It can be difficult for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) to live with the heat and humidity in Northern Virginia. So, before Most Beautiful One (MBO) and I moved to Bainbridge Island in 2004, we took month-long summer vacations in the cooler climate of British Columbia. One of our favorite places to visit was Salt Spring Island where we saw Harry Manx perform for the first time. He is an award-winning Canadian musician and lyricist who blends blues, folk music and Hindustani classical music. His signature instrument is a 20-string mohan veena guitar.
Manx played a haunting song called Only Then Will Your House Be Blessed which he wrote in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001:
Let it go, Let it go, Well well, let it go go go
Let your sword of vengeance rest
Oh, do the, do the blind lead the blind?
Well well don’t be cruel to be kind
Only then, will your house be blessed
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, I reflected on the meaning of this song and how hard it can be to relinquish anger and a desire for revenge. MBO’s Jewish grandfather was actually arrested during Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) in November 1938 and taken to Gestapo headquarters. The officer who interviewed him was a veteran and noticed that her grandfather had lost his leg as a German soldier in World War I. His conscience wouldn’t let him send her grandfather to a concentration camp, so he sent him home. After conspiring with this officer to help many other Jewish families leave Germany, he was finally able to escape to America in 1939 with his family.
Last Friday, I shared with my therapist, Kat (not Kathleen’s real name), that I was having a difficult time resolving the anger I felt about past injustices as well as toward people today who still harbor such strong antipathy toward other ethnicities. Buddhist scholar and author, Daisaku Ikeda, has said, “When stones are cast at good people, when the rights of honest, hard-working people are trampled, we should be angry! When anyone anywhere around the world discriminates against another, we should burn with indignation! Raise your voices! Nothing suits the authorities better than the apathy of the people, than their feeling of powerlessness and their acceptance of violations of human rights.”
So, clearly we need to make our voices and votes heard. At the same time, there is a big difference between righteous constructive anger and the deep-seated hatred that drives armed conflicts and the hurtful social media posts that prevent understanding and compromise. This behavior perpetuates stereotypes and an inability to feel compassion.
Kat asked me if I had heard of the loving kindness meditation where you sit with love for yourself, then your family and eventually, everyone in the world. I explained that we often do this mental exercise during our daily chanting, especially lately when we’re upset with the behavior of irrational groups or people in power. It helps to remind myself that these ‘enemies’ present an opportunity for me to generate patience, understanding and humility.
This week, as I turn 70 in the face of all this political and corona-adversity, I re-determined to keep trying to improve myself, look for reasons to laugh and treat others with respect because, as Manx so eloquently sings:
Yeah, offer prayer, offer prayer well well
Offer sweet prayer, yeah now,
To your uninvited guest
Oh, won’t you, give em the right,
Yeah yeah, to be welcome, through the night
Only then, will your house be blessed
Stay home and stay safe!
Note: Click here for more Harry Manx music.
Other titles by Mike during Covid-19:
Pema Chodron and the Coronavirus
Helen Keller and the Coronavirus
Prince Hamlet and the Coronavirus
Davy Jones and the Coronavirus
Keb’ Mo’ and the Coronavirus
ABOUT MIKE LISAGOR – Mike Lisagor plays harmonica and sings in Good Karma Blues. He has written hundreds of magazine articles and blogs on a variety of business and Buddhist related topics. He is the author of “Romancing the Buddha,” which he adapted into a successful one-man show that he performed at Bainbridge Performing Arts and in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. His nature photographs have appeared in the Boston Globe, Bainbridge Island Magazine, Living Buddhism as well as in several local galleries. His latest graphic art project, “Reimagined Nature”, is in the lobby of New Motion Physical Therapy.