Monday, February 16, 2009

To Discern and not to Judge

I participated in a conversation on the Israel/Palestine conflict yesterday. During the course of our dialogue we stumbled against the difference in discerning what is truth versus making a judgment. Merriam-Webster defines discernment as the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure. But then who can judge whether someone is truly comprehended something that is obscure. Then we switch to the definition of judgment only to find out that it describes the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing. The subtle difference seems to be that in judging one concludes with an opinion in that matter, while discernment avoids making the transition into opinion. Judgment can also be made based on beliefs or assertions.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh shared a terrific story that helps in dividing these subtle nuances. While nailing on a project in his garden, he left thumb was struck by the hammer. He immediately dropped the hammer in his right hand, then that same hand that had injured the thumb unhesitatingly wrapped its fingers tenderly around the sore limb. He said that even though the left hand knew that the right had been guilty of causing its suffering, it did not avoid the tenderness now shown, nor did it demand to have the hammer so that it might repay in kind the injury done it. The sore thumb discerned the reality of the situation without jumping to judgment or assumption that the injury was intentional or a repayment of a previous grudge held by the right hand for the left.

What does this mean in regards to the Middle East problem? Maybe Israel and Palestine are these two hands, Left and Right respectively, but neither trusting the other. At this present time the Left hand has hit the Right, leaving the bone shattered and exposed. If trust is to ever return to these hands, the Left must drop its hammer and comfort and care for the Right. If the Left can restore health and vitality to the Right, both hands might be able to hold one another, and the world, in a gesture of peace.

Let us end our judgments and begin to heal. May Israel's heart open to its neighbors, providing care, comfort, homes, hospitals, schools, food, medicine and love. If they continue to hit their Right hand with the hammer of hatred soon they will be left with no hand, only a bloody stump. It is their hatred that led to Hamas gaining power. When poor people have no options they turn to gangsters for help, but if Israel had been a caring neighbor to those they had left homeless then the world would be a safer place not only for them but all of us. And for the victor in war to show such care to it's victims would have won the Jewish people the highest of esteem from all people of all religions across the world. They did not, but there may still be time for them to change their ways. If they continue on this brutal trajectory I fear that antisemitism will increase world wide and we don't need to return to that.

May they have the courage to lead the world, showing us that they are capable of real and lasting peace. Because if peace can break out there, peace will be possible everywhere.

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