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The Susan and John Story (written in October 2001)

"I feel so incredibly frustrated," said Susan.

John looked at her. The muscles in her cheek were twitching. Tension. He understood how she felt. He'd been feeling a great deal of tension and anxiety ever since September 11....and then, the anthrax scares.... the war in Afghanistan...and now, possibly a war against Iraq... "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked gently.

"Oh, dear, I’m not sure I can put my frustration into words." She hesitated, then, "That’s part of what is so very frustrating. I feel as if I am in some new and unexplored territory in my life and I am completely unprepared and uncomfortable. None of the old signposts work anymore."

She fell silent. John stood there, feeling an enormous sense of love and appreciation for his wife. She was always so honest, so insightful.

Maybe out of her insights he would learn more about his own anxiety.

Suddenly her words came tumbling out. "I feel so frustrated because I don't have any idea what we need to do to solve this current situation. I mean, it was such a horrible shock when the Towers and the Pentagon were hit—we haven’t been attacked since Pearl Harbor...and that was so far away. And of course, the terrorists can’t just get away with their attacks. We have to do something. But I feel so uncomfortable about what has happened in Afghanistan. I mean, several million people are about to starve to death there unless food can be properly delivered to them. And all the bombing.....I don’t just doesn’t make sense. The more we bombed them, the more innocent people were killed or injured. That’s not right. That’s a kind of terrorism, too, don’t you think?"

John thought about the conversation he’d had recently with the guys at work. "Yeah, I know what you mean. The thing that Joey and Paul pointed out is that the more innocent people get killed, the more new terrorists will spring up. Those guys over there don’t think like us. They think they’ll go directly to heaven if they die while on some suicide bombing mission or whatever. So, it looks to me like a ‘no-win’ situation."

"What we are doing right now really IS a no win situation," said Susan. "But it\'s much worse than that. While we’re fighting this war, we’re not paying attention to some really important things. In a way we’re focusing on the wrong enemy. People’s REAL enemies are fear and poverty, hunger...disease....And ignorance. Those are things that breed terrorism."

She looked at him thoughtfully. "And maybe the biggest "REAL enemy" is the way we human beings think we can live however and wherever we want, cutting down so many trees, polluting the rivers, the oceans, the soil... I just don’t see how we can continue consuming more and more resources?" The muscle in her cheek was twitching again. "I know THAT is a big part of the anxiety and frustration I’m feeling. What will happen to the Earth if we keep on like this? It’s a really scary thought."

"You know," said John, "Paul said something similar—that with the war on terrorism, we seem to be completely forgetting the larger issues that, if unattended to, will kill all of us, sooner or later. He gave the examples of global warming and the holes in the ozone layer. But it’s all related, as you say, to our way of living."

John sighed deeply. "It's as if people have gotten hypnotized by the ability to consume massive amounts of stuff….then they were hypnotized by the actions of the terrorists....and now, they’re hypnotized by the reactions of our government and military against the terrorists.." He shook his head. "I love America as much as the next guy, but loving America has got to be connected to…be part of loving the whole Earth. America needs a healthy Earth to be healthy. We’re thinking too small...we’re missing some really important things we can’t afford to miss."

"Yes," said Susan. "I think we’re basically saying the same thing. Our leaders are so caught up in this immediate situation, scrambling from crisis to crisis, that they—and we—never step back to get the big picture. And, if we don’t get an accurate BIG picture of what’s going on, we’ll never figure out a really good way to act."

Susan fell silent. She looked so sad. "I lost my dad in World War brother was badly injured in the Vietnam War....John, I’m really scared that our two sons are...." she stopped, all choked up. "It’s not right...." She was shaking...fear, anger, frustration, incredible sadness..."And, over there in Afghanistan, over there in Iraq, there’s another mother whose son will die...or another young woman whose husband may’s just not right. There MUST be a better way."

"Oh, sweetheart," said John, putting his arms around her as she started to cry softly, "You are so right. It’s as if there are houses all over the village that are catching on fire... and the firemen are all rushing around to put out this blaze...and that blaze....but it’s never enough, no matter how bravely they fight the fires."

"Yes," said Susan, wiping her eyes on John’s sleeve. She took a deep breath. "What we need is to step back and get the big, what is causing the fires in the first place?" She was silent for a moment, then, "You know what I keep thinking to myself? —If we're smart enough to put a man on the moon, aren't we also smart enough to figure out how to create a peaceful and just world, a world that works well for everyone?"

"Oh, jeez," said John, somewhat embarrassed. "I know a lot of people would consider that to be completely crazy, utopian thinking....but , to tell you the truth, honey, I have the exact same thoughts myself. We human beings are pretty good at solving a problem once we make up our minds to solve it. But we don’t seem to be asking the right questions. So, we’re not solving the most important problems." He stroked her hair slowly, thoughtfully. "Maybe if enough of us were to put our attention into solving THAT one," he said in almost a whisper, "maybe we could actually do it!"

They stood there, holding each other, feeling incredibly helpless. How could this be done? The task seemed so enormous. How could enough people come to focus on this challenge — the challenge of how to create a just and lasting peace in the world, one that is sustainable long into the future? They both sighed deeply, spontaneously....How wonderful it would be, if.... if only....

....A faint idea began to take form.... "Oh, honey," Susan said, pulling back and looking into John's eyes. Her eyes were very bright and full of wonder. "Maybe we just did something just now... something really important in asking ...together...for help. You know, ‘...ask and it shall be answered unto you’..."

John looked at her strangely. "I’m feeling something, too, honey. It’s as if something has shifted....but I can’t put words to it yet."

Susan was excited. "John, I think a lot of people are thinking about these issues and are feeling much the way we do. Maybe we could start by raising this question with our friends: How can we encourage people to think constructively about how to create a lasting and just peace in the world?"

"Now THAT is an interesting idea," said John, starting to get excited. "I think you’re onto something. From listening to talk radio and the various news programs on TV and radio, lots of people seem to be sensing that some new way of thinking is needed." He lifted Susan up and swung her around in a circle, a big grin on his face. "Tell you what—I'll run this idea by the guys at work."

"Great!" said Susan, laughing softly as he put her back down gently on the floor. "After you get home this evening, let’s write an email to send to our families and friends. We can ask them also to pass it along to THEIR families and friends, and so on. Maybe if enough people share their ideas, we can all figure this thing out."


How can we encourage people all over the world to share their constructive ideas for building a peaceful and just world?
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