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The Power of Insight

The fifth of the five spiritual powers is the power of insight. Thich Nhat Hanh maintains that the power of insight "is a sword that cuts painlessly through all kinds of suffering, including fear, despair, anger, and discrimination." He goes on to say that an insight is more than a notion and Hanh's key teaching is the insight of impermanence.

I look for stability through democracy and social justice perhaps because it offers some comfort that others might do unto me as I would do to them.

Because of my attachment to social justice I act according to what I believe is just and fair. I raise my family on ideas of justice and kindness and empathy.   Self-interest to me is contributing to a world guided by laws based on a reverence for life.

But at the moment what I hear and see in the news, in social media, on the internet, on the radio, goes against all the notions of justice, kindness and empathy. I feel outraged not just because I fear something bad will happen to me or my loved ones, but because I believe that when we get rid of that social contract built on the golden rule then all that remains is fear, despair, anger and discrimination.

As I look deeply into this problem I realize that my community is rich with many acts of social justice and kindness. Every day yields signs of  this. One on one, in small business, there are many acts of generosity, signs of care and concern. The violence that fills media is happening to someone else. But this insight does not make me feel better, or powerful.

Hearing about the massacre of women and children in Houla chills my bones even though it is far away from my children and grand-children. Yet impermanence suggests there is nothing to guarantee the safety of my loved ones - that the justice I expect today will not always be here. But impermanence means also that I can't anticipate how we will deal with this horror and how we will respond to it on a global scale.

So as I watch my expectations eroding in the face of impermanence, feeling absolutely powerless to find a response that is likely to hold what I value, all that remains is the civil acts I do here and now.  And these acts demand more than the golden rule - they demand compassion.


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