I don’t know whether to be amused or chagrined when I read articles such as the November 18th “Inner Peace” offering by Jim Hawes.

After referencing a few mass tragedies, such as the millions killed during World War II, the hundred of thousands who died in Vietnam plus the multiple deaths from acts of terror, he goes on to suggest that, if one has learned to accept “what is”, it’s really OK – no problem.

We can just go for a walk in the park, for example, feel the stillness and silence and just get on with our lives, unperturbed.

Now, to give some reference point for my comments, let me say that I spent more than 30 years as a Buddhist practitioner, over 20 of those years as a lay minister of a prominent international Zen Buddhist order. During those times, although I had witnessed many people who professed to an elevated state of spiritual understanding (valid or not), I do not recall ever having encountered in their teaching a suggestion to pursue a complete denial of normal empathetic connection with the anguish and pain experienced by others.

If anything, it would be to the contrary. From my experience and observations, the more one delves into the realities of life, the greater is one’s sensitivity to the pain and suffering of others, human or otherwise.

In actuality, empathy and compassion expand as we, over time, let out own defensive layers gradually peel away, resulting in a concomitant increase in a deep, personal identification with the pain, distress and heartache so commonly encountered by our fellow sentient beings in this world.

It is difficult to imagine that anyone (besides a psychopath, perhaps or someone who is in profoundly deep denial) who has actually experienced the rape or murder or torture of a loved one would ever state that any of these things are ‘not good or bad” or say, as the author attributes to Krishnamurti, that “I don’t mind what happens”.

It is so much New Age wishful thinking to suggest that we can (or even should) get to a point in our life training in which we lose (or is it suppress?) our natural, normal human responses to our own personal losses, such as the death of loved ones, or the suffering of others.

It is said, for instance, that even the saint is glad when the torture stops (and, I would add, whether it’s our own or someone else's).

— Donald Wertheimer lives in Ashland.