The way we see and treat someone is a powerful invitation for them to be as we see them. See someone as deplorable, and even their peace overtures will look like cynical ploys. Distrust generates untrustworthiness. On the other hand, when we are able to see beyond conventional roles and categories, we become able to invite others into previously unmanifest potentials. This cannot be done in ignorance of the subjective reality of another’s situation; to the contrary, it depends on an empathic understanding of their situation. It starts with the question that defines compassion: What is it like to be you?
That question is anathema to the militant and the warmonger, because it rehumanizes those that they would dehumanize. Broach it, and they will call you soft, naïve, a fool or a traitor.
Writ large, the situation at Standing Rock is the situation of our whole planet: everywhere, dominating forces seek to exploit what remains of the treasures of earth and sea. They cannot be defeated by force. We must instead invite a change of heart by being in a place of heartfulness ourselves – of courage, empathy, and compassion. If the Water Protectors at Standing Rock can stay strong in that invitation, they will demonstrate an unstoppable power and win a miraculous victory, inspiring the rest of us to follow their example.
What if I am wrong? Not every nonviolent action succeeds in its explicit aims; not every invitation, no matter how powerful, is accepted. Yet even if the pipeline goes through, if the Water Protectors stay off the warpath another kind of victory will be won – the creation of a psychic template for the future. With each choice we face, we are being asked what kind of world we want to live in. The more courage required to make that choice, the more powerful the prayer, because Whoever listens to prayers knows we really mean it. Therefore, when we choose love in the face of enormous temptation to hate, we are issuing a powerful prayer for a world of love. When we refuse to dehumanize in the face of atrocity, we issue a prayer for universal dignity. When thousands of people sacrifice their safety and comfort to protect the water, a powerful prayer issues from their gathering. Some day, in some form, it will be answered.
Charles Eisenstein, Standing Rock: a Change of Heart.
Read the whole essay here.