Well meaning people, many of them social critics, often bite off more than they (or others) can chew. With all of the focus on violence in our society, many are stepping forward advocating total non-violence. It’s an important goal. Much like climbing Mount Everest, however, we can’t go from the starting line to the finish line in one step. Whenever we are faced with a daunting task, it’s extremely helpful to break it up into smaller, more manageable steps – baby steps, if you will. With our eyes firmly fixed on the finish line, we might start by reducing the amount of violence we take in. Do we really need to watch cage fighting as much as we do – or at all? What about our other forms of entertainment? Can we reduce the violence in our language so that we rely more on convincing people to see things our way rather than coercing them to do so?
Perhaps more fundamentally, can we look at the roots of our violence – our anger and our fear – and take significant steps to reduce them? I believe there is a part of us that is very afraid that the “me” we have come to know and love will cease to exist if certain things happen. Exactly what those things are varies from person to person, but it’s pretty common these days to believe that if someone doesn’t treat us with the splendor we believe we deserve to become extremely fearful – and then extremely angry to mask our fear. Spiritual practice moves us beyond the idea of a permanent, unchanging “me” that I need to defend with all my strength and allows us to start, step by steps, reducing our anger and our violence. It isn’t going to happen over night, but any step in the right direction will have a huge impact on our society.