Monday, August 23, 2010


In response to some questioning on self-defense I described the following:

I was first introduced to aikido by the author of "Giving in to get your way," a well written book. (He also happened to have written the script for the original "Friday the 13th" movie.) He had come at my invitation to have a "workshop" for the seniors at Moorestown Friends School in 1980. The principles that have been mentioned of aikido seemed appropriate for looking at an alternative way of dealing with violence and possibly of looking at "turning the other cheek" as away of "Giving in to get your way."

I was a "pacifist" in my early years when I thought I couldn't kill someone, until an incident at Ohio State U. with the National Guard "occupation" of campus in the very early 70's when I learned that I had, somewhere inside me, the capacity to "kill" someone who I had "dehumanized" in a brief moment clouded by frustration, teargas, and the "other" masked by a uniform and gas mask. A National Guardsman was coming at me, out of the cloud of tear gas, with lowered bayonet. I was walking across the "commons" heading to class when the Guard was ordered to clear the commons because it seemed like students were flooding the commons (a common occurrence at that time of day when the most classes were changing) and the "military" view was of an "attack." I was carrying a brief case. In the instant when, through tears and fog from the tear gas, I saw the Guardsman, more an apparition than a person, I sensed my hand tense around the handle of my briefcase and I "instinctively?" turned toward the apparition with the apparent intent of attacking it (him?). However, almost as quickly as that reaction, the tears began to flow because I realized that had I had a lethal weapon, I might well have used it to harm or kill what I realized was a person very much like the students I knew. From that time on, I have been a "pacifist" because I know I do have somewhere, hopefully well "covered," the capacity to do bodily harm or possibly kill another person.

I learned that it is "easy" to dehumanize another when they are "camouflaged" to appear different and when they are "foreign" to your way of thinking. It may be hard to follow the commandment of "Love thy Neighbor," but I believe that it did apply "even" to National Guard and does apply to all, even the "enemy." I believe we need to seek ways in which we can turn enemies into neighbors and trust that when the time does come that we can "turn" attackers away without harm to us or our loved ones or to the attacker. An "impossible dream" perhaps, but one I believe we are called to seek.

The Light

Having been requested to talk about my concept of the Light, I wrote the following in a rather "quick"off the "top of my head" way. There is much that I could add or edit but decided to post this as is.

The Light

It is difficult for me to use language other than New Testament and Friends language since this is the language of my father who was my spiritual guide and mentor even though he really never acted or talked in any other way than a father to me. He was a pastor and I spent many Sundays listening to her sermons but they didn’t mean a great deal to me until my adult years when I would visit. Mostly I remember the care that he took everyday, all day to express love, not a noticeable evident love. I don’t remember hugs in our family but I do remember smiles and looks that carried a humble “pride” and inward joy. I especially noticed these when my father looked at his grandchildren. For me these smiles and looks carried love in a very powerful way. I learned that “God is Love” was not just a powerful metaphor but somehow carried some of the most powerful human aspirations and realities.

In addition, my father introduced me to the Bible, writings of early and modern Friends, and Christian thinkers. I came to believe that there was truth in the concept of the “Light that was enlightening everyone,” “Inward Light,” etc. I went through a period in which I found it difficult to talk openly about the Light as “Christian” when I struggled with Friends who stated that anyone who did not believe in the Bible and Jesus Christ as they knew him was condemned to Hell and were somehow unworthy of our love. This very exclusive belief emphasizing guilt and fear seemed very foreign to the Light of Faith, Hope, and Love with the greatest of these Love.

My vision of the Light envisions a concept/idea/reality that is accessible to all persons. The manifestation can be seen/heard/felt/believed by persons who have never heard the story of Jesus nor the name Christ. However, as humans we each tend to become self focused and strive to understand Right/Wrong from our own perspective without openness to others. This is for me one of the meanings of the Genesis stories in which Adam and Eve are described as wanting to have the knowledge of Good and Evil for themselves, prompting the question “Where are you?” Similarly, Cain in striving to have his interpretation of the “best” sacrifice being recognized even to the extreme of killing his brother seen as a rival is asked “Where is your brother?” These two stories demonstrate the building of barriers to the Light that we all are susceptible to. These barriers create “oceans of darkness,” but the darkness cannot put out the light only prevent its experience. As the barriers between each other are broken down we help build down barriers to the Light. As we work at, or probably more accurately, allow the work to occur, breaking the barriers to the Light itself overcomes the ocean of darkness.

For me the Gospels are the heart of my understanding of the Light, but find the illumination in many other writings from different religions and writings, from ancient right up to contemporary writings.