Days ago there was news of yet another terrorist incident in Jerusalem. Two arab terrorists entered an synagogue armed with pistols and axes and began killing those inside. Within a few horrific minutes, besides the many wounded, three American-Israeli, and one British-Israeli rabbis were dead, and 24 children were orphaned. A heroic Druze policeman trying to intervene died later that day of his wounds. The terrorists were killed by the police.
President Barack Obama led an all too familiar chorus of regret, sorrow, anger — words and responses we have all heard many times before, and expect to hear again. How soon, we wonder, will our reaction to such everyday horror leave us simply numb? Stories like these drain the spirit, but, worse, they drain the desire to uplift the spirit. What good does it do to meditate, to pray, to exercise, when blind evil can strike out of nowhere, and strike not only oneself, but one’s friends, families, country? Why bother to cultivate inner peace in a world that seems everywhere at war? What value is there to contemplation in a world seemingly bent on destruction?
It is tempting to simply turn away, and some meditative traditions do. “Everything passes” — so why lament what must inevitably be lost in any event? But that is not the response of Refuah Tikun Chai.
Heal. Repair. Live. These are not passive words. They are active words, elements of a mindset of activism. Despite appearances, it is terrorism that is passive, terrorism that aims at the stillness of death, spreading a vacuum of non-being.
Such is not the aim of the meditator. The meditator is not a destroyer — or a coward. The meditator is a builder. First he or she builds up what is closest at hand — one’s very self. The meditator strives for deeper understanding and stronger self-discipline because it leads to enhanced clarity of thought and action. So with our exercises: the physical development, beneficial as it is, pales before the benefits of commitment or discipline.
But self-development for its own sake is not the goal, for we are not only ourselves but part of our families, our communities, our traditions, our species, our world. We can no more separate ourselves from our communities and surroundings than than we can separate our bodies from air. And we enhance ourselves best by enhancing the people and surroundings that contribute to and foster our enhancement.
It was in the practice of the martial arts that my first thoughts about RTC began to form. By working on ourselves spiritually, mentally and physically we transcended our former selves and gained the skills to neutralize evil. We fight evil as we honor the dead, by living and acting well, and we fight best and honor them best by living at our best and our fullest.
Purveyors of terror have lost all such sense of mutual, communal benefit. And so living communities rightly despise them: they have rejected their portion in the creative struggle of life. They imagine they give by taking away, but all they contribute is vacuum and void. I am sometimes asked why I cite Viktor Frankl as one of the major sources of RTC. There are many reasons, but highest among them is the example he set in Auschwitz of neither acquiescing in evil or being corrupted by it. He realized that, like the killers in Jerusalem, the destroyers eventually destroy themselves.
But the creators survive, and, to take up the tasks of creation again, they need to do so with a recovered strength of body and an intensity, generosity, and charity of spirit. These are the gifts of meditation: a gift of peace, even in the center of the storm. And peace after the storm as well.