What is the meaning of GRACE?
(Excerpt of the book: Sabine Lichtenfels, GRACE. Pilgrimage for a Future without War. More about the book, click here)
In search of a name for the pilgrimage we came across the term GRACE. Grace has many connotations and in English comprises more than the word “Gnade” does in German. GRACE is mercy, favour, charm, sweetness, readiness, charity, consideration, congeniality and also stands for the act of Grace itself. GRACE reminds me of walking in the service of the higher mission, in the service of life and its inherent justice.
Those who are walking in the name of GRACE do not come to accuse. They do not come to impart a new ideology on a country or on a land and its people – they come in the service of openness, of perception and of support. GRACE pledges not to worsen a war but rather to end it wherever it happens to be. In the name of GRACE I am always on the look out for a non-violent solution, a solution which creates justice and healing amongst all concerned. Often clear judgement is necessary to do this, but never condemnation.
GRACE says: I am willing to end the war and to understand the means by which it can be ended and I place myself in the service of a solution.
You can easily examine just how far you have committed yourself to act in this way by the way you react, especially when you feel that someone has tried to hurt you or treated you unjustly. In such situations we are quick to forget our determination to live in peace and readily enter into disputes and wars, large or small.
Here is a small example, perhaps a little humorous but it makes the point: If you hear that the car of a distant acquaintance has been stolen, you will probably take the news very calmly. If you hear that your best friend’s car has been stolen, you will probably get a bit agitated but still stay cool enough just to pass on a few words of commiseration. When, however, your own beloved car has been stolen, inner peace is shattered and perhaps for some time. The setting of the course is far reaching and profound and takes place at a totally different level of consciousness. We can, however, understand more about the correlations on a large scale when, when we have learnt to be come witnesses to ourselves on the smaller scale.
GRACE is not man made.
GRACE catapults us to a higher level of order in life itself. It is not me that will judge, but life itself. No matter where I happen to be and where I am coming from, I put aside all prejudice and judgement. I do not arrive with preconceived ideas of who the other one might be or might not be and I do not make my opinion the yardstick for my actions. I practised and learnt to see the Christ in every human being wherever I was and during all of the pilgrimage.
At first I turn to the human being who happens to be my counterpart and let myself be touched by his or her history. To do this, I anchor myself as far as possible in the present moment. Again and again I imagine that the person sitting in front of me could just as well be me. I could be a woman settler, a Palestinian woman or a young Israeli woman about to enter the military. I could be the soldier that is about to shoot at Palestinian kids with tear gas. I look for the core of the human being in all its roles and behind all the masks of alienation. It is often difficult to be in this kind of presence. How often have I been outraged about the views of the world which I had to endure listening to from for instance an extreme rabbi or a fanatical Muslim? And how often did I feel an inner defensiveness or a reaction of disgust when listening to the never ending accusations and stories of suffering from the Palestinians in the West Bank or to the fanatical speeches of the settlers?
GRACE demands self-knowledge. And self-knowledge is not always easy. To discover flaws in others is much more pleasant and easy, than to unmask oneself. Everything within me wants to cry out in anger and outrage when I sit opposite a young officer listening to his excited explanations about the ideological values of his country.
All of a sudden it occurs to me that he could just as well be my son and immediately I begin to see in him not only the soldier but the human being behind his role. This is a first step which creates an opening. Now everything depends on whether I will be able to tell him the truth of what I see without any fear.
Then GRACE happened.
I let myself be touched and I try to touch others. Whenever possible, I enter places with my heart open. This was the case when I met with soldiers and officers, Palestinian peasants or farmers, or Israeli settlers.
GRACE comes from the strength and the connectedness with the source of life.
This must not be confused with a timid attitude where I dare not speak up against injustice when I see it.
I do not condemn anyone or anything when I am in the state of GRACE, rather, I gather up the courage to speak the truth. I want to speak the truth in such a way as to reach out to others and to change them, from feeling that only they are in the right and also to avoid worsening even further the war situation. In our everyday reality we shut out both sides. We shut out the truth of the victim as well as the truth of the perpetrator. We then are quick to impose our view of the world on either one of them. And most important of all is that our view of the world is the right one! We do this to protect ourselves from being touched. We can only bear to watch the constant and terrible news because we are so closed up. And we are relieved when we are able to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. We carry on living our comfortable every-day lives and believe that we are good people when we manage to show some little charity in our lives. This is the way the insidious fascism of our times is bred through indifference.
People shut their good middle-class front doors in the face of reality. They do it until suddenly they themselves are caught by a wave of real life which up till then they have been successfully suppressing. Suppression now hits back and shows its most cruel and violent side. It is not life itself that is cruel. It is through suppression that it appears to be cruel and violent. We see this in marriage crisis, in illness, in growing suicide rates, in psychic sickness, alcoholism and other similar problems. That is until we wake up!
GRACE reminds us of another truth and reality at work behind the terrible dimensions of a culture which will soon have exhausted its last resources. The truth is simple and the same everywhere.
When forming an opinion, we tend to forget that we do this mainly from a level of interpretation. The truth lies beyond all opinions. The truth is distinct from ideology in as much as truth is both simple and true.
I was shocked to realize that conflicts more often than not are kindled and rekindled by the ideologies and the convictions which people continually fire at each other. Because of our fear of the truth of life we consider our opinions and views to be true and defend them right until the bitter end. This is psychological warfare that finally results in real war. We hold to be true what has nothing to do with truth. This is the story of our socialisation with which we identify.
All of a sudden you look into the distorted mirror of mankind which has separated itself from its roots. You look at the same patterns of fear, anger, powerlessness and trauma which are everywhere and at the resulting war with its destructive acts of revenge. It is the suppressed life itself that chooses revenge in order to survive.
At this point appeals to morality are useless. Just imagine, your child is killed in front of your own eyes. Is it not revenge that is your foremost and strongest impulse?
You see it everywhere sometimes in lesser sometimes in worse forms, but the basic pattern remains identical everywhere. It can be found behind every ideology, behind all religions, behind all views of the world. We have, in equal measure, all become victims of an imperialistic culture. Behind this avalanche that rolls across the regions of war on this planet writing its painful history of victims and perpetrators, behind all this, you come across the same hunger everywhere – a hunger for life, a hunger for love, a hunger for trust and belonging, a hunger for acknowledgement and a hunger for wanting to be seen and understood. This hunger is independent of race and creed. It simply exists, in every human being for as long as he or she still deserves this name.
When I am out there in the name of GRACE, I try to meet the human being and let myself be touched by them rather than by the world views they represent.
All would be lost whenever our meetings started with a debate about world views. Nobody kept listening and as a result the meetings ended in emotional upheaval. The meetings unfolded in a completely different way whenever people were touched by each other in a deep and humane way.
GRACE always reminds you of this.
GRACE is like a consciously chosen naivety that helps you find your way through through the welter of world views so that you recognize and protect the elementary and simple truth behind all things. You create an opening for the cry for life.
You see the collective body of pain in front of you, this body that has presented the Jews with their terrible fate. You equally recognise the collective delusion of the German people who have still not been able to truly look at and heal their past. You see the effects of a patriarchal religion and culture which has taken a wrong turn for thousands of years, and you see how war is an inseparable part of it, just as much as thunder and lightning are part of a stormy night.
The history of victims and perpetrators and our identification with either one of them has to come to an end. At this point world history awaits a big transformation, the final awakening!
GRACE REMINDS YOU ALWAYS THAT THIS CHANGE DOES NOT COME TO PASS BY WAY OF ONES OWN FORCES.
GRACE reminds you of the sacredness of life itself at every moment.
GRACE reminds you that the only way back out of the dead end street is for humankind to successfully return to the very basis of life and love, of trust and truth.
GRACE is the power of a long breath that is going to last because it can see a new dawn at the horizon of history, a paradise of love and charity, a culture honouring variety while at the same time acknowledging common values.
GRACE is the umbilical cord that connects us to this vision and guides us, as of this moment, to act and behave out of its Geist*, its freshness, abundance and beauty.
* The noun “Geist” (adj. geistig) is used throughout this text to better reflect the notion of “intellect, spirit and soul” as expressed in this German term.