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Monday, July 18, 2005

The Tao Teh Ching

In the aftermath of the London bombings, I--for a moment--held out hope that one of the leaders involved would finally come to realize the futility of the approach that we currently take against terrorism. Over the weekend, I read that Tony Blair had begun to talk of the fight as one of ideas and emotions rather than as one of bullets and bombs, and I was heartened by this.

This morning, however, I read the following in a story called "Backing U.S. in Iraq put UK at risk, think tank says" on the Reuters online feed:

Security experts said the Iraq war had boosted recruitment and fund-raising for al Qaeda, suspected of being behind London bombings on July 7 that killed 55 people....Defense Secretary John Reid added his voice to the government's dismissal of the report, arguing the whole international community had to confront terrorism.

"One of the lessons of history is that if you run away from this it doesn't actually get better," Reid told the BBC.

Once again, my hopes fell. And then I thought of Lao Tse. There were some verses at the end of The Tao Teh Ching that applied to this, I was sure. So, here's what I came up with after purusing the text for maybe five minutes:

From Chapter 67:

I have Three Treasures;
Guard them and keep them safe:
The first is Love.
The second is Never Too Much.
The third is Never Be the First in the World.
Through love, one has no fear.
Through not doing too much, one has amplitude.
Through not presuming to be the first in the world, one can develop one's talent and let it mature.

If one forsakes love and fearlessness,
Forsakes Restraint and reserve power,
Forsakes following behind and rushes in front,
He is doomed!

For love is victorious in attack
And invulnerable in defense,
Heaven arms with love
Those it would not see destroyed.

(Translated from Chinese into English by Lin Yutang.)

To say that more killing is not the answer is not to run away from the problem. In truth, killing means running away from it. Confronting terrorism means having a courage greater than the kind that is found at the butt end of a gun or on the tip of a laser-guided bomb. It means having the courage to reach out and to comfort those who seem to hate you.

Of course, I am not the first to think of this. Jesus said, "Love thy enemy" and told Peter to put away his sword. Lao Tse certainly knew it, and so did Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Irrational violence, such as that practiced by al Quaeda, cannot stand up to love. Love makes it seem foolish and useless and brings shame to those who practice it.

Heaven arms with love those it would not see destroyed.

Unfortunately, we are ruled by children who think the tactics of the schoolyard bully are the epitome of wit and cunning. They cannot see that every terrorist you blow up creates two more and that every innocent life lost creates ten. To paraphrase Shylock, if we will be revenged, why not they?

Violence is a fire that can fanned and stoked quickly into an inferno. Only love can douse it. Sure, there will be embers that will burn here and there, but isn't it better to deal with burning embers than to live in a world aflame?


Anonymous said...

Of course you're right, if only every George, Dick and Hamad would listen. People act so much more passionately about revenge than they do about love. Love needs a really catchy new slogan. How about, "Love, try it with breathing!"or "Love- the excitement is in the subtlties!"

I'll keep working on it.

Hart Feltman

Len said...

Of course, when you're talking about the Bushies, you have totake into account that they think that conquering the Middle East is sound long-term energy policy. Developing alternatives to oil is a mug's game to them. And they're just the mug's for the job.

But wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall should Georgie ever meet his own personal saviour? I think the lamb of God might put aside all the peace and love stuff and give Georgie quite the dressing down.

Keep up the good work with the slogans. Let's strap it to the suicide bomber and see if it explodes, as they say in the ad game.