Sunday, January 17, 2010


The good life, according to me, is a wise life, a life wisely lived, producing value for oneself and others. In short, the good life is a valuable life.

Having now defined good as wise and wise as valuable, what then is of paramount value to us human beings? By what values should we live, or what values should we realize and manifest, to make our lives good?

Love is, I believe, the supreme universal value: we must care for, protect and nurture ourselves and other human beings, rather than fear them, hate them and harm them. As we ourselves wish to be cherished and not abused by others, we owe others the same dignified treatment.

Such is the ideal we must strive to make real; however, being met by fear, hatred and harm from those who abuse our own innocence presents us with the supreme moral challenge. How then do we “turn the other cheek” and respond to insult with patient love? How do we protect ourselves without inflicting damage in return—like the aikido master, whose intent and actions only foil an aggressor and prove the futility of attack, rather than harm him? Can we not set our adversaries right rather than smite them, turning them as well toward the path of love, care, and compassion?

Can we come to understand the roots of wrath and see how our adversaries were formed? Can we assume that any sane person will naturally behave with love, care and compassion for others, and that such a faultless attitude is the default mode of healthy humanity? Therefore, aberrant behavior, which intends harm, is an illness needing cure, not an evil to be crushed—for crushing evil would amount to malice vs malignancy, or evil vs evil, absent love.

Perhaps though, this medical analogy misleads us. If we say our adversaries are malignant, like cancers, then we respond like oncologists with “aggressive treatments” to “root out” and “kill off” the offending cells by radiation, chemical warfare, or radical surgery. Likewise, against Al Quaeda or Taliban insurgents we launch counterattacks and missiles using superior destructive force and firepower—not love. They hit us; we lash back with a vengeance. The cycle continues.

What’s a viable (not violent) alternative? “There is no way to peace,” said Gandhi; “peace is the way.” Be peaceful. Be compassionate. Be dignified. Act accordingly. That is the way of wisdom.