For the last several months I’ve been in a questioning mode that always starts with the same phrase, “What if…” It’s been going on for so long now that I’m wondering if it’s just an evolving thought-pattern that I might well have to learn to live with. My most recent “What if…” is this: "What if I have a certain covert capacity for violence wired into my being?" I get glimpses of it when I hear the edginess in my voice tone when one of my friends, who lives with altered hearing, requests that I repeat for the second time what I just said. Is it their fault that they have developed hearing loss? All the gentleness I thought was evolving within me suddenly evaporates and discloses the unwelcome face of some unnamed inner violence. My friend’s simple invitation to slow down my speech, face her and slightly increase my voice volume so she can decipher my sentences, requires more patience than I am capable of at that moment. Aha, impatience, also known as the inability to give another the respectful time/space that they need/deserve, raises into consciousness the red flag of personal, unrelinquished violent thinking/acting,
According to Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By, the Sanskrit word for violence is himsa. The word for nonviolence is ahimsa, a state in which every trace of violence is removed. What remains in this nonviolent state is our natural consciousness: pure love. Violence, himsa, expresses itself in three different ways: 1) in our deeds; 2) in our words; and 3) in our thoughts. Most of what we call violence is in the form of action. So it is with our actions that nonviolence, ahisma, naturally begins. But as long as our minds harbor violent, himsa, thoughts, violence will find its way somehow into our speech and behavior.
I’m especially ruminating on these personal violent-actions during this Christian time of Holy Week. I don’t exactly like what these ruminations are disclosing to me.
Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB