On September 11, 2001, our staff gathered around a radio and listened incredulously to the news that terrorists had attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Someone rushed home to get an old TV. We fashioned an antenna from a coat hanger, and through the snow and static emerged the images that would grow so appallingly familiar in the days to come.
We talked about what sort of statement The Sun could make in response to the terrible loss of life and the talk of war that immediately followed. Our October issue had already gone to press, but our printer, Royle Communications of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, told us it wasn’t too late to add a few pages. In addition, Royle generously offered to donate half the cost of this special supplement — one more example of the remarkable altruism so many people have exhibited in recent days.
Since events were changing rapidly, we knew that anything we wrote might seem hopelessly dated by the time this issue reached our readers. We decided, instead, to turn to humanity’s collective wisdom; to words spoken and written in the face of other wars, other tragedies. As the mourning for the victims continues, and the call for vengeance grows louder, such words are worth considering.
A violent act pierces the atmosphere, leaving a hole through which the cold, damp draft of its memory blows forever.
It is not so much the suffering as the senselessness of it that is unendurable.
Grief makes one hour ten.
What does it matter to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?
Sorrow makes us all children again, destroys all difference of intellect. The wisest knows nothing.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
We who live beneath a sky still streaked with the smoke of crematoria have paid a high price to find out that evil is really evil.
If it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
No man consciously chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for the happiness that he seeks.
Each nation knowing it has the only true religion and the only sane system of government, each despising all the others, each an ass and not suspecting it.
The most persistent sound which reverberates through man’s history is the beating of war drums.
To survive it is often necessary to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself.
Anger makes us all stupid.
You can’t say that civilization don’t advance . . . for in every war they kill you a new way.
Most of us spend too much time on the last twenty-four hours and too little on the last six thousand years.
If a politician tells you he’s going to make a “realistic decision,” you immediately understand that he’s resolved to do something bad.
An infallible method of conciliating a tiger is to allow oneself to be devoured.
I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes.
If you are required to kill someone today, on the promise of a political leader that someone else shall live in peace tomorrow, believe me, you are not only a double murderer, you are a suicide, too.
I am sick of war. Every woman of my generation is sick of war. Fifty years of war. Wars rumored, wars beginning, wars fought, wars ending, wars paid for, wars endured.
I have never met anybody who wasn’t against war. Even Hitler and Mussolini were, according to themselves.
To say that war is madness is like saying that sex is madness: true enough, from the standpoint of a stateless eunuch, but merely a provocative epigram for those who must make their arrangements in the world as given.
And I remembered the Fourteenth Book of Bokonon, which I had read in its entirety the night before. The Fourteenth Book is entitled, “What Can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years?” It doesn’t take long to read the Fourteenth Book. It consists of one word and a period.
This is it.
Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?
He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will revolutionize the world.
[In outer space] you develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.”
Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.
Every war already carries within it the war which will answer it. Every war is answered by a new war, until everything, everything is smashed.
It does not do you good to leave a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.
I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.
It is easy to fly into a passion — anybody can do that. But to be angry with the right person and to the right extent and at the right time and with the right object and in the right way — that is not easy, and it is not everyone who can do it.
I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.
If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
Problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them.
There are three truths: my truth, your truth, and the truth.
Compassion is not at all weak. It is the strength that arises out of seeing the true nature of suffering in the world. Compassion allows us to bear witness to that suffering, whether it is in ourselves or others, without fear; it allows us to name injustice without hesitation, and to act strongly, with all the skill at our disposal. To develop this mind state of compassion . . . is to learn to live, as the Buddha put it, with sympathy for all living beings, without exception.
The only thing that’s been a worse flop than the organization of nonviolence has been the organization of violence.
There’s an alternative. There’s always a third way, and it’s not a combination of the other two ways. It’s a different way.
Is not one of our problems today that we have separated ourselves from the poor and the wounded and the suffering? We have too much time to discuss and theorize and have lost the yearning for God which comes when we are faced with the sufferings of people.
It isn’t enough for your heart to break, because everybody’s heart is broken now.
I have learned through bitter experience the one supreme lesson: to conserve my anger, and, as heat conserved is transmitted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmitted into a power which can move the world.
When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?
It is because we don’t know who we are, because we are unaware that the kingdom of heaven is within us, that we behave in the generally silly, the often insane, the sometimes criminal ways that are so characteristically human.
Contemplating the suffering which is unbearable to us, and is unbearable to others, too, can produce awake mind, which arises from the compassion that wishes to free all living beings from suffering.
You point out that war is only a symptom of the whole horrid business of human behavior, and cannot be isolated. And that, even if we abolish war, we shall not abolish hate and greed. So might it have been argued about slave emancipation, that slavery was but one aspect of human disgustingness, and that to abolish it would not end the barbarity that causes it. But did the abolitionists therefore waste their breath? And do we waste ours now in protesting against war?
I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.
Lloyd LeBlanc told me he would have been content with imprisonment for Patrick Sonnier [the man who killed his son]. He went to the execution, he said, not for revenge but hoping for an apology. Patrick Sonnier didn’t disappoint him . . . and Lloyd LeBlanc nodded his head, signaling a forgiveness he had already given. He told me that when he had arrived with sheriff’s deputies there in the cane field to identify his son, he knelt by his body . . . and prayed the Our Father. And when he came to the words “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” he did not halt or equivocate, and he said, “Whoever did this, I forgive them.” But he acknowledges that it’s a struggle to overcome the feelings of bitterness and revenge that well up, especially as he remembers David’s birthday year after year and loses him all over again. . . . Forgiveness is never going to be easy. Each day it must be prayed for and struggled for and won.
What is our innocence, What is our guilt? All are naked, none is safe.
If I have learned anything in my life, it is that bitterness consumes the vessel that contains it.
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
The world dies over and over again, but the skeleton always gets up and walks.
Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time, there would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. I suppose the big problem is that we would fall down and worship each other.
Whatever you say about God you should be able to say standing over a pit full of burning babies.
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
Let judges secretly despair of justice: their verdicts will be more acute. Let generals secretly despair of triumph: killing will be defamed. Let priests secretly despair of faith: their compassion will be true.
We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.
After the dead are buried, and the maimed have left the hospital and started their new lives, after the physical pain of grief has become, with time, a permanent wound in the soul, then comes the transcendent and common bond of human suffering, and with that comes forgiveness and with the forgiveness comes love.
Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and your heart has turned to stone.
How could I have expected that after a long life I would understand no more than to wake up at night and to repeat: Strange, strange, strange, O how strange, how strange, O how funny and strange.
In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.
The world breaks everyone, and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.
In the dark times Will there be singing? Yes, there will also be singing About the dark times.