The War Inside

“For everything must serve the purpose you have given it, until you see a different purpose there.” – – Lesson 128 from A Course In Miracles


There is a miracle occurring in me right this second.  I’m missing the beginning of my usual autumn Sunday ritual in order to write, having been affected certainly by the worldwide happenings of the weekend.  Each weekend I sit in front of a screen and watch 22 grown men who have put on pads and helmets and miles and miles of tape, bash the living shit out of each other.  What a wonderful distraction, and free of charge!  I’m sure not about to give up the NFL.  It does provide a form of fun and entertainment for me, but if I’m truly within myself, can I admit that something else might be going on? Might I be seeing an outside picture of an inside condition?  Is it possible that those little figures on the TV screen are actually images of the violent thoughts contained in my own mind?

I’m not a bible scholar so I don’t remember what book it’s in, but I very clearly remember reading “there will always be wars,” in one of the books, so I know it’s in there.  I also know that the statement is a metaphor and it’s not only talking about wars in the world, but also in the mind. It also makes me think of Eckhart Tolle stating that “the need to be right is a form of violence.”  If that’s the case I’m in the same ballpark thought-wise as about any terrorist out there.  My point today is referencing the above quote: I think we miss one of the points these awful tragedies point us to – – the real war is inside and the event itself, as terrible as it is, is also a movie of what’s going on inside of us on a smaller (maybe) scale.  The purpose most of us give it is to shake our heads at the insanity of all of the violence in the world, a purpose that without question has merit.  My thought is that it has a dual purpose.  It can also serve to drive me back inside and look at a place unhealed.  Every outer disturbance is a reflection, a reminder if you will, that I have much more healing to do.

I have seen Facebook turned into a memorial for those lost in the last few days and in other wars.  One post after another notes the need for our prayers and thoughts, and sometimes also voices our exasperation at the endless stream of the senseless violence in the world.  I too have prayed, and hold the unfortunate losses in my heart, knowing at the same time that they’re also freed from the bondage and limitations of being human, and freed from a world in which we do these things to each other.  Coincidentally, a healing of my own war has occurred with my increasing awareness of it.  On Friday night a chance meeting led to me apologizing to a friend I had a rift with a couple of years ago.  The very second I saw her I knew what would happen between us that night, but what it had to be preceded by was an admission that I had done her wrong.  That had to be preceded by something pointing to the discomfort the incident I had pushed out of my awareness was causing.  There had to be something outside to remind me that the discomfort and identification were coming from inside. 

I will emphasize once again:  the recent world events are indeed tragic, horrific, and without excuse.  Wanna heal it?  Maybe withdraw a bit and remember there are wars of sorts going on in our own country.  How many people in the U.S. died last night from starvation, domestic abuse, or just plain slept outside under a bridge?  How many of them were veterans who fought in wars to protect us? How about if we get a little closer and look at Black Lives Matter and all of the views we had and what it did to us inside. Get a little closer and remember that homeless person you walked right by without acknowledging, or maybe you didn’t know that they were homeless.  Or get even a little closer to the toughest part: maybe think of the friend or family member you said something nasty to and hurt, or the person you’ve been neglecting, or the unawareness of this or that foible that may be causing grief to people around you.  Are these not wars too? Or maybe think of the things you didn’t do like tell someone how much you appreciate them, or contribute a couple of bucks to a local charity to feed the folks in our own backyard, or maybe preempted your own violence by venting a hostile viewpoint on a friend or family member to discharge another layer inside that might hurt someone or even many if it isn’t first admitted to, and then forgiven. What I’m saying is this: these immense, awful, terrible, tragedies also offer us yet another way to avoid ourselves, to say “the problems are out there,” and not inside.

So again, wanna do something to heal past tragedies and prevent future ones?  So we don’t have to watch this exasperating procession of tragedies happen over and over again?  Hug your child an extra time.  Tell your friends you care about them.  Admit that you’re human and that you maybe have some behaviors that need amending.  Pick up your phone and call, don’t text, that relative or friend you’ve had a grudge against for years.  Look honestly inside, deeply and often, for the “hungry dogs of fear” that instantly want to place responsibility for some deficiency you have on an outside event instead of the loveless places inside. As much as I want it to be, whatever crappy feeling inside is not someone else’s fault. I’ve been fortunate this weekend in that I’ve had opportunities to make amends dropped into my lap.  This is not always the case. Like anyone else, I need to be vigilant for my shortcomings, admit to them, and do whatever I need to in order to heal them.  If we all look at the most recent or any atrocity in history honestly, there is the imperative demand that it is making: it’s an outside picture of an inward condition.  If I’m not careful, the tragedy is also providing me with a way to avoid myself.  It is indeed possible to be compassionate and pray for all of those involved this weekend and also remember that the event is pointing us back inside.  The arrow pointing back at us changes the purpose of it.  So grieve.  Talk with friends and family about these awful things.  Remind your kids that they’re safe and loved.  Yet also remember that we’re never going to stop seeing wars outside until we fix the ones inside.





2 thoughts on “The War Inside

  1. Really fascinating, Michael. What I hear threading through your well-crafted essay is the call to compassion – for ourselves, first and foremost, for the family of humankind, and for a broken world. I agree, we are easily distracted by “ ‘the problems [that] are out there,’ and not inside.” I’ve found that the greater the sense of desperation I feel with the world, the more urgent the need is for me to seek what inside myself what is irrevocably good. Upon this recognition, I am better able to see it in my fellows and to let love expand to fill the place that would be hopeless, angry, or fearful. We all need to hear your beautiful words!

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