Saturday, November 14, 2015
F: 4:55 a.m. The bombings by Muslim terrorists in Paris last night are so disturbing, Papa. It seems to me your feeling that 1914 might be the beginning of another hundred years’ war is still in the process of being validated by events, as it was – unnoticed by critics of your work – in your lifetime. It is all so seemingly unnecessary, yet you can see, working backwards, how each new thing grew out of past things, and it looks as though it all could have been prevented so easily with just a little wisdom, just a little more altruism or even restraint. I’m not going to cite chapter and verse, but you can trace it easily enough, certainly to the World Trade Center bombings, the vendetta against Israel, the founding of Israel, the massacre of the Jews, the rise of the Nazis, the peace of bad faith on both sides of 1918, and the ferocity of the unacknowledged tensions created by an intellectual life in the secular mechanized West that suddenly exploded [in 1914].
You, supreme artist that you were, seem to have felt all this coming, pretty much immediately. Hence In Our Time and a career centered on the ugliness and violence of life as you could see it around you, as opposed to the prettied-up version of reality that people wanted to see, to believe in, where the violence was a matter of incident rather than the theme.
EH: All right. First, a word of reassurance. Remember no matter how black it looks, what your unnamed friends Upstairs, as you used to put it, said to you and to Rita years ago already: “All Is Well. All Is Always Well.” The fact that you can’t always see it does not mean it isn’t so, but it does mean you need to see as clearly as you can, if you are not to fall into despair.
F: People question that “All Is Well,” as you know.
EH: Of course they do. It was given to you – you as individual for your own life and Rita’s; you as ambassador, for those who would listen; you as representative of a way of living that is somewhat fortified by that knowledge. But if the message were something easier to believe, how much good could it do? Suppose you had been given, “all is hard but not the end,” or “life often looks wrong but it works out in the end,” or even, “life is suffering, but it has redemptive value when you see it in the right perspective”? Each of these things is somewhat true, but would they provide the key to a transformation of your viewpoint that would turn you away from Victim of Circumstance into Creator (or Chooser) of Worlds? Would they remind you that what is real at one level is shadow at another, deeper, level of reality? Would they remind you, or make you aware for the first time perhaps, that externals mirror internals?
F: That isn’t the lesson everybody takes away.
EH: No, but if the lesson has not been explicitly put out there, it is harder for people to stumble on it and recognize their own internal prompting that has been telling them – “irrationally” – the same things. Your society, not as much as mine earlier, but still pretty much everywhere, tells you “the world is a dangerous place”; ”the world is full of evil and the doers of evil”; “the world is so dangerous because of the consequences of past violence that only more violence will save us.” You notice how well that is working out.
That was sarcasm, but in fact it is working out, in a way nobody notices who counts only externals. People are getting their fill of violence, and violent expressions, and fanaticism, and panaceas. They are losing confidence in violence as a creative act, and are seeing – or beginning to see, but your time is farther ahead than mine was, because mine came first – that you can’t have peace without a desire for peace so strong that it includes a willingness to sacrifice for it, if need be, that is at least as great as the willingness to sacrifice in war.
F: Of course people would respond by saying you can’t have peace if only one side wants peace.
EH: Of course not. But it is equally true that you can’t coerce anyone to want peace. I know it seems like you can – Germany in 1945, say – but that is only appearance. The reality is different, even considering things only at your level as if the appearance of physical reality as ultimate reality were true.
You saw what happened in 1918. Somebody had to crack, and as it happened it was the Turks, the Bulgarians, the Austrians, and then the Germans.
F: And the Russians a year earlier.
EH: Yes, but overlook that for the moment. That fact shaped the aftermath of the war, but just for the moment look back at 1918. When the allies triumphed, the Germans as a people did not concede that they had been wrong, only that they had been beaten. They were in no way reconciled to what happened, and what is more bitter than to realize that so much sacrifice was in vain and so much continuing suffering was being deliberately inflicted, which seemed to justify retroactively the struggle they had engaged in? But in 1945, they were already weary of the war when it began, they were consumed with doubt throughout it, they continued only because they were coerced from the top, and the end came not as an injustice – a cosmic injustice – but as almost a merciful relief.
In 1945, you see, both sides were ready to be reconciled as mutual victims of a catastrophe that was bigger than anyone involved. That Hitler and Mussolini were available to act as scapegoats was convenient, and they were available only because they were somewhat responsible, in truth. But in a larger sense, neither one could have prevailed in his own society if matters hadn’t paved the way, and – just like today – that meant tracing the chain of events, and that meant, in effect, spreading the responsibility (not quite the same thing as blame) so widely as to transcend accident and personal malice and bring the inquirer into the pattern of events.
It is always possible to blame events on someone or some group and there is always a certain amount of truth to that, but only so much. So your Muslims in the heart of Europe could be blamed on wrong ideas and wrong actions by the Europeans, but you’d have to go back quite a way! Not this year or last year, but 50 years of Turkish “guest workers” in Germany. And 50 years and more of Algerian immigrants to France. All of which are the result of prior European colonization, and how far back do you want to go? The French invaded Algeria in 1830, but it was only a few years prior to that that Arab pirates were holding up French (and British, and American, etc.) ships and demanding ransom. And you can go on, back to the Crusades, and L’Outremer [the first European colonization of the Middle East] and the reasons why the European kingdoms were drawn to try to reverse the decades of Muslim conquests. What individual decisions do you want to blame all that on?
F: It was clear enough that the 2003 destruction of secular Iraq was going to end badly.
EH: Clear to some, not to most, and it brings us back to where we began. Attempts to end violence by violence always end badly unless and until they bring all concerned to a realization that as Gandhi said, an eye for an eye leaves us all blind. I used to say, war is always evil. When you were in one, you had to win it, but it was still evil. Only, it was so clear that in our time [that is, beginning with World War I], war is what we would have to face until we found a way to go beyond it and still solve the problem of those still using violence.
F: I sometimes think, thank God for the atomic bomb, or we would have gotten involved in even worse fratricide than we did.
EH: Michael Ventura pointed out, and you noticed, that since World War II America has fought only non-white, non-industrial countries. Well, “non-white” is pretty meaningless once you are talking about Arabs, but his point remains. America has fought only at the edge of western civilization, and has fought defensively (looking at it strategically) and more or less unsuccessfully, as was inevitable given the circumstances.
If the overwhelmingly strongest country in the world – in terms of conventional military, and its economy, and its self-confidence – could not defeat the Vietnamese or the Muslims, who in the West is likely to? But – look closer at the result. In Vietnam, a people at peace no longer can be seen as a threat. As in Germany in 1945, only for different reasons, Vietnam doesn’t need war and has no need to seek revenge. The conditions of peace, that could have been attained a dozen years earlier without a war, were attained finally, anyway.
F: I know you are not saying that Europe should or even could surrender to Muslim violence, so what are you saying?
EH: Remember, outside 3D one gets a larger focus, and connections become more obvious. Europe is beginning to pay for its sins (put it that way) not only in its history of colonizing the non-Western world, but in tacitly abandoning Israel which has stood up to unceasing assault for its entire 70 years existence. The easy answers no longer buy time. Force no longer serves to end force. Now the thorny question of what will it take to bring peace becomes more urgent, more difficult but also – more productive, more possible.
F: I keep saying, we don’t have to keep descending into this labyrinth of fears and hatreds; we can still have our Star Trek future.
EH: Of course you can, but it gets created in increments, not in one fell swoop, imposed by The Federation. And it begins where all action begins.
F: In the human heart.
EH: Well, in individual awareness, carried like candles in the dark, seemingly unconnected and seemingly fragile and helpless. But it is only the disregarded that has the ability to overcome what looks overwhelmingly physically present.
F: Thanks for all this. Perhaps it will help some people keep hope alive on a somber morning. But it has been more than an hour, and a dozen pages.
EH: It was enough, and on a less pressing day we can talk about “In Our Time” in relation to the hundred years’ war I saw coming.
F: Okay. Till next time.
Saturday, November 14, 2015