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Wabi Sabi Monsters

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Wabi Sabi Monsters

Last week I attended an event where the indomitable Lynne Twist was speaking about commitment and compassion.

She spoke about the Hunger Project work she did in Africa and some of the surprising and disappointing things that happened while working in Zaire during the regime of Mobutu. Mobutu is considered by some to be one of the most cruel, brutal and reprehensible dictators in history.

Understandably, Lynne considered him to be a monster.

During this time she was invited to attend a state dinner in Tokyo. It turned out that the guest of honor was the evil perpetrator Mobutu. She found herself standing in a long reception line (with all the other guests and dignitaries) waiting to shake his hand.

Deeply conflicted, she debated whether to stay in line or risk offending her host (and one of her largest donors) by leaving the line. Just before it was her turn to shake the hand of the monster, Mobutu, she had an epiphany…she realized that something very terrible must have happened to him as a child that had him turn into the villainous man he became. And with that she was able to find compassion for the innocent child in him and shake his hand.

Hearing this story triggered my own memories about stories of a monster and despicable human being I grew up hearing about.

Until I went away to college, we spent every Sunday visiting my paternal grandparents in Miami, Florida. My Grandma Mae would make a big Jewish feast of brisket, noodle kugel, and other delicious food and delectable goodies and treats.

At least once a year we would be joined by our cousins from New Jersey…Al and Carol Lipson…they were holocaust survivors. Every visit they would share the story of how they endured the horrors of the concentration camp, they would show us the numbers tattooed on their bodies, they would tell us about the dozens of other relatives who died in the camps, and then their gripping story would end with the miracle of how they were reunited after the war.

After hearing this scary story, year after year, I asked my parents why they always talked about it and revisited the unfathomable, inexcusable horror. My parents told me if was very important that we never forget how Hitler killed millions of Jews. I grew up with a deep knowing that there was evil in the world and that evil is called Hitler.

Next: How I found compassion for Hitler

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Arielle Ford

Arielle Ford is a highly influential personality in the personal growth and contemporary spirituality movement. For the past 25 years she has been promoting consciousness through all forms of media. Her stellar career includes years as a prominent book publicist, author, literary agent, TV lifestyle reporter, radio host, publishing consultant, relationship expert, and blogger for the Huffington Post. Arielle is the author of nine books including the international bestseller, The Soulmate Secret: Manifest The Love of Your Life With The Law of Attraction. Her latest book is Wabi Sabi Love: The Ancient Art of Finding Perfect Love in Imperfect Relationships. She lives in La Jolla, CA with her husband, Brian Hilliard and their feline friends.


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5:09PM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

There is always something a the core of it (evil). Its hard, but we have to give them the benifit of the doubt and know that at one point they were innocent children.

11:58AM PDT on Mar 21, 2012

It's lovely when we can understand and look for the innocence in someone that is evil. Lynne's kind handshake with Mobutu may not have changed or touched him, but it has sent good ripples out to the world, just like your story of your compassion for Hitler did. Thanks for the post.

7:08PM PDT on Mar 19, 2012

thanks for sharing this, sometimes it is difficult to see the whole person and the light within them, and sometimes, when it is done, it can create changes in both involved

3:42AM PDT on Mar 19, 2012

As some say on this blog "people do senseless and violent things" but unfortunately when backed for decades by both the governments of the USA and France in the case of Mobutu, with money, weapons and the personal friendships of presidents who should know better, their capacity for evil is extended way past that of the ordinary man or woman. In the end as voters in a democracy we should be able to take responsibility and quietly without emotion, use our brains to work out that if we support politicians who are in cahoots with the likes of Mobutu, we are no better than those thugs irrespective of our traumatic potty training.

11:48PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

Interesting. Thanks.

5:51PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

I've found that "may you be free of suffering and the root of all suffering" is something I can wish wholeheartedly for those who have seriously wronged me.

5:09PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012


4:03PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

I've purposely tried to think that about people who are particularly difficult to me or seem evil to me. Sometimes it helps. But it's hard.

9:45AM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

I think this is why reacting to hate with hate doesn't make anything better. people do senseless and violent things, but it's usually because they are horribly misguided or have suffered some kind of traumatic violence themselves. It doesn't excuse the violence, it just reminds you not to let it continue.

6:58AM PDT on Mar 18, 2012


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