There’s a Zen story about a wise man whose refrain is a constant, “We’ll see.” The story goes that a young man comes to him, full of happiness and excitement, “I got a new horse, isn’t it wonderful?” The response from the sage, “We’ll see.” Soon thereafter, he falls off of the horse and breaks his leg. “Isn’t this terrible?” he says to the wise man. “We’ll see,” he replies. Later that month, the military shows up to the village, wanting all young able-bodied men to join them in a war. Since the boy’s leg was broken, he was not able to go with them. “Is this good or bad?” he asks. “We’ll see,” replies the sage again, and the story goes on and on like this. His father is sent to war in his stead, and so on.
The story could be a modern parable for our collective addiction to the use of violence to resolve our problems. Sometimes it looks as if the violence “worked,” that we got what we wanted, but just a little further down the line, we see that there is more to the story. What looked like “victory” at first begins to look rather differently, our problems have not been solved, only exacerbated. Think about George W. Bush standing in front of a banner with MISSION ACCOMPLISHED in great big letters behind him, supposedly signaling a military victory. Somewhere, the sage was saying, “We’ll see.” (Or as some of our friends paraphrased, “quagmire accomplished”).
Someone must have asked Gandhi to support the Allies use of violence in WWII. Here is a clear example of his ability to be tactful, open-minded, willing to be wrong, humble about his position, while knowing full well that nonviolence alone would lead to ending any war, indeed any conflict without losing humanity in the process. “It remains to be seen…” Always scientific, he encourages us to look at the evidence with objectivity; he reminds us to take the long view and work toward solutions that are mutually beneficial — because only those will last. He was anticipating the modern research that suggests, with good evidence, that when we inflict suffering and violence onto others, we experience it in ourselves. And the same goes for nonviolence.
The next time someone argues the “efficaciousness” of using violence, think to yourself (or say out loud if the situation warrants), “Hm, it remains to be seen.”
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org