Dr. Stewart Bitkoff, Contributor
Recently, I had the long awaited opportunity to visit Gettysburg, PA and tour this immense and historic Civil War Battlefield. This is one of our National Parks with many tour guides, roads for cars, bicycles and trails for hiking; it is immaculately kept, with stone walls, horse barriers, hundreds of monuments and dozens of cannons. As much as possible, trying to authentically replicate the actual battlefield.
Our Legacy of War
A number of monuments sit on hills; the higher ground, so you can view the entirety of the battlefield and come to understand the strategic importance of fighting for this advantage. You can see the enemy approach and use your guns and cannons to shoot across long distances.
As we drove past the hundred’s of monuments for regiments who fought and soldier’s who died, and I took in the sheer size and amount of land involved: I began to have visions of thousands of country men charging strait at each other being blown apart by bullets and cannons; fighting for that piece of ground, filled with fear, courage, and conviction. This battle was the bloodiest of the Civil War; with the highest number of casualties on both sides.
A Deep Sadness
During the entire ride, I was filled with a deep, profound sadness and wondered has there ever been a time: when there was no war? Growing-up, I remember my father, and his reluctance to talk about World War II; he fought on a destroyer and was at many of the major sea battles; his ship fought at the Battle of Midway, the Coral Sea and was the third to enter Tokyo Harbor after the atomic bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered.
Rarely would he speak about his experiences and when he did – it never was with pride – always hesitancy and sadness. As the years wore along, he accepted some recognition and proudly wore his hat as a member of the Tin Can Brigade- the Association of WWII Destroyer Veterans.
Clearly, all our soldiers should be remembered and honored. Without their efforts this country and world would be a darker place; with less personal freedom and the opportunity in America to go and do what we like.
Yet, the question remains: will there ever be a time without war? Historically, violent conflict seems to be part of human nature, and military strength is needed to protect us from those who would destroy.
For the spiritual traveler, one of the most difficult things to come to grips with is the persistent question: why is there war? If there is a benevolent and loving God, why does God allow these horrific clashes?
Opportunity to Create or Destroy
In traditional spiritual discussions, it is said, man/woman is made in the Image of God and that Man/Woman is God’s vicegerent or representative on earth.
As a spiritual traveler: we have a cosmic destiny to create our own reality; and with this potential to create, comes the capacity to destroy: For he that creates a thing can also destroy it. The Yin and Yang. Good and Evil. This is the Universal Law of Opposites.
Today, across the globe, terrorists are blowing-up thousands of innocents in the Name of their God. They are being motivated by extremist’s views; that the world would be a better place if everyone believed as they did and the evil, Western Capitalistic Empire was destroyed. Slowly, we as a nation are coming to recognize that we are not entirely clean in all of this; and over the years we have taken plenty from these people in the Name of a different God (Capitalism/Oil).
One Person at a Time
From a spiritual point of view, the world is made a better place, one person at a time. Travelers acquiring an inner wisdom and understanding the importance of helping others by balancing the planet’s wealth and resources. For you see, the Law of Opposites can be trumped/transcended by the Law of One… and Love.
Globally until each child, each family, has enough to eat, gets good health care, is educated with the chance to economically prosper; they will be ripe for opportunists to scapegoat and target another population as an enemy: fighting against them to feed their leader’s need for power and wealth.
Each of us has free will and it matters what we do every moment. Until the majority of us learn to reach higher and embrace our neighbor as a member of our family – the human family – it will be more of the same.
War can be transcended. We can reach higher and many of those who died on the battlefields were doing just that . . . Trying to make the world better.
Yet, travelers forget, as Mohammad said: the greater Jihad is the inner Jihad. When we win the inner war, perhaps, we can take our personal wisdom, peace and tranquility into the outer world; and when enough of us have done this, perhaps, there will be a time without war. When and if this happens, we will no longer need soldiers and armies.
The Golden Rule
No, I am not a dreamer. On the contrary, I am a realist. Wars are started for personal reasons . . . and we must learn how to make better people who choose honest leaders.
We all know how to make better people; it is written in all the Holy Books.
First, we must put down our fears and realize, a world without war is possible; it is totally up to us. No one else. Then we must learn to treat others as part of our family. You know, the Golden Rule: “treat people the way you’d like to be treated.” Until this happens collectively . . . sadly, it will be more of the same.
Yes, we can petition God/Deity for help- but peace and prosperity is our responsibility, first.
Tyranny & Freedom
O Master, speak to me of Tyranny.
Does not each traveler create
Their own chains
When they draw the cloak of expectancy
Are not the Laws Written?
By which traveler
May live a full life
And thereby contribute
To the good of humanity?
The fetters of tyranny are forged
Only when one traveler
Sets their need above another.
Speak to me of Freedom.
To be free
One must immerse them self
In the River
And let the current guide.
Freedom is absence of self
With total surrender
To the Divine Will.
Tell me more of the River.
Every traveler must journey to the River
And within each the water beckons.
Every Heart calls to become a fountain
Feeding of this wondrous stream.
Each traveler must dip the cup
Of God’s Grace and Mercy
To sip of the Eternal Spring.
And once you have tasted of the River
You will desire to make your Home
On its shore.
About the Author
Dr. Stewart Bitkoff, spiritual traveler, poet, is a student of Sufi Mysticism and the perennial philosophy. Professionally specializing in the healing applications of therapeutic recreation, psychiatric rehabilitation and mental health treatment; he holds a doctorate in education and served on the faculties of multiple colleges and universities.
Stewart is also the author of Sufism for the Western Seeker, published in 2011, was nominated by ‘Foreword Magazine’ for Adult Non Fiction Religious Book of Year Book of the Year Award, placing 4th (honorable mention) and is a must read, as well as The Ferryman’s Dream. Both books are also in Kindle format and available on Amazon.com or local bookstore.
Register for an upcoming retreat weekend with Dr. Steward Bitkoff atop Bangor Mountain, in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, Kirkridge Retreat Center on Sufism & Enlightenment, May 30- June I, 2014. For information is available here: http://kirkridge.org/programs/upcoming-programs/ – click on Detailed Information for full program highlights.
Read my new book: Beyond The River’s Gate. Book is available on Amazon.com in paperback, Kindle format or local bookstore.
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