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Damage Control

Apr 07, 2022

Photo: Odesa City Official

Thich Nhat Hahn, a humble Vietnamese monk, was a gentle and persistent warrior for peace who coined the term Interbeing. He died earlier this year and the whole world mourned. His Buddhist lineage (Mahayana) describes enlightenment as a call to “awaken with all beings.” In other words, no person is left behind. Interbeing points to the reality that we are intimately connected with every other living thing on our planet.

We measure war’s losses in terms of human life, the destruction of infrastructure - physical built things that allow a society to function – and money. War lays waste to roads and bridges, harbors, and airfields. It also destroys homes, schools, cultural and governmental structures, and important historical and artistic artifacts.

We don’t think as much about the “collateral damage” (not the military definition.) Munitions poison the earth, devastating fertile farmland; the world depends on Ukraine's wheat and corn. Toxic smoke fills the air as vehicles, buildings and forests burn; the world climate is impacted. So many creatures are killed; some that are  unique to a specific area can be wiped out. People flee and leave behind everything that "home” means -  relatives, neighbors, friends, pets, and livelihoods. War impacts the earth, which is home to all of us. 

Finding peace within oneself and being an outward expression of that is essential for creating a peaceful world. How do we handle conflict? Would you call out aggression, or stand in the way? What if someone is threatening violence? How do you embody peace at that moment? These are questions that warrant exploration.

You may think you can ignore a far-away war. You may hold yourself and your life separate to avoid the pain. Countries go to war for the power to control resources, which also means people and ultimately ideas. It’s the ideas of freedom and peace that are driving the response to the war being perpetrated on Ukraine. It is heart-wrenching to bear witness to violence; yet we can also see so much that is heartening as well…

People carrying their pets for miles to safety across the border…

Mechanics repairing and recycling tanks meant to kill them…

A young girl singing the national anthem in a bomb shelter…

The World Food Kitchen doing its thing!

A retired seamstress sewing makeshift body armor and blue armbands…

Teachers creating activities and lessons for the children while living in underground subways…

A man, cigarette dangling from his mouth, gingerly moving an explosive device off the road…

A worldwide, volunteer IT army!

A bank of donated strollers on the train platform in Poland awaiting refugee families… 

An architect making plans to rebuild a beautiful new city from the decimated rubble of what was…

Ukrainians removing and changing road signs so the invaders get lost…

The renewed importance of renewables!

Ukrainians who have never held a gun joining the Territorial Defense Forces…

Countries and their citizens welcoming, caring for those fleeing the carnage…

Sandbags piled high to protect beloved statues of national heroes, saints and poets…

Those documenting the unspeakable.

Refugees going back into Ukraine to contribute to the peace effort…

And... the donations, prayers and collective action taken worldwide for the common good!

Fear is a powerful motivator, but we see people moving beyond their personal fears to action born of care and concern. We all have the impulse for goodness within us. You can’t destroy that connection with "other", just like you can’t destroy an idea, dignity, or courage. And you can’t deny Interbeing as the fundamental meaning of love.



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