We almost ran into each other, literally. I was going from room to room visiting patients as part of my chaplaincy efforts in the hospital and he, as a physician, had just met with an individual patient.
Having sustained the loss of parents and other family members over a fairly brief period of time, and wishing to honor their memory and derive comfort for himself ,Dr. H. had attended nightly services for several years at the synagogue I had served as rabbi. I always found him to be thoughtful, soft-spoken and gentle, someone easily approachable and enjoyable to be with.
We had not seen each other for several years and naturally caught up with each other's recent experiences. We found ourselves commenting on the current economic crisis and its effects on society. He shared a wonderful insight of human nature that related to my on-going engagement with the concept of gratefulness as the essential spiritual path to human joy and well-being.
" I have discovered that most important words in the English language that tap into human meaning begin with the letter "E." Perhaps the most important words that capture the driving forces of life are- Economics, Ego and Envy."
In other words, the basic motivations for all human behavior can be reduced to these three considerations.
I responded with gratitude for the insight. As I returned home and my thoughts wandered to the meaning of the day, Veteran's Day, I could not help but remember what the good doctor shared with me in the hospital corridor. At risk of over -simplification, could one not understand the root causes for war as residing precisely in the intractable power of economics, ego and envy? When one goes to war to conquer territory and natural resources, is the reason not economics? When a totalitarian state undertakes the subjugation of neighbors, is this not a reflection of personal and national egotism reaching idolatrous proportions? And when countries, greedy for power or prestige, for wealth and glory, embark on military adventures, do we not encounter the dominance of envy in human affairs?
Along with these sobering, even gloomy thoughts ,I extracted a sense of gratefulness from the knowledge that humanity can in fact conceive of a reality embraced by gratefulness and cooperation, not envy, ego or economics gone greedy!
As we honor with undying gratitude the memories of those who fought and died on behalf of a world of freedom, generosity and gratefulness, Veteran's Day should be a reminder of the side of human nature that is capable of imagining and implementing a world of grateful kindness and compassion which will hopefully render all forms of human violence obsolete, and all warfare buried deeply in the farthest recesses of human madness.
"May He who establishes peace in the Heavens grant -shalom-peace to the entire human community." Amen