Over the past few days the whole world has been barraged with images from Egypt. Last evening I watched the TV news and was overwhelmed by the violence - dead bodies, bloodshed and destruction, people crying out in pain, citizens pitted against fellow citizens. Just watching that scene on TV, I felt something viscerally stirring within me; something in me was being torn apart.
As I reflected upon my response to those staggering images of violence, I came to an awareness:
We may sit in the comfort of our living rooms and observe at a distance what is going on in Egypt. We may perhaps feel frightened or sorry for "them," and probably also feel glad that this isn't happening to "us" in our country, within our borders. But the truth is that all borders and boundaries are totally artificial. Every human being is interconnected with every other human being. Thinking of someone as "other" or as a "foreigner" is nothing more than a mental construct, an illusion.
The ugly violence in a land thousands of miles away is really a poison poured into the living sea of all humanity - polluting all living beings.
So that's why I felt such a visceral reaction when I was watching the news yesterday. I along with every other human being on the face of this earth was being poisoned as the fabric of our common humanity was being ripped and torn.
I looked up the word "antidote." The dictionary defines it as, a remedy to counteract the effects of poison. Thankfully there is an antidote to the poison of violence and destruction.
My guess is that this weekend, when religious people from all over the world come into a temple, synagogue, mosque or church, they will pray for the people of Egypt. But as I see it, praying for Egypt is simply not good enough. "Praying for Egypt" is not the antidote I'm talking about.
In fact, if people gather together with fellow believers and pray for Egypt, and then go home and beat their kids or cheat a fellow employee; then "praying for Egypt" will have little or no effect as an antidote to the poison of violence. Beating the kids and cheating the co-worker makes the world even more poisoned and polluted - prayers or no prayers.
It is only by "acting" compassionately that we can counteract the effects of the poison. Getting up in the morning and treating the people who come our way with dignity and respect, forgiving someone who has injured us, extending our lives for those living on the margins - this is how we are counteracting the effects of the poison. The way we live our lives is the antidote.
Imagine, if all around the globe, every person of goodwill, religious people along with non-believers, would respond to the violence in Egypt by resolving to live our everyday lives by practicing unbounded compassion for our fellow human beings. Imagine what could happen? We would heal the world.
We would become the antidote.