Peace, nonviolence and puppies

A little more about my journey through Bob Goff’s book Dream Big. As I mentioned yesterday, in response to the prompt “Are there some recurring themes in your behaviors and choices?” I wrote in all-caps, “PEACE. NONVIOLENCE. PUPPIES.”

I realized then that he may have been talking more about behaviors I want to adjust as opposed to themes that I often return to in my thoughts and writings, and so I pursued the question along the lines I pursued yesterday. But those really are three of my “passion topics.”

I really can’t think of a human activity more downright foolish than war. People — or more accurately their leaders or rulers — have a disagreement, and to resolve their differences they hurl their subjects at each other with a goal of killing as many of their opponents’ subjects as possible. That resolves nothing: Everyone still disagrees, and the only real results are resentment, grief, anger and a greater hatred than before the killing started.

My experience is that people want peace. Almost every transaction and interaction between humans is peaceful. War is an aberration and the most utter failure to preserve the peace. I started out confused by the whole concept, and I have become more virulently anti-war as time goes on.

Losing Red, the wonderful human being with whom I shared the last quarter century, has made me even more so. Hers was a peaceful death — or as peaceful a death as a horrible disease can offer — but the loss has helped me understand, in a way I hadn’t quite grasped before, just how devastating and complete death is. To cause the premature death of another human being, deliberately, is nothing short of insane.

I have written often of my admiration for Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus the Christ, with regard to their commitment to nonviolent solutions. 

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” Jesus said. “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone takes your cloak, do not withhold your tunic as well.” That’s hard advice to swallow, but it’s more likely to turn an enemy into a friend someday than killing that enemy and as many of his friends as you can.

And then there’s puppies. Do I really need to say more? There are dozens if not hundreds of writings and memes about how if you want to learn about unconditional love, pay attention to your puppy. The bond between puppy and human is one of the greatest examples to follow about how to love.

I was going to write “One of the greatest examples to follow about how to love your neighbor,” but a puppy can get pretty feisty if a neighbor or other stranger is perceived as a threat to those she loves. In the absence of a threat, though, there’s nothing like puppy love. If turning the other cheek doesn’t work, try handing your enemy a puppy. 

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UPDATE: So many people were supportive yesterday that I thought I’d do this for awhile. For Tuesday: “Write one thank-you note.” Done. “Write one paragraph of Jeep.” Done. “Write one paragraph of (other unannounced work in progress).” Done. I suspect pretty soon I’ll be regularly exceeding those daily minimums.

What a dream I had

There’s the signpost up ahead — We’re entering the zone where not much can be explained rationally. How do such things happen? Only through explanations beyond the grasp of the average human. Of course, what is “average” anyway, and for that matter what is “human”?

We have all been dropped into a giant Candid Camera show, or perhaps a giant spy-op if you prefer sinister motives. “What can I get away with today?” asked the sociopath in charge, and he directed his minions to give his latest experiment a try.

Oh wait, I just woke up a few minutes ago. It was all a bad dream, wasn’t it? There aren’t really people out there acting as if the government ruled us instead of the other way around. There aren’t really people who are mixed up about what “by the people, of the people, for the people” means. I was just having a nightmare, and freedom of speech is still rocking and rolling, and no one is abusing freedom of the press to the point where the press is a parody of itself. What a dream I had! I’m glad I was asleep and all that goofy stuff wasn’t really coming down.

It was weird, though — up was down, good was evil, in was out, freedom was slavery, and ignorance was strength. The scariest part was when people started talking as if war was peace, as if peace was abnormal and kindness was a weakness. The lunatics were in charge of the proverbial asylum, and if you noticed, you were accused of being a lunatic yourself or a dupe of a foreign power.

Phew! The dream was so real I didn’t realize I was dreaming.

A day for bridge building

And what kind of a day shall this be? Meteorologists spend hours poring over the signs to determine how the atmosphere may behave today, and so we have some sense of what kind of day it will be in terms of sun or rain or wind or calm or storms or all of the above — but what kind of a day shall this be?

There is much that is not mine to control — some of it is up to the whims of the three animals who live with me under this roof. Other factors are the people I will interact with today — what is on their mind, and how can I make it easier for them? How can I remind them of the good in this world, how can I help them during the brief moments or minutes or hours that I will be a part of their day?

If I am to be just a passing glance of an encounter, then so be it, but if I am able to leave an impression, let it be one that builds bridges and a sense of relief that life is worth the effort and we are in this together. Keep anger far from my soul and banish hatred altogether — place patience and love on my lips that I may spread them far and near.

May I practice loving my neighbor so well and so often that it comes as naturally as it does to a musician who has devoted 10,000 hours to her instrument. Let today be one of those days, and may I remember to frame tomorrow and tomorrow with even greater love.

We could get along if we wanted

Sometimes I think about how any number of things may have unfolded differently in my youth had I had the ability to call or send a message/text at a key moment.

Think how many classic stories would be ruined if they were set in the modern era — stories where something tragic happens because of not being able to communicate, say if Romeo or Juliet had been able to send a text saying, “Don’t be alarmed, I’m going to try something, it’s not what it looks like.”

We have in the palm of our hand, the ability to reach across the miles and avoid all sorts of catastrophes and misunderstandings in a way that was unfathomable when many of us were younger. We are linked. We can connect at a moment’s notice to anyone almost anywhere on the planet.

And yet the same catastrophes and misunderstandings keep happening.

It seems the ability to communicate is not the same as the will to communicate.

There’s a catch

There’s a catch in the Lord’s Prayer.

It says “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

The same kind of catch is in one of the two great laws.

It says “Love your neighbor as yourself.

We’re praying that God forgive our sins only to the extent that we forgive those who sin against us.

And if we have no self-respect, we’re going to have trouble loving our neighbors.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The first move’s on you; that is to say, it’s up to us.

End the stupid

I never heard the expression “I know you are, but what am I?” until (of all things) the movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

It comes to mind as I watch the reaction to the new song “Try That in a Small Town,” which suggests that big-city violence would not have a long shelf life in a smaller community. 

“See how far ya make it down the road; Around here, we take care of our own,” sings Jason Aldean. “You cross that line, it won’t take long for you to find out.”

“It’s racist!” “I know you are, but what am I? Your songs advocate violence in the first place!” “I know you are, but what am I?”

It’s stupid to condone violence under any circumstances. It’s stupid to make judgments based on race or skin color under any circumstances. And what is “race” if not separation based on skin color? We’re all homo sapiens — all this talk about different human races is a silly (or evil) attempt to divide and perhaps (probably) conquer.

It all comes down to a single law — Love one another, one of two central laws — the other is Love God.

All this noise — all these screams of “You started it!” and “I’m just responding to what you said/did” — is a variation on “I know you are, but what am I?” Enough already. Can we just get back to Love God and Love one another? And if you can’t wrap your mind around God, can we at least try loving one another? Do you have a problem with love? Really?  

The cycle of violence/retaliation ends either when someone refuses to retaliate or when everyone’s dead. Myself, I prefer the idea of someone refusing to meet violence with violence. Peace has to start somewhere, with someone.


Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount launches with eight pretty powerful blessings. As quoted in the Gospel of Matthew, they are:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(I never understood who the “poor in spirit” are supposed to be, but I learned tonight it’s folks who recognize they need God. That makes sense in context.)

The people who were listening had to be a little confused by some of this. All right, let’s understand that we need God and we should hunger and thirst to be righteous and pure in heart. But what’s this stuff about being meek and merciful and peacemakers? 

Shouldn’t a God-fearing person be strong and forceful about proclaiming and enforcing God’s laws? And this bit a little later when he says if somebody slaps you in the face, you should offer up the other side of your face so he can slap that, too? Wait just a cotton-picking minute.

Jesus here is serving up the recipe for non-violent civil disobedience that the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King finally embraced during the 20th century. Yep, it took nearly 2,000 years of religious leaders going to war and forcing Christianity on reluctant and/or conquered souls before somebody took to heart what Jesus was trying to say here.  

Jesus, Gandhi and King were all assassinated. That’s how dangerous non-violence is to some people. Make peace? Be humble of heart and, for crying out loud, merciful? That sort of talk needs to be put down, and hard. 

This life Jesus was talking about was not easy — the gentle and the loving tend to be ground up and spit out in what passes for “real life” in this day and age. But imagine how much better this world could be if we took these words to heart.