[This is an edited version of the post, “A Thoughtful Heart,” originally published February 27, 2016.]
“A heart weary of hate cannot learn to love.”
I came upon this quote, credited to a Russian poet, in a New York Times article written by Mikhail Shishkin, “How Russians Lost the War.” He was decrying the manner in which the Russian authorities were ratcheting up old animosities toward fascism and love of the motherland to fire up patriotic support for the Kremlin’s policies in the Ukraine. “It is impossible to breathe in a country where the air is permeated with hatred. Much hatred has always been followed in history by much blood. What awaits my country?”
In writing about the effects of hatred on the human soul, Shishkin shares an all too familiar story about his own father:
“In his last years, he destroyed himself with vodka. He was the last man standing: All his submariner friends had drunk themselves into the grave long before. My father was cremated in his sailor’s uniform. He was probably eager to see his wartime buddies.”
People seem to respond to calls for patriotism in the face of perceived threats on the nation. I got to thinking, no matter what your own feelings are toward Russia, isn’t it easy for any of us to get caught up in patriotic fervor when our very survival is made the issue? Think 9-11.
Shishkin reminded me how dangerous it is to sign on to the “group think.” How damaging it can be to a community, to a nation, when fertile minds turn into a pile of mush.
It is so very easy to fall into tribal thinking:
- Brainwashing is what happens to the other guy,
- If only the other guy possessed my truth,
- The other guys make the world a difficult place for the rest of us.
The fact of the matter is that much of what we believe is a product of what we’ve been taught.
It is so easy to mount our white horse, look down upon the masses, and speak with moral authority. And perhaps the easiest way to find the high ground is to play follow the leader up to the mountain top.
Among the many compelling reasons for sobriety is that we need a clear head in order to think. The ability to think allows us to use our critical intelligence to scrutinize what is passed off as “truth,” so we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of history that have ravaged the human race with “godly acts” of butchery and intolerance.
Maybe simplicity is the best path.
Just a thought…
Copyright © 2017 Patrick J. Moriarty. All Rights Reserved.
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