My head has been swirling for a month: terrorist attacks in multiple countries, shootings, refugee crises, political parties and religions pitted against each other. I saw a post a social media last week after the shooting in San Bernandino where the person concluded that it is “impossible to process the chaos in our world right now.”
I would like to pose the question: Is it really that impossible? Human beings have been doing horrible things to each other for practically as long as we’ve existed as a race. Cain and Abel, anyone?
Then there were the Crusades, authorized by the pope. European colonization in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, with the rich benefiting at the expense of the native people.The Holocaust. Armenian and Cambodian and Rwandan genocides. Human trafficking and child labor.
I am by no means justifying or unconcerned with what’s recently happened in the world or saying that you or I may directly be the cause of it. But think about it. We’ve been selfish, we’ve taken advantage of the weak, of the poor, of the powerless, for our own personal gain or because we, as Westerners, “deserve” to have access to cheap clothing or cheap whatever even if it comes at the expense of an underpaid worker in the third world (some of those underpaid workers are my neighbors here in Mexico). We’ve bullied. We haven’t loved our neighbor. We’ve judged those who are different from us. So is it really that impossible to process why our world is in absolute chaos?
I’m reading an amazing autobiography right now, The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. The author details his conversion to Christianity and, later, his decision to become a Trappist monk. He was living in New York in 1939, when WWII broke out, and observed that most people…
…did not realize that the world had now become a picture of what the majority of its individuals had made of their own souls. We had given our minds and wills up to be raped and defiled by sin, by hell itself and now, for our inexorable instruction and reward, the whole thing was to take place all over again before our eyes, physically and morally, in the social order, so that some of us at least might have some conception of what we had done.
The state of human souls in 1939 doesn’t sound a whole lot different than our current state, in 2015. Thomas Merton also said that “if you don’t want the effect, do something the remove the causes.” We can remove the causes by how we interact with our families, our co-workers, with those that are different from us, be it culturally or religiously or whatever . When we choose love instead of hate, to serve instead of to be served, to fight for what’s right and true and good. Our world will always be chaotic if there is no peace in our hearts. It starts with us. With you, with me.