Friday, February 17, 2006

Kundun Comes to Beersheva (and some thoughts on Emmanuel Levinas...)

The Dalai Lama was in Beersheva yesterday. Not being much enamored with either Buddhism or pacifism I didn’t try standing in the enormous security line to see him, but there is a write up in Ha’aretz. I was struck by this section.
War, he said, destroys those who are called your enemy, but in reality, they are part of yourself. Because all the world is a single body, the destruction of the enemy is like the destruction of yourself.
I’m sure the Dalai Lama is a very nice and well-meaning man, he certainly seems to be, but as a Jew I cannot accept this philosophy. Anne Frank and Hitler were not of the same body, and the destruction of one was not the destruction of the other. To say otherwise is madness. To pick a less extreme example, I am not of the same body as someone I meet on the street, or my best friend, or my lover. Not only is this the case, it is essential to realize it. I agree with Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy that recognition and apprehension of the Other is the basis of the ethical relationship. If we believe that we are One with the Other than we are subsuming him, making him over in our own image. It is only in the recognition of our separation, face to face, and our recognition of our responsibility, the one to the other, that ethics can be born. War is not the result of a failure to recognize Oneness but a failure to recognize Otherness, and the inherent right of Otherness. It is the tyranny of Oneness that causes war, because it is the desire to destroy the Other and to reduce him to non-existence. The demand of absolute unity is the source of murder. The issue is basic. It is the right to exist. We can only recognize the right of existence when we look into the face of the Other and accept that it is not our own.