This poem-prayer was shared at the College Avenue and Allen Street gates, Sept. 21, during the International — and Interfaith — Day of Prayer for Peace. It says that all on Earth are connected by one breath, one spirit. The breath that we breathe out, others breathe in, and the breath that others breathe out, we breathe in. The same is true for our thoughts, our attitudes and our actions. They form the spirit and life that we “inter-breathe,” in Waskow’s term, that we share with all creation around us.
What spirit have our thoughts and attitudes been breathing out and sharing with all of creation? Have we been part of the terrible divisiveness afflicting our nation in recent years? Have we believed we hold righteous and moral stances compared to those others? What spirit are we breathing out into the one spirit that all of us share, and that others around us breathe in? We think that opinions we breathe out, or even nurse within us, have no real effects upon the outside world. But we divide ourselves so self-righteously from others — even our enemies — and worship our own little parts of reality — to our peril.
Recent months and weeks — even years — have been filled with dreadful news: trusted figures accused and convicted of heinous crimes; incurable and epidemic diseases abroad and at home; the U.S. returning to war and bombing in Iraq; massive electronic theft; hideous slaughter and crimes by extremists against innocents in many places; drought, fires, floods and unforeseen natural catastrophes; sudden death or disaster for beautiful, promising young people at home.
How do you know that the hatred and self-righteousness you breathe out is not breathed in half a world away, or here at home, by someone who will use that same spirit to justify terrible acts?
Let’s pull back, people. Let’s tone it down, people. The self-righteous hatred of our brother, sister, neighbor of a different perspective, a different party, a different view. Start turning instead with care and love toward one another — even those with whom we differ profoundly, realizing we all come from one creator, sharing in one breath, one life, one spirit.