Meaning of Pittsburgh

Michael Nagler offers a personal reflection on Pittsburgh, and how it is helping him to deepen his commitment to nonviolence.

Photo of Michael Nagler

Yesterday’s headline in our local paper (The Santa Rosa Press Democrat) boasts PITTSBURGH MASSACRE DETAILED. We could not ask for a more eloquent reason not to let the mass media rule our thinking, as it does that of millions. Dwelling on the details of the horror is a two-edged sword, both edges severely harmful: readers will relive the experience vicariously, thus increasing the high level of fear, insecurity, and rage they already endure (I am not referring to Halloween specifically), and be completely distracted from the cause of this and so many other acts of violence that are steadily tearing apart our society. The cause? In one ominous sentence uttered in a moment of reflection by my teacher, Sri Eknath Easwaran, many years ago, “No nation is so strong that it cannot be destroyed by hate.”

Though I am of Jewish origin, as Stephanie kindly pointed out yesterday I am not speaking of this crime as one of anti-Semitism, which it is secondarily. Of course it has a particular poignancy for me and my fellow Jews, but in the footsteps of my other great teacher, Gandhi, I must regard it as a crime against the human image, the semel elohim or ‘image of God’ that we are. Every one of us.

So what can we do about this? Shun the mass media, of course, getting whatever news and entertainment we need from other sources (see our website, listen to our podcasts if you wish) and do everything possible to eradicate the sources of hate that may lurk in the remote corners of our own mind. You will say, ‘but I’m just one person.’ I would say, “just”? One person is one microcosm of this universe.