Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 10

Spiritual Nonviolence, Part 10

Active nonviolence calls us to slow down, to be patient, planting the seeds of love and forgiveness in our own hearts and in the hearts of those around us. Slowly we will grow in love, compassion and the capacity to forgive.”[1] 

Here are the ten tenants of A Spirituality of Nonviolence,[2] based on The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence.1

  1. I recognize the sacred in all people.
  2. I accept myself deeply.
  3. I recognize that what I resent in another also lives in me.
  4. I renounce the ‘us-them’ mentality.
  5. I face my fear with love.
  6. I accept that New Creation is a community act, not a solo act.
  7. I am part of the whole creation, not master over.
  8. I am ready to suffer to help liberate the Divine in others.
  9. I will celebrate when the presence of God is accepted.
  10. I will slow down and plant seeds.

The tenth statement from A Spirituality of Nonviolence2 is I will slow down and plant seeds. Slowing down and planting seeds are two practices that tend not to be widely popular in today’s culture, although there is some limited movement toward both. We are accustomed to equating our worth with our production, and so slowing down seems to be the road to Loserville. In reality, and as we are painfully learning, not slowing down is a path to collapse: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Planting flowers and vegetables from seeds is less expensive than planting from already growing versions, but seeds take more time to get to what we perceive as the goal – flowers and vegetables – and so many of us happily pay more to get what we want quicker. Slowing down and planting seeds requires patience and the ability to experience the wonder of our moments.

It is said that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the next best time is today. I worked in a nursery into my mid-twenties and was amazed at how many of the people wanting to buy trees opted for the fastest growing varieties, even those people who were relatively young. In spite of warnings that fast-growing species tended to be brittle, subject to significant wind damage, short-lived, and seldom had attractive fall colors, many people felt that planting something that would look like a tree quicker was worth any possible future disappointments. Although I understand the time-saving attitude better as I age, I still mourn the beauty that is lost and the downstream problems we create in our desire to cut corners to get what and where we want as quickly and cheaply as possible.

The violence inherent in our desire for cheaper, quicker results is largely invisible to us because we fail to perceive the line connecting our poorly-planned decisions of the past to our current situations. Much of the concurrent violence to get things quicker and cheaper is invisible to us because it is done to underpaid and overworked laborers in other countries, not to mention the often-significant damage to our environment that may not manifest until a future generation. All because we are unwilling to invest sufficient time and funds for something more beautiful, sustainable, and fairly sourced.

Throughout this series of essays I have emphasized the importance of accepting personal responsibility for the violence around us, as well as accepting the challenge to begin by reducing the violence we personally initiate and perpetuate, directly and indirectly, through our purchasing and other choices. Committing to slowing down and planting seeds, in whatever ways those metaphors can be applied in our individual life situations, is a good and necessary place to begin. Allowing beauty, sustainability, and fair sourcing to factor into all of our interpersonal decisions and acquisition habits will reduce the violence we contribute to the world. It will also give us a new and deeper perspective about our needs and desires, including whether they are worth the cost to pursue. It is a matter of love and forgiveness – loving and forgiving ourselves, loving and forgiving others, and loving our planet and the greater life of which we are a part. It requires patience and finding joy in the processes and journeys of life instead of attempting to fast-forward over our days toward some desired future result that may not ever manifest. We must consider not only the immediate impacts of our behaviors, but also what we leave in our wake. There is far less need for speed when our desire is focused on experiencing the inherent beauty of the moments we are given as they arrive.

This is the 36th in a series of Life Notes titled Guns, Mental Illness, and Jesus. The opinions expressed here are mine and not necessarily those of other individuals or organizations. To engage with me or to explore contemplative spiritual direction, contact me at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com.

[1] Rosemary Lynch and Alain Richard, “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence,” in From Violence to Wholeness, Ken Butigan with Patricia Bruno, Franciscan Nonviolence Center, 1999, p. 18.

[2] www.cac.org, A Spirituality of Nonviolence, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE7pqKJ_aRo

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