As I prepare for the second week of our current Message Series dealing with the Eight Fold Path of Buddhism and the Parables and Teachings of Jesus there is a proverb-ish verse that keeps coming to mind. “The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions.” This aphorism keeps wandering into my consciousness and is really rather distracting and I am not finding it very helpful, obviously.
As to why, well, the second Fold in the Path is “Right Intention,” thus the annoying pesky verse lurks in the back of my mind poking its nose into my business while I ponder the coming week. It is helpful to go to the Path itself to hear what it has to say. This Right Intention in Buddhist thought has to do with mental energy, the resistance of desire, the focus on good will resisting anger and aversion, the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly or violently, and to develop compassion. The idea perhaps, one becomes what one thinks or one becomes what one says. I have heard it in Christian language around talking the talk and/or walking the walk. Do what you say you are are going to do, “let your yes be yes and your no be no,” Jesus said.
I have been pondering this in respect to the upcoming anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001. I remember that day as most all of us do. I remember being glued to the television reports and watching the images of the day unfold. I remember the images of care and compassion, the heroes of the day sung and unsung. I remember the embraces, the hands of help, the tears, and the triumphs.
As I ponder, I think the intent of the day was compassion; the intent of the day was care, nurture, survival, and outreach. But as I look back, there are days I wonder what happened to that intention, what happened to that awareness, and what happened to that mental energy of love regardless of who one is or what they believe. It seems it was just a glimpse of what could be and now it is a memory of what could have been. It seems we have, as a nation, successfully replaced compassion and care with fear and suspicion, especially as I consider my friends and neighbors who are Muslim and still ten years later witness and read about the continued distrust and hatred of the whole of a people of faith because of an extremist faction who claim the name of Islam. It occurs to me that a more accurate aphorism would be “The Road to Hell is Paved in Fear, Distrust, and Hate.” It breaks my heart.
But I am an eternal optimist, and I do not believe it is ever too late to start right where we are. I believe we can reclaim that mental energy of the present moment that fosters compassion, understanding, and love. And if we continue to seek out and be awake to opportunities to practice compassion and patience, what we think, what we seek, what we are mindful of, will be who we are and what we do. It is the only thing that can turn fear into compassion, suspicion into welcome, distrust into embrace, and hatred into love.
It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the family. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table.
Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.