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Tikkun Olam

I'm glad I didn't have the chance to catch the PBS 9/11 special last night.

Both Sheila O'Malley and Jeff Jarvis watched it and they both do a good job decomposing the complete lack of humanity in this special. You should go read their posts for some of the more unbelievably cold hearted quotes.

After reading the transcript and feeling somewhat angered at the coldness in the words of the participants, I was heartened - yet saddened - by this beautiful passage spoken by Mario Cuomo:

I would like to see some depiction of all the religions list them all: atheism, ethical humanism, Catholicism, etc., etc. All of them. And you notice that each of those religions, these value systems, have two principles they share in common. And the two principles started with monotheism and the Jews: tzedakah and tikkun olam. [Tzedakah] means generally: we must treat one another as brother and sister. We should show one another respect and dignity, because we are like things. We are human beings in a world that has nothing else like us. And we ought to treat one another with love, charity-use your own words. And the second principle is: Well, what do you do with this relationship? Well, we don't know exactly how we got here, why we got here, etc., etc. That's for minds larger than ours. But we know that we are like kinds, and we should work together to make this as good an experience as possible. Tikkun Olam -- let us repair the universe. Now Islam believes that. Buddhism that has no god believes it. Every ethical humanist I ever met believes it. Those two principles: we're supposed to love one another and we're supposed to work together to make the experience better. That's all the religion you need, really, to make a success of this planet. And I'd like to see that in 9/11 somewhere. I'd like to see that captured somehow.

Beautiful as that sounds, it will never happen as long as people keep perverting their religions and ideologies to fit their demented needs.

It is my deepest hope that some day we do see a world such as that. I want that more than anything for my children, for their children, for the future. But all people have to be willing, not just some of us. We have to come to a future where people aren't striving to be martyred by bombs for their cause.

I hope and I wish and I strive to teach my children exactly what Cuomo was speaking about; tzedakah and tikkun olam. I am only one parent, one teacher. I cannot change what others teach their children, especially others who see their own religion through martyred-colored glasses and show the same to their children.

I long ago left behind the naive young girl I was. I used to believe that if we all joined hands and wished for peace, we would get it, so to speak. It's no longer possible to make this a joint effort. We have to do it one person, one parent, one teacher, one child at a time. Perhaps someday my great-great granchildren will reap the benefits of that. And perhaps that day will never come.

I feel less and less certain about my hopes being fulfilled as the years go on, and the hate and death in the name of religion does not subside.

How do you repair the universe? I don't think it's possible. You can only repair your own heart and soul when they feel torn and worn out, and hope that when you feel renewed and hopeful again, you have enough faith and belief left to help repair someone else's heart - and then to pass that skill on to those who come after you.

Comments

As a long-suffering New Yorker, I'm accustomed to Mario Cuomo's condescending lectures and self-aggrandizing useless banalities. No doubt he is a great rhetorician, a regular Cicero. What's needed these days, however---and what's provided by George W. Bush, thank God---is active, forceful leadership.

Good riddance, Mr. Cuomo, to you and your fatuous, vainglorious speeches.

Michele, I have been humming quite sarchastically in my mind that old Coke commercial "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect har-mo-ny............"
I wonder if you have too;)

I saw that program yesterday. I didn't look at it as cold; actually, one of the things that stands out is Mayor Koch breakind down in tears... but I see your point. I just finished watching A Tale of Two Towers on WLIW - which followed the tales of employees in one company in each building, making their way out, and talking about those who didn't.

Sometimes I have to remind myself how amazing it is that so many people did get out. That doesn't lesson the horror of the number who didn't, but I keep thinking of the people who climbed thousands of steps and escaped.

And the others who wouldn't leave the injured. Who told co-workers to go on without them.

Saw the special on channel 21 tonight "9/11: A Tale of Two Towers ". Very sad and very vivid reminder of the day.

Michele, we can't repair the universe. Such an idea is utopian and beyond the power of mere mortals such as ourselves. Not to get into ideological labels, but realizing the imperfection of the world and Man is a basis for conservative thought. I'm not just talking in the straight-forward GOP/Dem scale. It's much more than that. After understanding our place in the universe a little be more, we can do those deeds that might have better results even if they aren't world-changing. We focus on being the best parents, teachers (in a broad sense), citizens, listeners, etc. as we can.

I like what Brendan Miniter had to say in the Wall Street Journal (9/9/03):
"...The significant question, however, isn't where chance found each American that day. Rather it is where each American came to stand when it was time to confront the enemy. Where were you? Were you willing to control your fear and make the sacrifices necessary to defeat the terrorists and their murderous ideology? Were you willing to leave the United Nations in its moral confusion and confront the enemy in his sanctuaries?...

"...Howard Dean says the Iraq war was based on a lie and that there are now more terrorists there than when Saddam ruled. Wesley Clark claims America is failing in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Other Democrats running for president have launched similar attacks. These are the words of those who would offer us the middle ground between good and evil. The terrorists are now showing themselves in Iraq and giving us a chance to kill them. We vowed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks never to forget. But those will prove to be empty words if we forget where we must continue to stand..."

Actually, it's a flawed nature that exists in all mankind. Religion can just be one catalyst to show just how flawed that nature is. Greed, ego, power, alcohol ... there are many other ways to show how black is the heart of man. Nazism wasn't a religion. Communism definitely isn't a religion.

But you're right. We aren't going to fix the universe through any "grand movements."

Bryan, you're right. Religion, like other mass movements, is created by flawed people. That doesn't mean all human insitutions are bad. Some are just less bad than others.

Great PBS special - got into the history, unmuddled by the various ways special interest groups, political parties and religions have tried to claim 9/11 as their little bastion for spreading their views.

Religion is created by flawed people??? We can't repair the universe??? Gosh, where did all this negativity come from? No, Religion is misinterpreted by confused people who lost sight of the central lessons of their Faith. Listen up my fellow Jews, this includes you! As for the special, I was too busy repairing the universe at the time. You can be an active participant or you can be a couch potato. Your choice. :)
And BTW, never hold blind allegiance to a political party; whether Republican, Democratic, or National Socialist.