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Kindness key to limiting wars as society seeks to find balance

On Sunday, as a score of us sit and walk in meditation at the Vic West Community Centre, it is fitting that we take the opportunity to face the enormity of what war has cost us all, beginning with a remembrance of all those who have died fighting in

On Sunday, as a score of us sit and walk in meditation at the Vic West Community Centre, it is fitting that we take the opportunity to face the enormity of what war has cost us all, beginning with a remembrance of all those who have died fighting in war. Canada has been at war many times in the past 100 years and has sacrificed tens of thousands of its young soldiers. We should take the time to at least remind ourselves of what those soldiers died for, and, more importantly, if their sacrifice was worth it.

When the best and the bravest of a generation is weeded out by war, society is left with an imbalance. The more wars, the greater that imbalance becomes. Selfishness and greed begin to seem like good things - necessary survival skills. With so many of our young men and women slaughtered or ruined, there is a spiritual vacuum created in society. Many religious leaders write about this modern phenomenon, the great spiritual problem of modern times.

On Remembrance Day we will see veterans cry as they attend the laying of wreathes. In their faces you can see the understanding of what war has cost.

They know, better than anyone, the calibre of those whose talent and wisdom has been lost to society.

Each day on television there are the announcements of soldiers killed.

They are mostly teenagers or young adults in their early 20s or seasoned vets in their prime.

Each of these deaths impacts a family cell of the body politic like a virus might invade healthy body cells. That is grievous harm.

As we reflect on the courage and the valour of all our soldiers, let us also resolve to honour them by doing what we can to reduce the grievous harm done in war.

Whatever contributions of leadership and integrity many of them might have made is lost to us, but it is still possible to reduce the harmful effects on their families. Yes, veterans benefits are expensive, but the debt is real and must be satisfied.

Remembrance Day is the day to recognize an ethical asymmetry of much of modern life. On the one hand, leaders deliver stirring speeches of gratitude and humility in the face of selfless sacrifice, while at the same time reneging on obligations to widows and dependents. Part of that spiritual vacuum comes from such moral ambiguity.

Zen meditation shows us that it is more important to be kind than to be right. It's more important socially, ethically and politically.

If there were ever a tipping point where most people believed this, then our country would begin to pay all its moral debts and would encourage leaders to go to war as little as possible.

Wayne Codling is a former Zen monastic and a lineage holder in the Soto Zen tradition as taught by the Japanese Zen master, Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind). He teaches Zen style meditation in various venues around Victoria.

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