Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Fear of Change

"A New Day"

I have been closely following Pope Francis' trip to Israel and Palestine; and I am deeply impressed by his peacemaking efforts in that "war-weary" region of the world. 

I was in Israel several years ago and I had an opportunity to speak with many Israelis as well as many Palestinians - that's why I say it is such a "war-weary" region. The conflict there has been going on for decades and "constant" underlying tension prevails still-  fear of bombings, attacks and reprisals. In my visit there, I found that people were weighed down and weary under the burden of it all. 

I say that I have been impressed with Pope Francis because it seems to me that he is one of the few people who have tried to honor and respect all the various people on all the sides in this conflict.  He is traveling with an Imam and a Rabbi at his side - symbols of goodwill, also serving as his advisors. He is visiting Palestinian refugee camps and meeting with Palestinian officials. He is also visiting Israel and Israeli officials, even laying a wreath at the tomb of the "Father" of present-day Zionism. 

One might think that these peacemaking efforts would be welcomed with open arms in such a war-weary region, and yet the Pope has met with all sorts of resistance as he reaches out with love and respect to both sides of the opposition.  Palestinians are incensed that the Pope would lay a wreath at the tomb of a sworn enemy. Israelis are "up in arms" at Francis' open embrace of people they deem to be terrorists.

In a somewhat off-the-cuff, unscripted remark yesterday, the Pope said something that helped me understand what may be at the very core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact it may be at the core of every conflict.  During a speech he was giving Pope Francis stopped, as he looked up and sighed: 

God protect us from the fear of change!

I've  been reflecting on this one little comment. It seems to me that people really do want peace. Of course they do - they are tired and wearied by "battle."  But what people do not want is "change." And that's exactly what the pope's peace-making efforts are stirring up-  he is stirring up a climate of "change."  

In order for peace and reconciliation to actually take hold anywhere, "everyone" has to change. It seems to me that the fear of change may indeed lie at the heart of all human conflict. We get used to "wallowing in the mud," stuck in our own little ruts in life.  Even when staying stuck there weighs us down and makes us weary, we'd rather stay there than move into unknown territory.

The Buddha taught: 

All things are impermanent.
When one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.

Constant change is in fact at the very definition of existence. Physicists as well as philosophers teach that "being is becoming." Nothing is ever static or stays the same.  Our  resistance to change and our desire to keep things as they are is a pure act of the ego-a feeble attempt to control that which can never be controlled.  

When we embrace the truth that life is change, we do indeed turn away from suffering. 

God protect us from the fear of change!

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