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When I grew up, the people who lived in the same house as me were called my family and the person who slept in the same room as me was called my brother.

My brother and I shared a room for a number of years and we both had very different rhythms and ways of being. I would get cranky when he would keep me up at night, and then as I got older, get cranky when he would wake me up in the morning! There were times when we fought but the family home didn’t have any other rooms, and so even in those tense times there was never a question of moving rooms. There was no way to escape the fact that he was my brother and certainly at no point did I demand that he had no right to exist in the same house.

We do all share the one house – called planet Earth – and Jews and Arabs do both share the same bedroom called the Middle East. There are no other rooms for either to move into and at some point, they may even recognise the fact that they are brothers.

Conflict in the Middle East is complicated and possibly too complicated for such a simple tangent to be drawn, but the reality is that sometimes when a situation seems so completely dire and entrenched, that simplicity might be exactly what is needed.

But of course, the issue is not about Jews and Arabs because similar issues exist across the world: Sunni/Shia, Protestant/Catholic, Russian/American, Buddhist/Muslim, Indian/Pakistani – the list can go on. This means that if we are really interested in peace in the Middle East, we need to call a family meeting and not just leave it to two brothers to fight it out.

At this family meeting we need to ask everyone:

‘Why do we love to draw overly narrow stereotypes of different races and religions? Why do we believe that differences are insurmountable simply because a fictitious line in the sand has been placed there by kings, conquerors, government or geological formations?’

Yes, we eat, talk, move differently but those differences are simply like a different child trying to find their way in life; trying to work out who they are and what they want to be when they grow up.

Each of these children become so attached to their various toys and fashion trends, that they have forgotten that they are part of a much bigger family.

We are a family of souls who are learning that there is more to life than flesh and bone.

It’s a simple statement but the problem is that we are in massive denial of this simple fact.

And one that is not owned by any one religion, corporation, country or philosophy.

In fact, the insistence that all of our different versions and descriptions of the more ethereal parts of our lives is part of the denial that we are all one family; this ultimately means we all are held by a unified truth about exactly what this more ethereal relationship is.

We need differing ideas and sharings to work out what is and is not true but at the moment the dominant approach is akin to a group of children stamping their feet, demanding they are right, not sharing toys and blaming the other siblings to avoid responsibility for their own behaviour. We also love to use sibling rivalry to show how well we are doing – or if we are the rebel child, how badly.

This is not real family. A real family places truth above playing favourites; places awareness above any possible embarrassment that we have got something wrong.

We should never stop exploring but we need a way to have this exploration build on what has gone before, what has been tried, what has worked and what has failed. We need a foundation to bring all the children back to a common touchstone so that they have a way of testing the experience they have out in the world. That way, they return with the wisdom they have gained, rather than the arrogance that they are right.

That foundation is Love, Joy, Harmony and Stillness. These are four elements of Soul that denote if we are all pulling in the same direction or not. Without these four elements, we risk dropping into ‘good ideas’, rather than making the truth of the Soul our litmus test of any idea, practice or pedagogy that tries to suggest that they hold the deeper answers to life. Without these four elements, we do not get to the fifth and final element – Truth – a truth that unifies the whole family.

As a family, our single and unwavering response to anyone suggesting that they have an answer would be: show me the love you carry for yourself and others; show me the joy you live without stimulants or denying the misery that so many of our fellow brothers live in; show me the harmony you live when no one else is looking and when interacting within your community; and finally, show me the stillness that characterises your movements and your lack of imposition on others.

We are a family and we are all learning, so expecting perfection before exploring alternatives is tantamount to judgement, just as repeating the same behaviour and expecting a different outcome is tantamount to either ignorance or arrogance. The fact is neither can stand if we want answers to problems like the Middle East and beyond.

The question we need to start with is how many thousands of years will we keep trying the same answers?

How many thousands of years has it been of current religious and cultural approaches and what level of Love, Joy, Harmony and Stillness have they offered the world?

This needs to be the topic of our family meeting because without it we are simply focussing on issues that distract us from these glaring questions that will require more than a dash of humility, grace and understanding to ask of each other and ourselves.

But until we change the question, until we change our focus, nothing will change.

What we focus on is what we see more of. Look around and see how much blue you can spot, then look for more blue; the more you look the more you see. We each live and can become controlled by a selective reality that makes us certain that some people are good and others are bad.

If we want global family, we need to set our filter to pay attention to who we are beyond borders, to who we are at our most innate and foundational level – the Soul.

This is where true family lives: one world, committed to discovering the truth of life, rather than different clans trying to convince the other they are right.

I am not my brother’s keeper, but I am going to keep living next to him for many, many, many lives to come. So, I am calling a family meeting.

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LoveHarmonyConflictStillnessTruthJoy

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    By Joel Levin

    People and groups is where it is at for me, the way we work together (or not), it’s what I do for a living and what I do for a hobby, in essence it’s my everyday.

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    Photography: Matt Paul