The Man in the Mirror

By Livija Evans

Sometimes people seem to need conflict in their lives, and war between nations and within nations is just the enlargement of the petty squabble that arises from lack of tolerance, communication, compassion, understanding, and respect. If you go a bit further, it is clear that tolerance without understanding can still cause a great deal of tension. We have all come across situations in our lives that we have failed to understand, and where tolerance is really not enough. Tolerance by itself causes undercurrents of tension which can escalate and spill over into negative action. An unguarded thought and word can become an act of supposed retaliation. What do we tolerate, and what not? To what do we retaliate -- or not? What do we understand or not? Is all tolerance positive? Is all retaliation and rebellion negative? What makes the dictator dictate? These questions provoke more and more questions.

Sometimes we can work ourselves up into a state of agitation that is unbearable, and that is the time of great danger, when we can lash out at everything and everyone. This scenario going on in our head is the beginning of war. The seed is sown, and seeds have a way of traveling on the slightest breeze and landing where they can flourish best.

So what do we do? I who am upset, angered, distraught at all the images that I see, read, hear about all the time, and feel so utterly helpless to do anything about? The suffering is just so horrendous. What can I do? The only thing that I can possibly do is see to myself. As a once-popular song stated, "It begins with the man in the mirror." I must stop and be still and restore the balance and harmony to my self. I cannot do it for anyone else and cannot force anyone else to do it. I must find the love within me and face the fear within me, for love and fear are two sides of the same coin. Fear is what makes a tyrant tyrannize. Do I then have the tyrant in me? If my actions betray my fear, then I must find the love and translate that into actions. Not easily done.

Have I become so complacent that it takes a war on the other side of the world to make me look at myself and the war that rages within? War separates people from their loved ones in so many ways. Does my internal war separate myself from my Self? And when we speak of karma, be it national, global, or family, we cannot separate it from our own, for all is one, and one is all. I found the following lines from Katherine Tingley helpful:

There is but one true and legitimate battlefield: the mind of man, where the duality of our nature keeps us constantly at the only rightful war there is -- the war of the god in us against the lower self. We should no longer seek to arm ourselves against our neighbors. Our whole care should be to protect our neighbors against our own lower selves.
The hidden truth about us is that we do love our neighbor as ourselves, though we have not found a way to express the love we do not even know exists. But it is there: the love of our fellows sleeps latent in our hearts with the deity that watches there. Though we are quite unconscious of it, our very humanity implies its existence.

(From Sunrise magazine, October/November 2001; reprinted from the British TS newsletter, Compass, Winter 1999)


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I believe that if one person gains spiritually, the whole world gains with him or her, and if one person falls, the whole world falls to that extent. -- M. K. Gandhi