I shared early on that my preoccupation with nonviolence began when I discovered the idea that love is not only more powerful than violence but also the only force in the universe strong enough to overcome it. At first my interest was purely fueled by curiosity.
Was this really true?
But then, as I studied an increasing number of social concerns through this lens of love, I became enamored by that central undercurrent:
How does it grow?
What is its source?
How do we increase our own capacity to carry it deep in our hearts?
I walked through the pages of Gandhi's life and watched him live with circumspect dignity and care for all he met. How did he develop the strength to live that way?
I read about the bombings on Martin Luther King's home and his unwillingness to fight back or even demonize those who did it. How did he find the inner reserve of strength to respond that way?
I read dozens of Thomas Merton's private letters, so many littered with the conviction that wars and bombs are merely outcomes of our fears. How did he develop that conviction?
I went back to the teachings of Jesus again and again. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hurt you. Turn the other cheek. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the peacemakers. Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do. How do we become people who willingly love this way?
Something else happened along the way.
My heart became tattered and torn into tiny pieces, over and over and over.
Violence in the Congo.
Violence in Iran.
Torture in Guantanamo Bay.
The true tale of Dead Man Walking.
Child soldiers in Uganda, felled deftly by the sound of falling whistles.
And while many, many tears fell for the victims inside these stories, something altogether foreign began happening in me.
I became increasingly wrecked for their enemies.
With every news report I read of the green revolution happening in Iran, I could see the eyes of the Supreme Ayatollah and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad staring at me.
When the torture memos were released from Guantanamo Bay, I couldn't stop seeing the eyes of those applying the torture.
When I watched Dead Man Walking, I cried and cried and cried as Sean Penn's eyes stared back at me from the screen, his arms stretched outward in the shape of a cross as he received that deathly dosage in his very last scene.
Their eyes haunted me.
Everywhere I went, I could see them.
I balled up in bed many times, and I wept.
What was happening to me?
How in the world did I end up here?
How did I come to care for those it is so easy for us to despise?
I don't fully know the answers to these questions, though I've been developing some ideas. But one thing I've determined is certainly true: the road to nonviolence is about the journey toward increasing and overwhelming love.
That is the work we will be about here. We will explore and walk together the road toward increasing love.