Wanted: Racists, Extremists, and Other Single-Minded Haters.
My grandmother’s death last week, along with the recent epidemic of violence and hatred sweeping our nation, really struck a nerve. When asked to give a speech at my grandmother’s funeral, I didn’t offer a list of tender memories or anecdotes. I wasn’t there to make anyone feel better about her death or life. I was there to apologize to her for how foolish I was for not visiting, for not learning more from her, for being a post-modern brat who thinks I have everything–including time–at my disposal.
Her death, and the deaths and suffering of those in recent shootings and attacks have shown just how much time I’ve wasted, and how foolish I’ve been.
The Path of Immersion means fluidity. Fluidity of mind, fluidity of spirit, fluidity of understanding. You see, it’s easy talking about interfaith action and pluralism with those predisposed to the cause. It’s easy to talk about supporting those suffering from hatred. We can and are doing that, all the time, but as I’ve said before, it’s all reactionary.
So, what will stop this madness? What will stop this epidemic before it becomes endemic in our society? That question has burned in my mind for days, and last night, I professed the solution to my wife.
“Do you know any racists?” I asked, lying next to my wife in the dark.
“Hmm, how about neo-Nazis or xenophobes? Religious extremists?”
She turned toward me. “What’s on your mind?”
“I think we’re doing this all wrong. We keep reacting to these tragic events, but nothing is changing. I wonder…I wonder if it’s because we aren’t including the other side in the conversation. What if fixing the problem begins with, you know, going where the problem is? With the people themselves?”
“So, you want to hang out with racists and extremists now…?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“You’re not right. But I love you.”
When Jesus was chastised for keeping company with prostitutes, tax collectors, and other social outcasts, he famously retorted that “It is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick.”
A person who opens fire on peaceful folks, praying in their house of worship, is sick. A person who utterly hates another simply due to a difference in skin color, is sick. A person who feels so lost, so desperate, so destroyed, and so hurt that they unleash a deadly fury on innocent bystanders in a movie theater or college campus, is sick. A person, so infested with religious/political/ideological zeal that they are willing to die and take the lives of those around them, is sick.
Something happened in their lives. Like a microscopic germ, someone, something, somewhere, at sometime, initiated that infection, and the only way to cure them is to go to them and patiently, lovingly, carefully administer the cure.
That, is the Path of Immersion. It is being living water for whatever vessel, whatever environment is in need. It is flowing in the crystal streams and polluted gutters with utter equanimity. How does one effectively immerse in these lives? By listening to them, by allowing them to speak, to express, to vent, to be a patient example of a healthy outlook, an alternative to hatred and suffering, and allow them to purge themselves of the poison rotting their core. Then, in that vacuum, in that precious vessel, trickle into them with nourishing waters.
Impossible, you say. Too dangerous, you object. They aren’t worth it. They are too far gone, too stuck in their own ways to ever change.
How do I know for certain the Path of Immersion can cure hatred, bigotry, extremism?
Because I’m a former patient. Was I too far gone? Was I not worth the trouble of my teachers and mentors? I discovered the Path for myself, applied it, and now share it with you.
Who will you be life-giving water for today?