"Barbs, Brambles, and Beauty"
-in my desert garden-
Yesterday a condemned murderer was executed by lethal injection in an Arizona prison, but the execution didn't go according to plan. The condemned man was writhing in pain and gasping for breath for almost two hours before he finally died. One of the witnesses who viewed the execution called it "cruel and usual punishment."
While many people were horrified at what happened in that Arizona death chamber yesterday, just as many other people were actually happy the man died in that fashion. The social media was flooded by vengeful responses, and some of the relatives of the victims who were murdered by this man confessed that they took pleasure in witnessing the suffering of this 2-hour long execution, claiming that this violent murderer got what he deserved.
As I read about this story yesterday I had a flash of insight into what Jesus meant when he told his disciples:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.
The Buddha also taught:
Hatreds do not ever cease in this world by hating, but by love;
this is an eternal truth.
Overcome anger by love. Overcome evil by good.
At first these teachings might seem like pious platitudes -- a path impossible to follow by real-life people in everyday life.
If my wife were killed by some deranged murderer, I certainly wouldn't love the person who did this. I would be filled with rage and anger and I might likely want to lash out in revenge, maybe find a gun and get him back for what he did, hope that he might suffer miserably in a 2-hour long execution where he would writhe in pain and gasp for breath..
And yet the truth is that when I want to murder the murderer, I become a murderer myself.
I have no doubt in my mind that the man who was executed yesterday committed a horrible crime. I also believe that the people who took such pleasure in this man's agony and suffering became just as hateful as the man who was executed.
You don't have to go very far nowadays to see example after example of the hatred that enflames the human heart; and yet every time violence is met with violence in return, it all only gets worse - the sea of hatred deepens and swells threatening to pull us all down into the pits of destruction.
So I don't think Jesus' teaching about loving our enemies or the Buddha's teaching about overcoming anger by love are even close to being pious platitudes. They teach "eternal truths," and offer practical advice for real life everyday living - advice that, in the end, may yet save us from destroying ourselves