Saturday, October 07, 2017

How Do You End Violence?

Posed with this question while watching a docu film, I had to pause and think if I had an answer worth sharing online. I had none – so, I kept thinking some more. But then, I had to pause again because ants were coming in and out of my PC keyboard. My fault! I should never have moved from the computer table to the dining table to write.

The ants! Yes, they reminded me of King Solomon, who – as the legend goes – was marching his army one day and saw that on the road ahead was a colony of ants crossing their path. Now, we all know that Solomon was unlike his warrior-father, King David, for he was a man of peace. So, why was he leading an army? As a king, he had the obligation to keep an army for national and personal security purposes. Besides, as an artist/writer/scientist/tycoon/harem-keeper/leader all rolled into one, he had to travel to foreign lands and “explore” the world.

Well then, to prove our point that he was unlike his father, Solomon ordered his army to change direction, to find another way and avoid trampling on the tiny army of ants. He was simply avoiding committing a massacre without even shooting an arrow!

Perhaps, Solomon’s way – whether you believe the story was real or not -- can help us find creative ways we have never tried before to end violence once and for all. Well, the docu eventually provided one possible answer to its own question by suggesting that we end the cycle of revenge and violence by allowing people to talk. Meaning, people need to listen to one another and discover that their own needs and issues are no different from those of their enemies. Perhaps then, we can learn to truly empathize and learn to live harmoniously with one another.

And so, like Solomon who talked to God and listened to His Creation, we can also realize that ants, no matter how despicable they may be to us, are some of the least of God’s creatures also collecting scraps of food and merely trying to survive in this world. And if we can learn to value these almost negligible insects the way Solomon did, we may also find in our hearts to value other people – no matter how despicable or hateful they may seem at times.

The violence begins in our hearts and minds. My own instincts are telling me to squish these typical ants with my fingers (while I type!); but I could not because the keys are in the way. I use my rubber-ball air-blower instead and send the ants flying off the keyboard. One can almost wish we can blow violence away that easily. Much like changing our path so we will not have to disturb an ant colony which, in reality, may have the capacity to send horses or humans go berserk. And you think Solomon’s wisdom only applied to splitting babies? In fact, he was only applying his simple rule to solve violence: Choose between violence and love. He gambled with a baby’s life and was vindicated by a loving mother!

This same vital question elicits various answers from people on the issue of the proliferation of guns v.v. the rise in mass killings all over the world. Many say controlling guns will solve the mass killings. Others respond by saying that mass killings have been committed using things other than guns.

Question: Have insecticides ever stopped ants and other pests from proliferating? That is, we might think of anti-gun laws like they were pesticides and that they are the most efficient or logical means of stopping people from using guns to kill people. But guns were precisely invented to kill people – good or bad! It is quite too late to stop people – governments and gun manufacturers – from producing guns. If we have heard of the arms race, we probably realize we cannot put a stop to arms being made en masse. We have tried doing that with drugs and they still proliferate. Where there is money; there is anarchy – and vice versa as well. Change direction and find other solutions.

Another question: If we allow guns to be produced and enacted stricter rules, how do we deal with other means of killing, such as using bombs or nerve gas, ramming into crowds with trucks, flying a plane into a tower or even slowly poisoning populations with commercial food laced with cancerous or unhealthful substances? Violence does not always come with a big or small bang or the sudden issue of blood from ruptured human veins. It can come from all the mean and evil ways we say and do to one another in our personal or collective pursuits. Do you know what Cain used to kill Abel? Who cares now? Not even Moses cared to tell us, aside from the fact that sin did it. Today, we say, “Guns kill – sin is not an issue.” If we only truly realize that we will all die because of sin!

I heard a respectable parent once say quite seriously that his child had a sort of imp or devilish spirit driving it to exhibit nearly crazy or violent behavior that is not uncommon among kids. He wondered where that “spirit” came from and how it came to be controlling his child’s actions, to his consternation. We can be sure the parent had tried “jailing” the child inside a room or “disciplining” it with a rod. But what other law or means of control can a parent impose – or a national leader, for that matter – in order to stop violent behavior once and for all?

Remember, Solomon did engage in war more than once during his reign. An army does not exist for no reason at all. Guns or bombs are modern permissible means of fighting those who use them as well for unlawful reasons. Violence – and its monstrous clone, terrorism – is here to stay. Not that we are giving up on the issue. If we must be practical, sensible and, yes, biblical, we would listen to the Lord of David and Solomon speak: “He who is filthy, let him be filthy still. . . ; he who is holy, let him be holy still. . . ; and behold, I Am coming quickly and My reward is with Me to give to everyone according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.

Only God can stop violence once and for all. The best we can do is to stop it within our hearts and minds NOW. Not by throwing away our pesticides or guns but by throwing away our sinful anger. Not by looking to see if there are ants on our path but to see if there are people who might need whatever little attention and help we can give. Not by posting hurtful or unpolished words in response to photos, videos, sayings and actions of people but with corresponding words and actions made tasteful by a grain of salt. Taste first what we feed others to make sure we are not dispensing poison to an already toxic world.

Yes, I think that should work in a fast-paced world where we multi-task walking with texting, watching with working, eating with talking, socializing with bashing and, the most oxymoronic human activities ever, studying with gaming.

Living the kind of life we have inherited today can become a most tiresome task. That is why there is a need for us to study how to live life to the full. Many people fill their hearts and minds with hatred and violence because they never learned how to live a full life. Terrorists aim to kill because they themselves find no reason to live the empty life they have. They have a death wish for others – as well as for themselves. The new joke is that the only way to stop the mass killings is to sell more guns because those who kill with guns end up killing themselves!

The reason there is a judgment in the end is because the life we have is not in any way full. God rewards those who strive to live life fully with even more life, no, with endless life! But that does not mean we cannot live fully even now. There is a Way – if you know what I mean. If only we can talk one another into accepting this principle instead of fighting one another, we could make this world much better for more people. For even among believers, there is so much anger and violence hidden within us. Or as the song goes: What the world needs now is love, sweet love! And as the Golden Rule states: Love one another.

For only love can fill an empty heart. And the love of God is so great that He made this world and gave us life though it may seem un-full or unfulfilling to us. But if we truly believe, the perfect love and perfect peace of God will overflow from our hearts.

(Painting above: Courtesy of

Friday, April 14, 2017

Holy Week Blues (Part 1)

(This article was published in 2004)

I like writing songs more than essays. In fact, the moment I wrote the title above (a technique of using the title as the guiding summary in writing the lyric or the text), I thought this would make a very interesting song. (One of these days, I might make one.) Still, an article allows one to expose more clearly a thought than a song could, although a song can express more emotions in a word or two than an essay could in a thousand.

A word or two sung requires one to give off a part of one’s soul, if breathing were to be taken as a function of the soul more than the body, as the ancient Chinese believed. But writing, if we are to glean from some of the best writers, requires no less participation by the soul. I think the soul reacts to both impulses – a song and an essay – in much the same way, except that it receives them through different mediums. One comes through the ears while the other comes through the eyes. Our society, having been dominated by high-tech audio-visual media and no longer by the plain spoken or written word, has led many of us to forget the use of those muscles designed for the latter.

All this leads us to the irony of this week‘s significance in our individual and national life. From my own experience, Holy Week served to bring the faithful alternately from the lowest to the highest point in the annual cycle where we can all face the meaning of life and death in the glorious context of the resurrection. But the simplicity of the original story and the directness of the healing process it carries have all but disappeared from the complexities of human enterprise.

After having just read two articles reviewing Mel Gibson’s “The Passion”, what else can one do but join the plaintive chorus and provide, at least, a solemn counterpoint. For in a few days (from Maundy Wednesday to Easter Sunday), we literally fall down to our knees as we recall the greatest sacrifice of all. The thoughts and emotions that arise from all Christians worldwide put together at this time of the year could not be matched by the intensity of all the feelings aroused by all the best singers or athletes inside auditoriums and arenas. The latter may surpass the former with its avidity and loudness, but will never equal it in sincerity and faithfulness. One is the triumph of human achievement, the other the triumph of divine excellence. One the life of victory, the other the victory of life.

That many spend this time also to go to the beaches or to engage in various mindless revelries may not be really ironic or appalling, for such is the variety of human experiences and perceptions. After centuries of having gone through the external requirements of this religious habit, perhaps, without having imbibed the true meaning of the original events, many have simply taken off the ceremonial clothes and have decided to bask in the sunlight of individual freedom. One person’s holy day is another person’s holiday. It is as simple as that, if you come to think of it. For Holy Week itself represents the very reversal of human fortunes in the face of adversity and despair. Rejection and vindication. Death and resurrection. Grief and joy. Mortality and immortality. Some choose to live the moment and forget the past or the future without fear of the consequences. Some choose to live the moment for all eternity in spite of circumstances. How we live is, after all, all up to us individually. Not the most stringent and cruel laws that may prohibit either license or worship will prevent anyone from doing it just the same. Rogues and martyrs prove this.

Freedom and happiness are two of the basic rights guaranteed by modern societies, in general. But this does not mean that we, as humans, have finally arrived. Far from it. That Mel Gibson’s movie should be attacked by Jews for being anti-Semitic and rejected by others for being fascistic should convince us. Why? Well, for one thing, whether the Jews actually acknowledge the historicity of the story or not, their reaction speaks of their continuing unbelief in the fact that the Messiah has indeed come . . . and gone. And so, they do not know or experience the real meaning of freedom and joy in earthly life. They criticize that which should have given them reason to be proud of and thankful for, for having been chosen as the bearers of the original good news.

And why do so many of us defer so much to the Jews when they feel offended? For fear that we offend God for taking a stand against His chosen people? Or is it because they wield so much power in global economy and fear any repercussions? Then let the Lord speak once more in His anger.

Christ cursed the Jewish leaders for their murderous attitude against prophets. (One of the reasons why they eliminated Him.) Notice this passage in Matthew 23:30-39:

"And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.' "

(Try reading the last paragraph not with pretended divine wrath but with tearful compassion and assured victory and you will somehow know what divine love and power are all about. It does not take an actor to be able to internalize these words. It only needs an open mind.)

“The Passion” is but half of the story. There is a reckoning as well as a reconciliation. I hope Mel Gibson will do the most natural thing in Hollywood and do a sequel (or two) by portraying the resurrection and the eventual return of Christ. (I am sure the skeptics, mockers and the atheists will give him free media exposure this time.) Then maybe, just maybe, the modern Jews will have reason to truly rejoice with the rest of the believing world. That all of them may realize that their privilege as chosen ones has never been lost but only reserved for the common glorification for all the saved.

Yes, the Jews and unbelievers, in general, act this way today only because they do not believe Christ rose from the dead. Imagine what songs they could be singing with all Christians if they did. Then, we could forget about all these Holy Week Blues and sing Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" instead!

(Photo above of Jim Caviezel as Christ courtesy of Google.)