FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Of Peace and Humility

by MICHAEL ORTIZ HILL

When Benjamin checked into the hospital, he didn’t know whether he came to die or get a new heart, and he didn’t care one way or another which it was to be. At sixty, he was played out, and his heart was, as Tony might say, “dead meat.” When I became his nurse, it had been only a few days since he’d received the heart of a man half his age. He couldn’t keep from resting his hands across his sternal incision, astonished to feel another man’s heart beating in his chest.

Benjamin was astonished also for an even more profound reason. He was feeling compassion for the first time. “I was never a man who was given to weeping,” he told me, “but now it’s all I do.” I was moved to watch him minister to his roommate, a young man who was himself on the short list for a new heart.

Mostly Benjamin was weeping because he’d spent forty years in the CIA, cold and efficient, “on company business” in Laos, El Salvador, the Congo; supervising torture in Latin America, clandestine operations in Africa and Asia. “If only Americans knew,” he kept saying. I suppose for the two days I was with him, I represented the America “that needed to know.” He poured his heart out.

All this was far less melodramatic than it sounds, maybe because he had utterly come to the end of his rope. His grief was soft, reflective, and he was continually surprised that he could feel anything at all. His new humility was genuine, and every night his prayers were quiet as he began his new life.

It is a beautiful thing, the prayer that comes naturally when cruelty is acknowledged and razed to the ground. “I thank God for removing that hard heart of mine,” said Benjamin.

The twelve steps are a schooling in the nature of humility from the moment we say “yes, I am incapable of altering those patterns that cause such violence” through uncompromising self-scrutiny to this raising of the hands in supplication.

Step Seven prays from the knowledge that for all our self-examination, we will never fully see ourselves though we are fully seen. We will see more clearly after our hearts are changed, but to be human is to be born with a measure of blindness. Like Benjamin, we do not genuinely know what impedes our relationship with God and the world. We must concede the ragged heart to a wisdom quite beyond what we will ever understand.

Benjamin’s story belongs to all of us who live on the fruit of our countries’ violence. Our hearts have been likewise hardened by what has been routinely done in our name. Can we locate the cancer of cruelty in our lived lives? Or does it take the guise of indifference? Or do we just rely on people like Benjamin to enact the cruelty that sustains an unmanageable culture of addiction? You may discern a vague answer to these questions, the outline of a hardened heart that is the only heart we know, but no matter. Offer it up, as did Benjamin: I am here. Heal me. For the sake of the world.

It is here we succumb to the generosity of Spirit.

MICHAEL ORTIZ HILL is the coauthor (with Augustine Kandemwa) of Gathering in the Names ( Spring Audio and Journal 2003) and Dreaming the End of the World. The full text of this essay is posted at www.gatheringin.com He can be reached at michaelortizhill@earthlink.net

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Dmitry Kolesnik
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus, as, Fear and Loathing Grip Europe.
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail