Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Parable

With the recent visit and brew ha-ha about Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I was struck by the following parable written by Henri Nouwen.

Once there was a people who surveyed the resources of the world and said to each other: "How can we be sure that we will have enough in hard times? We want to survive whatever happens. Let us start collecting food, materials, and knowledge so that we are safe and secure when a crisis occurs." So they started hoarding, so much and so eagerly that other peoples protested and said: "You have much more than you need, while we don't have enough to survive. Give us part of your wealth!" But the fearful hoarders said, "No, no, we need to keep this in case of an emergency, in case things go bad for us, too, in case our lives are threatened." But the others said: "We are dying now, please give us food and materials and knowledge to survive. We can't wait..we need it now!" Then the fearful hoarders became ever more fearful since they became afraid that the poor and hungry would attack them. So they said to one another: "Let us build walls around our wealth so that no stranger can take it from us." They started erecting walls so high that they could not even see anymore whether there were enemies outside the walls or not! As their fear increased they told each other: "Our enemies have become so numerous that they may be able to tear down our walls. Our walls are not strong enough to keep them away. We need to put bombs on top of the walls so that nobody will dare to even come close to us." But instead of feeling safe and secure behind their armed walls they found themselves trapped in the prison they had built with their own fear. They even became afraid of their own bombs, wondering if they might harm themselves more than their enemy. And gradually they realized their fear of death had brought them closer to it.

Nouwen is writing at a time when nuclear weapons were proliferating. However, I think his words ring true. In talking about this parable that was published in "Lifesigns" he further writes:

... Never have nations spent so much to protect themselves against their neighbors near and far, and never have we come so close to the annihilation of the human race.
There is an urgent need for a spirituality that addresses these idolatries and opens the way to a new ecstasy. We must find a way to go beyond our national security obsession and reach out and foster life for all people, whatever their nationality, race, or religion."

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