The late Mahatma Gandhi has been quoted as saying, “You must BE the change you wish to see in the world.” For me, he spoke a little-known truth in a world which habitually chooses sides and blames the other for the bad things in life e.g. them vs. us. Gandhi illuminated a new paradigm and way of living in the world without violence. It set India free from years of colonial rule. The non-violent attitude and way of being carries an implicit comprehension that we are One; and since we are ONE, when I harm you, I am harming myself just like when you harm me, you are harming yourself.
I began thinking about Gandhi last night as I watched a previously aired Netflix documentary in 2017. It was called Baltimore: Anatomy of an American City. Since I really didn’t know much about Baltimore (except news snippets in 2015) and since so many people have asked me “why” I came to Baltimore, I figured I should watch the show to get more insight into the city I now call home.
Of course, I had heard about the rate of violence in the city, but seeing it so graphically detailed in the documentary really made me pause and wonder. Living in a place which has the 5th highest murder rate and the 7th highest overall crime rate in the country, makes me super sensitive to the intense suffering, heartache, and despair among many of my fellow citizens. The problem seems so massive and so overwhelming though; what can be done? What is my (our) responsibility to a city whose name, in many ways is equated with violence?
If God so loved the world, and I am in God and God is in me through the life, death, resurrection of Jesus the Christ, how can I love the world in general and my brothers and sisters in particular, who are dying daily (or sometimes even hourly) without doing what is in my power to do within such a pervasive atmosphere of violence? If I want to see nonviolence, maybe it is time for me to be nonviolent. Nonviolence methods don’t begin externally without internal transformation. Can I take on a more non-violent persona for the life of the world?
It strikes me that my daily thoughts are often filled with violence: judgments, cruelties, anger, harshness, impatience and frustrations litter my internal landscape. I’m certain I’m not alone in this regard. This tendency towards violence in our thought lives carries energy which, then interacts with the life energy which surrounds us and in which we all live. How can we expect to see nonviolence when our own inner landscape is so often violent—towards ourselves as well as others?
Having seen that show last night was just another reminder to become more aware of my own thoughts and emotions and when they are violently assaulting me. Learning to observe my mind keeps me from over-identifying with my thoughts. I am so much more than my mind, after all. I am totally created in the image of the Divine who is constantly creating new things. I am all for learning to lessen the “violent footprint” in our city. I believe, really believe Baltimoreans together, can create a new thing.