Monday, April 12, 2010

"One Little Candle"

Years ago, when my brother-in-law and I were studying karate-do, someone asked me how often, in a real-life situation, how often, in a real-life situation, I used my knowledge of karate. “Every day,” told him. Karate is the technique of the empty hand. Karate-do is the way of the empty hand.
The way of the empty hand teaches me, “The highest form of self defense is removing the reason for the attack.” Sometimes it means hard power; sometimes it means soft power. Always it means wisdom.
I don’t claim to be wise. When you’re married and have a teenage son, you’re constantly reminded of how lacking you are in wisdom. Sometimes, I’m literally driven to my knees by the realization that my own wisdom and the wisdom of all about me are inadequate for the day.
I’m troubled that many people in Congress and the news media, not half satisfied with two unjust wars, are clambering to unleash the dogs of war on yet another country. Three wars, more or less in the same region, can broaden into a Third World War that no one can win. Americans are being whipped into frenzy for war against a nation that hasn’t started a war in 360 years.
Much of the impetus for war stems from hate that we’re encouraged to feel against those whose religious beliefs are different from our own. How typical it is that such hate as this should be encouraged not by religious fervor but by desire for profit!
We search in vain for a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel because we’re not in a tunnel. We’re in darkness of our own making; and, as the old song says, “If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be!”
For some years now, I’ve had an idea that almost no one likes, but I can’t seem to shake it: an interfaith prayer event. Most Christians I know think it’s a terrible idea to ask non-Christians to pray with Christians. Some Christians have said that the bitterness has spread too far along for that. They say that it’s an idea whose time has come and gone.
I’m not convinced of either position. These days we hear of very many mass demonstrations at which people scream out their beliefs, and others can scarcely hear one another above the noise. The lowered voices and quiet faith of people of different religions praying together for peace may have the best chance to proclaim peace across national borders, peace across cultural divides, a sense of unity in which each person prays, “Let there be peace, and let it begin with me.”
I don’t know how many of y’all have read The Prince, Machiavelli’s treatise on gaining and holding political power; or The Art of War, Sun Tze’s famous treatise. From The Prince, we learn that even the most corrupt rulers can’t exercise political power without the cooperation of the people they rule. From The Art of War, we learn that before you conquer an enemy on the battlefield you must conquer him in his mind—another form of cooperation with one’s conquerors.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the way of karate and the adage, “The highest form of self defense is removing the reason for the attack.” Sometimes that means that those who want peace must be stronger than those who want war. The power of legitimacy is soft power.
Interfaith prayer meetings, no matter how small they may be, will serve two purposes. For one, they will be a strong statement that the people of the United States, Iran, and other countries are not buying the messages of hate we’re being handed by money lenders and other war profiteers. For another, by praying in the spirit of love for one another, we are submitting to the greatest Power in the universe, against which none can resist.
War is the madness of harming living things and breaking other things. It destroys prosperity and lives, creates crushing debt, and causes misery for the many for the profit of a few. Peace dividends, on the other hand, lead nations into broad, sunlit uplands.
I know that these few words are insufficient to heal centuries of bitterness. I'll not attempt to beguile anyone from his sense of injury. People who have suffered are naturally more disposed to destroy their enemies than to love them. Supernatural aid is necessary to call forth what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. After all, if we turn our enemies into friends, haven’t we destroyed our enemies?
(Please allow me to share with you the lyrics and the tune to One Little Candle.” Pardon the quality of the video, but the singing was better than the professionals.)

"ONE LITTLE CANDLE"
(George Mysels / J. Maloy Roach)
Perry Como - 1952

It's better to light just one little candle
Than to stumble in the dark
Better far that you light just one little candle
All you need's a tiny spark.

If we'd all say a prayer that the world would be free
The wonderful dawn on the new day we'll see
And if everyone lit just one little candle
What a bright world this would be!

(Let's all light one little candle
Why stumble on in the dark)

When the day is dark and dreary
And your way is hard to find
Don't let your heart be weary
Just keep this thought in mind:

(It is better to light just one little candle
Than to stumble in the dark
Better far to light just one little candle
All you need's a tiny spark)

If we'd all say a prayer that the world would be free
The wonderful dawn of the new day we'll see
And if everyone lit just one little candle
What a bright world this would be!

What a bright world this would be!

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