One of the most powerful remembrances of World War I is a field of blood-red ceramic poppies being created at the Tower of London. Throughout the summer and fall until Armistice Day on November 11, volunteers will be "planting" 888,246 poppies--one for each of the British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the war. While the overall effect is stunning (the installation is called “Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red,” and the poppies appear from afar to be a river of blood streaming from the Tower) the installation also reminds us that each of the 800,000 plus casualties was a living, breathing person. Noting that the poppies are delicate and that some have been broken while being planted, the official charged with overseeing the planting said, "It's so devastating when you break it because it's representing a life."
So it is with every war. We manage to justify our warfare by depersonalizing our opponents. Collectively, they are the enemy, the terrorists, the other. We talk in abstract terms of casualty numbers and "collateral damage," argue politics and find ways to justify the actions of "our side," all the while pushing from our minds the men, women, and children who bear the consequences of the decision to wage war. And yet each and every one of the dead, the wounded, the displaced is a human being who loves and laughs, fears and feels pain.
All religious traditions teach that life is precious, although humanity seems to repeatedly find ways around this teaching. Yogic tradition tells us that we are all one. "To know the unity of all life leads to deathlessness; to know not leads to death," we are told in the Upanishads. If we truly believe in the unity of all life, we must also believe the words of the poet John Donne, "Each man's death diminishes me." We must see each and every person as part of ourselves and regard no life as expendable. We must be speak peace, make peace, be peace. Om shanti.
Come explore peacemaking with us at this Sunday's sadhana, 5:45 p.m, Ruscombe Community Health Center.