There was a recent article in the New York Times that reminded me ever so much of Epicurus and his premise that material wealth does not bring happiness. A nice little reminder that more things will not guarantee a happy life.
As I attempt to process the events that unfurled on January 6th, 2021, I have stumbled back upon some of my earlier reflections based on the concept of loving struggle. I thought this one in particular was worth posting again.
When I first read about Jaspers and his concept of loving struggle I had a bit of trouble getting my mind around it. However, with continued contemplation of the concept, I think I am beginning to get it.
Now, I seem to find the idea of this loving struggle echoing in the words of many people whose work focuses on peace and conflict resolution, and I am beginning to see why Jaspers thought our survival depends on our ability to enter into a loving struggle with others.
One place where I am repeatedly reminded of the importance of the loving struggle is the radio program On Being. This program from American Public Media, focuses on “big questions at the center of human life”. One recent program focused on forgiveness and revenge. As I listened to the guest, Michael McCullough, I suddenly found myself thinking, “He is talking about the loving struggle.”
McCullough is a research psychologist whose work focuses on the social and biological factors involved in forgiveness and revenge. In his interview, he compared and contrasted situations in which individuals sought revenge and situations in which people offered forgiveness instead of revenge. He looked at interpersonal situations, but he also extrapolated to global political examples, and he said that people seem to be hardwired to seek revenge when we are wronged, but “if you can convince me that you’re safe, right, that I don’t have to worry about being harmed in the same way a second time, maybe I’m willing to move a little bit forward” and look for a peaceful resolution.
How does the perpetrator convince the victim that he/she is safe? By engaging in a loving struggle. McCullough offers two wonderful examples. One figure of public forgiveness whom Michael McCullough writes about is Bud Welch. His 23-year-old daughter Julie died in the bombing of the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Another touching example comes from Uganda. In both cases, by engaging in loving struggle, the cycle of violence is being broken. It is worth a listen:
As I contemplate Karl Jasper’s idea of “loving struggle,” I find that at least in my understanding, his ideas are quite similar to the ideas of Thich Nhat Hanh. Both men recognize the importance of communication in the peace process. Both see that while it is not easy for us to enter into a dialogue with our adversaries, it is necessary if we are ever going to coexist peacefully. We need to see the world from the perspective of the other if we are to have any hope of resolving conflicts. As long as we negate the suffering of the other, there is a chasm that prevents us from showing them compassion. Why do I need to show compassion to my “enemy”? Because this compassion allows me to become a mindful listener. If the other person/group believes that they are being listened to, that their point of view/suffering is being acknowledged, it can result in a lowering of their defenses. They begin to open up and see that there might be a way towards peace and common understanding.
- “Wisdom for Cooling the Flames” Thich Nhat Hanh (peoplesadvocacycouncil.wordpress.com)
One of the central tenets of Jasper’s work is the idea of “loving struggle”. It seems to me that this loving struggle ultimately allows for a world in which diversity is no longer viewed as a threat. A world where differences are embraced, and cultures can live together in harmony. Thus, I bring you my musical vision of “loving struggle”.
of the humid summer skies
sing outside my door
call to mind the past
with dull stacato melody
of the cicada
McCarty explains that “Jaspers envisioned the bond forged in soulful dialogue multiplying from two to four, and expanding ever outward. These widening circles of connection create community; strong communities make peace possible.” These words brought to mind the following song by the Black Eyed Peas. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could learn to communicate, to build respect and enter into what Jaspers called “loving struggle” and find peace.
(One for all, one for all)
(It’s all it’s all for one)
Let’s start a union, calling every human
It’s one for all and all for one
Let’s live in unison, calling every citizen
It’s one for all and all for one
We don’t want war- can’t take no more
It’s drastic time for sure
We need an antidote and a cure
Coz do you really think Mohammed got a problem with Jehovah
We don’t want war – imagine if any prophet was alive
In current days amongst you and I
You think they’d view life like you and I do
Or would they sit and contemplate on why
Do we live this way, act and behave this way
We still live in primitive today
Coz the peace in the destination of war can’t be the way
There’s no way, so people just be a woman, be a man
Realize that you can’t change the world by changing yourself
And understand that we’re all just the same
So when I count to three let’s change
Got no time for grand philosophy
I barely keep my head above the tide
I got this mortgage, got three kids at school
What you’re saying is the truth, but really troubles me inside
I’d change the world if I could change my mind
If I could live beyond my fears
Exchanging unity for all my insecurity
Exchanging laughter for my tears
I don’t know, y’all, we in a real deposition
In the midst of all this negative condition
Divided by beliefs, differences and religion
Why do we keep missing the point in our mission?
Why are we killing each other, what’s the reason?
God made us all equal in his vision
I wish that I could make music as a religion
Then we could harmonise together in this mission
Listen, I know it’s really hard to make changes
But two of us could help rearrange, discuss
Utilize the power in our voices
Together we will unite and make the right choice
And fight for education, save the next generation
Come together as one
I don’t understand why it’s never been done
So let’s change on the count of one
It takes one, just one
And then one follows the other one
And then another follows the other one
Next thing you know you got a billion
People doing some wonderful things
People doing some powerful things
Let’s change and do some powerful things
Unity could be a wonderful thing
It has been a particularly stormy spring, but it hasn’t stopped me from getting out and working in my garden. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve actually learned a thing or two as a result.
Lesson Two: Life’s Storms Prepare Us For Transformations
I was out working in my garden the other day, and I noticed how much easier it has been to prep my garden beds this year. Of course, the reason is all of the rain. That got me thinking. Last year, we had a spring filled with strings of beautiful days, but the ground was hard and unyielding when I started to plant. That is kind of like us! When things are okay, we tend to get into a routine, and it becomes harder and harder for us to accept change into our lives. However, after a “stormy” time that is filled with challenges, sometimes we are open to change.
Maybe we can learn to see life’s storms as necessary preparation for the growth and transformation we need in our lives.
Here is a nice interview that allows McCarty to talk about her book. I hope you enjoy it!
Lesson learned: don’t give up just because things aren’t working out the way you’d planned them… sometimes you find that things not only work out, they go better than originally planned!
- Walking in the Rain (bongodogblog.com)