I have never loved Jerusalem, as so many people do. I’m repelled by the fanaticism that feeds on old conflicts and visions of Armageddon, the Apocalypse, and various other forms of final reckoning. But I love to walk here, even in the great desert heat, and the hot stones of buildings and streets, along with the fragrance of wisteria, continue to talk to me about love.
Nothing points to our essential oneness more than that we are always working on some level or other to heal something, to mend something. That seems to underlie our time here on earth.
Some of the time I work on how I am with my family of origin and the conflicts that tore us apart long ago, which seems to be my major work when I come to Jerusalem now. Some of the time I work on how I am with friends and lovers, the endless back-and-forth that needs to be owned and gently held. Some of the time I work on leveling inequality, poverty, and discrimination. Some of the time I pay attention to how some have so much while others have so little. Some of the time I bear witness to catastrophe, such as when I listen to my mother and her stories of the Holocaust or last week when the Zen Peacemakers spent a week in Bosnia.
When I walk these streets I look at both the yellow butterflies and the trash on the ground, the ancient, gated walls in the distance along with the rich, modern malls up close, the Museum of Islamic Art across the street and the crumbling Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, the valleys of ancient, entwined olive trees and the wall I will encounter this afternoon going into Bethlehem, in the West Bank, to see my friend Sami Awad.
The psychiatrist Dan Siegel has said that the purpose of the mind is to experience, and then integrate. Isn’t this what oneness is about? If separation is what truly defines us, then what causes this constant, relentless need to understand, to make whole, to create a narrative that somehow contains all the opposites and the contrasts, that can even contain—and soothe—experiences of the deepest loss? Wouldn’t it be a lot more natural to avoid all that, to just live in our own self-containment without trying to reach out towards what’s different, what’s changing, what’s not to our liking, what hurts?
There are certainly areas I back away from: children, money, thunderstorms, walking in the dark. But even the most profound withdrawals—into gloom, apathy, or depression—can contain stirrings of curiosity and awakening. We want to integrate, we want to consciously be part of some great functioning, we want to write the story of how it all works even if that story contains contradictions and uncertainties, even if the price we pay for it is relentless, sometimes overpowering doubt.
I still want to write that story, I think, because that’s the story of love.Make A Donation