What We Can Do to Transform our World On Purpose

What We Can Do to Transform our World On Purpose
W. Bradford Swift

I recently read an interview of Marianne Williamson as she discussed

her new book, The Gift of Change. During the interview she talked

about the happenings around 9/11 and that we had an opportunity to

engage in an authentic inquiry into such questions as, "Why do these

people hate us?" Unfortunately, instead, we then turned away from

the inquiry and chose a path of fear instead.

But perhaps it’s not too late to engage in the inquiry again.  As I

started to do this for myself what came up was quite interesting. I

realized that I also hate, or at least fear, which is closely akin to

hate, those that attacked the


on 9/11. Why do I hate/fear these

people, and who exactly is it that I’m directing such energy towards?

Ahh, there’s the rub and possibly even the beginning of a solution to

the dilemma.  I actually know very little about the people that my

country had designated as our enemy. At best, I have only vague, poorly

formed thoughts about them.  I think of them as ‘Islamic extremists’

akin to the KKK in this country, an analogy I learned from an episode

of West Wing that aired shortly after 9/11.  But the truth is I know

very little about the religion of Islam, how it is different from or

similar to my own beliefs, the countries where it flourishes, what the

people are like who live there, on and on.  The degree of my ignorance

in this area is alarming.  Might it not be the same for them?

Could it be that it is in this field of ignorance where the current

crop of fear and hate has grown on both sides? While the well-known

maxim says "familiarity breeds contempt," it seems to me that ignorance

breeds fear and hate.  If so, then, isn’t it time for us all to begin

to know our "enemies?"  For sure this has been considered a wise

strategy to use in times of war, but perhaps it’s also a wise strategy

that can lead us to a time of peace.  But knowing our enemy is not

enough, is it?  For sure it’s a step in the right direction, just not

enough.  Christ admonished us to now only know our enemy but to

learn to "love thy enemy," and then went on to demonstrate this

spiritual principle when he pleaded, "Forgive them Father, for they

know not what they do," as his Roman persecutors nailed him to the


The Romans were ignorant as to what they were doing, and this is

another example where ignorance fostered fear and hate.  Knowing

our enemy could be a wise first step that makes it easier to then love

them. In seeking to remove ignorance we have of another culture, we

can also be available to help them understand us better as well; to

understand us at a deeper level than just our commercials, our rap

music, and our other superficial cultural clichés. 

Isn’t it likely that if we take the time to know each other at a

deeper, soulful level, we will find some common ground based in shared

commitments and core values that will allow us to appreciate and even

embrace our differences?  It is time to plow up the fields of ignorance

with the plow of authentic inquiry into the nature of each other, to

pull out the weeds of fear and hate and to plant a new crop of

understanding and love.