"Happy Birthday!" read the simple text. As I blearily, but mentally, congratulated my distant friend on being the first to wish me well on reaching the distinguished age of 60, a news banner flashed across the screen that North Korea had detonated a nuclear bomb that could be carried on an ICBM—a city buster by all accounts, far larger than was detonated on Hiroshima.
Sleep for the rest of the night was difficult to find. Hot, restless, disturbed, weird dreams—I even had a chat, at one point, with Prime Minister Teresa May. It seemed important at the time, but I couldn't remember why on waking.
I'd like to put the disturbed night behind me, but the escalation of violent, vengeful rhetoric—that continued in the early morning tweets of President Trump—has left me still perturbed.
I have been a nonviolentist for almost two thirds of my life. In my understanding, a nonviolentist is someone who seeks to reduce violence through refraining from violent actions, who acts according to lovingkindness, and who seeks the good for the Other. It's more than a personal issue. A nonviolentist will try to work this out in her family, where she works, in every interaction, and will make political choices that lean the most toward nonviolence. I don't think nonviolence is easy, and to be a nonviolentist runs against the flow of much in our culture, and runs counter, too, to much of our early socialization.
When I feel disturbed, I buttress my commitment to nonviolence with helpful and sympathetic writings, as with this winsome passage from St. Paul in his advice to early Christians in Rome.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor ... Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves ... “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
If only we could live like this, what a difference we would make in the world!
So, on my sixtieth birthday, if I have a wish, it is that more of us consciously and intentionally take on the mantle of nonviolence, making lovingkindness our way of life.
Much love to all from this old geezer,