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:
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
Andrew Levine
Why Not Hillary?
Paul Street
Hillary Clinton’s Neocon Resumé
Chris Floyd
Twilight of the Grifter: Bill Clinton’s Fading Powers
Eric Mann
How We Got the Tanks and M-16s Out of LA Schools
Jason Hirthler
The West’s Needless Aggression
Dan Arel
Why Hillary Clinton’s Camp Should Be Scared
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Flunks Decontamination
David Rosen
The Privatization of the Public Sphere
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Civil Rights Hypocrisy
Chris Gilbert
Corruption in Latin American Governments
Pete Dolack
We Can Dream, or We Can Organize
Dan Kovalik
Colombia: the Displaced & Invisible Nation
Jeffrey St. Clair
Fat Man Earrings: a Nuclear Parable
Medea Benjamin
Israel and Saudi Arabia: Strange Bedfellows in the New Middle East
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail