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Letter to the Ethers: 4/24/2002

After pulling on my warm gloves and taking one last look into the mirror to make sure my wool cap was covering both ears, I reached for the door. Although the calendar says that it’s spring, it will be cold out there. My eyes met their reflection in the mirror and those eyes asked me to take a long, deep look into the motivation behind what I was about to do? I was leaving the warmth and comfort of my peaceful home to participate in an attempt to “demand” settlement of the conflict in the Middle East, to stop a war, to rid the world of terrorism.

I had never actually seen a public demonstration before leave alone been a part of one. But I know this is something people do when they want desperately to change something that seems beyond their capacity to change, when they feel utterly helpless as to what to do about it. And that describes what I am feeling. I have never for a moment questioned the sincerity of the intentions behind a public demonstration.

But my reflection in the mirror was questioning me now. It wanted to know, if hidden behind my longing for peace, there may be some anger within my heart? If my ego is, in any way, seeking gratification by publicly pronouncing my objection to what is nothing more and nothing less than group anger—people warring against people? Am I subjecting myself this night to anger magnification by participating in the emotion of a group? We all know that anger feeds upon anger and that both war and terrorism are consequences.

Is there a more effective way? If we believe that gathering together for a common cause, publicly demonstrating our objection, and bearing banners can actually have a positive effect on a situation, can we take a look at the larger picture as well? Are we aware of the message that the demonstration itself sends forth? Are we perpetuating separation rather than the peace and unity we proclaim? Aren’t we saying, “We’re over here and you’re over there”; “We’re right so you must be wrong”? It seems to me that nothing is ever so black or white as all that; that we can agree with a principle while disagreeing with what needs to be done about it.

It was a wise person who said, “Of course, love is the answer. What’s the question?” Maybe love can overcome the anger, the fear, and especially the ignorance that drives people to rise up against other people. Maybe if there were enough love, neither war nor terrorism could exist.

I closed the door, removed my protective gloves and my wool cap. I built a fire in my fireplace and sat down in my favorite chair. After taking some deep breaths and growing very still, I summoned up my capacity to feel love and gratitude. And then I imaged a hate-filled terrorist kneeling before me, pleading for understanding, and I embraced him in this beautiful feeling that was consuming me. I was at peace and was reminded once again that peace has to begin with me.

Mavis Mathews

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