the peace so many of us desperately desire? I believe that if those uf us who want peace understand how there are no sides; if we understand how there is no "us" and "them" no matter who we believe the us and them to be; if we understand how we create our own enemies- then we will be better prepared to bring lasting peace to the world. In order to do that, we each must understand how we do take sides; how our mind is conditioned by the world we live in to react to certain conditions in a way that puts us on one side or another in conflict situations in ways that seem to defy our wills. We were taught to live in forced dichotomies and we can un-learn it! We must work to let go of our polarized positions- let go of the idea that our polarized positions put us on the "right" or "good" sides different issues- if we want to know peace. Peace is not some end goal to be reached someday- that's just procrastination. Peace is something we can bring to the here and now. We must embrace truly unconditional and equinaminous love in order to dispel the hate that fuels violence. It all starts with awareness, and that's where I'm at. I'm simply aware of the violent, partial, judgemental patterns that lie within my own mind. As I develop that awareness and cultivate love and compassion, I have faith that these patterns will fall from my being of their own accord.

Now, while I believe that understanding the self and learning to embody peace is the only an individual can bring lasting peace to the world (and I believe there are infinite paths to that understanding), I also believe that violence is necessary. Violence is a teacher. Violence teaches us that violence is undesireable. It also teaches us, however slowly it seems to do so, that violence only begets more violence. Just as a drunk needs to drink as long as he needs to drink in order to learn that he doesn't want to drink anymore, the human race will continue to engage in violent behavior until it decides- one person at a time- that it has had enough and chooses to abstain from violence. We will either do that, or we will be at war until the end of our species as surely as an unreformed alcoholic will drink until the day he dies. The choice is yours to make.