From Intolerance to War

Reuben James

From John Cali's Spirit Speaks Newsletter
November 1, 2011

Seventy years ago yesterday, October 31, 1941, the USS Reuben James, a destroyer (class of US Navy ship), became the first American ship sunk by the German navy in World War II. Torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Iceland, it took 115 of its crew to the bottom of the sea. Only 44 survived.

I know this might seem a strange subject for a spiritual newsletter, but please bear with me.

The legendary American folk singer, Woody Guthrie, wrote the song, The Sinking of the Reuben James. I first heard it, as sung by The Kingston Trio, when I started college years ago.

The song resonated with me because I'd just finished a tour of duty with the US Navy on a destroyer, The USS Rowan. It also resonated with me because I did not believe in war, a conviction I hold even more strongly today. (The only reason I went into the navy was back then, unlike today, young American men were legally required to serve in the military.)

Fortunately (for me), I never served in the military during wartime. In this lifetime, that is. But I was a warrior in other lifetimes,
and I know that accounts for my convictions in this lifetime.

Here's Spirit.


Your history books are filled with war stories -- wars down through the centuries virtually from the beginning of human history on your planet. You do not need us to remind you of the human horrors and tragedies resulting from your inability to get along with each other, individual to individual, nation to nation.

Some of you have even fought wars in the name of God -- or in whatever name you chose to call the divine energy. It's ironic to us that humans would choose that course, or that "justification," for war. God would never choose to inflict harm on humans. For you are all part of God, as we have said many times. God is incapable of hurting himself/herself.

Some of your religious traditions even have the term "just war."* No war is just, or justified, in our view, no matter what the final

No one ever wins a war. Neither the "victor" nor the "vanquished." War is an exercise in futility. The only good that ever comes from it is the lesson --which humans still have not mastered -- that war only perpetrates more war. And the lesson there is no good reason for war except for humans to learn just that -- there is never a good reason for war. Nor does the good you seek ever come from it.

And yet we acknowledge all the wars you've waged down through the centuries have been part of your growth, as a race and as individuals.

You keep saying you want peace on earth, even as you go marching off to war. War can never bring peace. Only peace can bring peace. When each of you finds peace within yourselves, you will create peace all around you.

When enough of you find that inner peace you will transform your world into the peaceful planet you've always yearned for.

There is no war to end all wars. Only peace can end war.

* Spirit is referring here to the Roman Catholic Church's so-called "Just War Doctrine."

Now that you've read what John and Spirit have to say about war, do you feel good inside knowing that you feel the same way? The words "war is an exercise in futility" really resonated with me. I remember from the time that I first heard the concept "man's inhumanity toward man" I held that as the ultimate problem in the world.

But then I wonder .. how does war get started? Surely people don't just wake up one day and decide "today is a good day to go to war." There's a lot of anger, frustration, righteousness, and intolerance in war, and all that doesn't just happen. It builds up. And it builds up in a lot of people on either side of any issue.

None of us is innocent when it comes to war, no matter how much we'd like to think that we are. We want to think that we are "above" such things, that if the world were ours to design (and it is ;)) that we'd never choose war as a way of being.

Then I think about my own life, and how intolerant I can be when someone disagrees with me about something that I feel strongly about. Like injustice from corporations. While I've gained a lot of tolerance over the years, I still I get really agitated, upset, and even angry at certain "injustices" that I see in the way corporations treat people, especially when it affects me directly. When that anger about how they treat me/us over takes me (and it does) I just want to scream. While I'm in this state, whoever is on the other side of the phone conversation runs the risk of being the target of my anger, and sometimes even my rage.

In metaphysical terms, we call outbursts like that "spewing energy", and spewing energy is the first step towards .. you guessed it .. towards war. Because intolerance escalates - I want you to behave differently so that I don't have to deal with the discomfort of my anger, and you (obviously and for good reason) don't want to appease me at the expense of your own comfort. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, an individual war is started. As that anger builds over time, more intolerance is created, and eventually, somewhere down the road, global war is started.

It really starts that simply; it starts with each one of us. So the next time we feel good about how we are against war by being FOR peace, think about those little intolerances that still exist in us personally. Because that's where the real march toward peace comes from, it comes from within. It comes from realizing that our little intolerances build and build and build until war is the only possible "solution." When we set aside or diffuse our own intolerance - for anything and everything - then we will truly be a peaceful, war-free, society.

How do we set aside our own intolerances? First, by realizing that the intolerances that we see in the world, either our personal world or the global world, aren't about "others". That external representation is actually how we feel about ourselves, internally.

So the next time you feel intolerance rising, or any extreme negative emotion, ask yourself this "what is it about this experience that I don't like or can't accept about myself?" The solution, no matter what answer you get, is to love that aspect of yourself, and to keep loving it until it can accept that love unto itself. Because loving yourself, at all times and in all situations, is the true and only path to a peaceful life, a peaceful community, and ultimately, a peaceful world.

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