Aine knew she would die soon. It was not just the doctor’s words of uncertainty about her latest tests in Dublin; he had been vague enough to convey a well-rehearsed hope. And it wasn’t that the nurse in his office would not meet her eyes and made sure never to linger in a room with her without focusing on a medical chart. The evidence came from Aine’s own body. It was in her increasing exhaustion no matter how much she had rested. It was in the smell of her sweat and urine, in the yellow of her skin, in the way small cuts took too long to heal. It was in the pain in her abdomen that had once come and gone and had now come to stay. No, Aine did not need the doctor in Dublin to tell her she was dying.
On the last day of one of our silent retreats a man spoke about the parting words he had heard from his girlfriend before leaving her the week before. “Now, don’t you go and fall in love with someone there,” she told him. The man looked around at the group of sixty and said, “How am I going to explain that I fell in love with everyone?” I assured him that his girlfriend probably wouldn’t mind that as much.
The history of war in both the ancient and modern world makes one wonder if war is an irresistible compulsion for man. Perhaps the pull toward violence or at least occasional bloodletting is a deep need in the human psyche, an evolutionary adaptation we struggle to understand. What is this love of war, of violence, of bloodshed? Is it ever possible to, as a species, love peace more than war?