Making Footprints Not Blueprints

S07 #05 - What is still possible to do so that, at some point in the future, there might be a reconciliation and peace? - A thought for the day

October 14, 2023 Andrew James Brown/Caute Season 7 Episode 5
Making Footprints Not Blueprints
S07 #05 - What is still possible to do so that, at some point in the future, there might be a reconciliation and peace? - A thought for the day
Show Notes Transcript

The full text of this podcast can be found in the transcript of this edition or at the following link:

Please feel to post any comments you have about this episode there.

The Cambridge Unitarian Church's Sunday Service of Mindful Meditation can be found at this link:
"New Heaven", written by Andrew J. Brown and played by Chris Ingham (piano), Paul Higgs (trumpet), Russ Morgan (drums) and Andrew J. Brown (double bass) 

Thanks for listening. Just to note that all the texts of these podcasts are available on my blog. You'll also find there a brief biography, info about my career as a musician, & some photography. Feel free to drop by & say hello. Email: caute.brown[at]

A short thought for the day” was offered to the Cambridge Unitarian Church as part of the Sunday Service of Mindful Meditation


In and of itself the current conflict unfolding in Israel/Gaza is utterly horrific, and all of us remain deeply shocked by the murderous actions of Hamas and the now ongoing brutal siege [and, as I publish this, the threatened invasion] of Gaza by Israel. There is much I could say that might help us better understand how this dreadful moment has been arrived at, but I will not do any of that here. All I will do with regard to this is to encourage you properly to inform yourself about the history, paying equal and careful attention to the horrors experienced by and inflicted upon both Israelis and Palestinians since the founding of the Israeli State in 1948. In your attempts to inform yourself, I would ask you never to lose sight of the difficult and challenging truth that the same party can be victim and perpetrator at the same time, and that this is as true for the individual as it is for nations. In these moments of extreme violence and tension, everybody wants to hear and/or tell a simple story about who is the victim and who is the perpetrator, but no such a simple story exists, so please don’t go looking for one.

So, if I don’t want to try and offer you something to help you understand the complexity of the history of these ongoing events, what do I want to do today? Well, it is to bring before you, and then briefly to explore, a thought offered to us by the Israeli author and professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yuval Noah Harari. In an interview on Friday with Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell, Harari said the following:

[From 34:11] What I would expect [from] people in London or New York or San Paulo or Beijing? Because you are not in the immense pain [being experienced by Israelis and Palestinians], you can try and see both sides instead of kind of making life easier by just dividing the world into only victims and only perpetrators. Israelis and Palestinians at this moment can’t. But I expect that people in other countries will have capacity to do that instead of going for the easy solution of [saying] no, there is just this two-sided story. What we can hope [for] is to think, how do we get out of this pit of despair? And, going back to the Hamas attack, whatever one thinks about the misery of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, how does murdering parents in front of [their] children going to help this? . . . do you think that by doing that you will solve the occupation, you will incentivise Israelis to make peace? Obviously not. So in this competition of immense suffering, there is no calculus of suffering that can calculate who is suffering more. So, focus on the question: What is still possible to do [so] that, at some point in the future, there might be a reconciliation and peace because, [and] one last comment on that, we do know from history that even though it seems utterly impossible at the moment, over the longer term, of decades, of generations, the wounds do heal and if people make the right decision it is possible [35:48].

So, to respond to Harari’s question to us, and sticking only to the points he made here, what is it that we, as a creative, free spiritual community, should be doing right now?

Well, the first thing we can be doing is to continue to push against the idea that there exist in our world any simple binaries. A creative, free spirituality, such as the one we are beginning ever more consciously to promote here, is rooted in a way of understanding the world that acknowledges and celebrates diversity and that we need never be afraid of the fact that there exists no single, simple story to be told about anything, anyone, or any situation. Here we start from a position that can seem, to many people, paradoxical; namely, that even as we acknowledge the multiple as given we also affirm there simultaneously exists a genuine unity in diversity. We try to embody this insight in our own small community by being open and honest about the fact that, although we are highly diverse and plural in our personal histories and beliefs, we come together truly believing that there is an interdependent unity of all things and that, therefore, we need not think alike to love alike. So, firstly, let us continue, calmly and ceaselessly, to affirm that there are no binaries in our world, no last word about anything, and that there exists an interdependent unity of all things.

The second thing we can do is continue to proclaim that violence is never the way to find lasting solutions to any problem. We are a spiritual tradition that has consistently promoted peace, not simply “out there” in the world, but peace “in here”, in this communities, in our individual hearts. This is why we now have a practice of mindfulness meditation at the heart of our weekly gathering. In our mindful time together we are laying the necessary groundwork so that we may continue the work that the first century Rabbi Jesus encouraged us to engage in, namely, that we must love our neighbour (which included in his mind, remember, our enemy) as ourselves. We lay the groundwork by meditating together because we know that properly to love our neighbour and be at peace with them, we must first learn to love and be at peace with ourselves. Because, as Harari notes, we acknowledge we are all creatures that all too easily are simultaneously at risk of being both perpetrator and victim. This means that to love our neighbour as ourselves, a genuine peace must first be made in our hearts. This was, of course, a teaching so often emphasised by Thich Nhat Hanh. So, secondly, let us continue, calmly and ceaselessly, to practice mindfully together.

And, lastly, the creative, free spirituality we try to practise here knows that there is no such thing as the last and final word about anything. It is a spirituality that knows a new dawn is always coming somewhere, a new walk is always being made by someone, a new poem or story is always being written, all kinds of new possibilities of good order and just organization are genuinely there to be extracted from the chaos that sometimes seems to threaten all hope that anything can change. Ours is a spirituality that resolutely insists that those who claim “There Is No Alternative” to the way things currently are, are profoundly wrong. As some of you know, “There Is No Alternative” is often represented by the well-known acronym, TINA, and we resist TINA because everything we know about the world shows us again and again — albeit sometimes slowly and over many centuries — not that TINA is true, but that TATIANA is true — “That, Astonishingly, There Is AN Alternative.” So, thirdly, let us continue, calmly and ceaselessly, to proclaim TATIANA.

The temptation at the moment is for us to wade directly into the hurricane or whirlpool of binary angry words that are everywhere, and understandably, around us at the moment. But let’s not do that. Let’s hold fast to what we are already doing day by day, week by week because, in my opinion at least, what we are doing genuinely has a role to play in helping to answer Harari’s question to those of us who are not Israelis or Palestinians, namely: What is still possible to do [so] that, at some point in the future, there might be a reconciliation and peace.


Let us calmly and ceaselessly continue to affirm that there are no binaries in our world, no last word about anything, and that there exists an interdependent unity of all things.

Let us calmly and ceaselessly continue to practice mindfully together.

Let us calmly and ceaselessly continue to proclaim TATIANA, That, Astonishingly, There Is AN Alternative.