i’m reading this incredible little book, loaned to me and recommended by my friend andrew, “on understanding violence philosophically,” by j. glenn gray. he spends the first portion of his work making a distinction between force and violence. an important distinction as force used improperly can turn quickly into violence, and happens often from the top down as a government loses itself in the sweet oblivion of wreaking havoc on others, on its own, and the trend carries all the way down into our neighborhoods… the capacity for violence is born out of a nature of duality which we humans possess. unlike most other species, our skills are not limited to simply regenerative prowess: we also have imagination: this character of spirit, of being, brings us into connexion with the powers that create and delete. the author states that it is by this manifold of imagination that humans have EKSTASIS… that they are brought out of themselves and witness themselves; and without this creative ability (it’s also a skill), the world is just a wide expanse of things and possible dangers. yet it is by this very powerful tool of ekstasis that our species can spin into negative observance of itself, where the powers of deletion are relished above those of joy, gratitude, creative intelligence, and tolerance. it is so possible and intriguing to fall into resentful ekstasis, that this pathogenic poison has toppled nations (East Germany, Zimbabwe) and even threatened the safety of the entire planet (nuclear weapons, destructive environmental processes). this is the root of violence, which is a reactive spiritual action, getting off on the intoxicating sensation of bringing pain into another spirit. the only solution to this violence is containment; it cannot be REMOVED like so many peace activists might hope: it must be integrated, dealt with, understood, and, given the tools of compassion and creativity, transformed into the beneficent other side of ekstasis, where we live in a deep joy recognizing the thread that runs through and under all things. the author quotes Nietzsche from his earlier book, “Human, all too Human…” that in order to bring about peace (which is only one thing: an end of violence and a memory of that end) we must, “break the sword.” this alone will save a nation from violence, especially a nation that has armed itself with military might for the purpose of “defense.” if the world watched that nation “smash its entire military establishment down to its lowest foundations”… then we would be on the path to something interesting, then we would be entering the ekstasis where characters are forged and leaders weave history.
in the same aphorism, Nietzsche says something i cannot forget:
rather perish than hate and fear and TWICE RATHER PERISH than make oneself hated and feared.