Steroids, Waterboarding, Global Scorching, War: One Root?

Steroids, Waterboarding, Global Scorching, War: One Root?

by Rabbi Arthur Waskow


Steroids pump up the muscles so they can hit harder, throw harder - beat the “enemy” team and individual record-holders, outdo Babe Ruth. - They bend your body to your own will, damaging it - even torturing it - in order to win, to control.

Waterboarding—repeated drownings—and other forms of torture shatter someone’s else’s body to break his mind and soul to obey your will.

Global scorching tortures the earth, chokes the Divine Breathing Spirit of all life —our atmosphere, our climate— in order to satisfy the unsatisfiable thirst for oil,  for a dominant economy, for others to obey your will and bow to your wealth.

Guns on the streets carry out the will of the corporations we call gangs - because we have defined as illegal the addictive drugs they push, advertise, market, and sell as distinguished from the legal lethal addictive drugs of nicotine, alcohol, and oil.  The guns are, of course, tools of control, coercion.

Bombs in the air carry out the will of governments and corporations to coerce and control whole nations.  They all grow from the same root - the will to control become unsatiable, addictive, unaccountable.

There is still enough deep hunger for community, freedom, justice, that those who are addicted to coercion lie about it. The CISA erases the videotapes that show its addiction to torture, the White House lies to explain its decision to invade Iraq and its desire to invade Iran, the steroid-addicted baseball players lie to hide their addiction and pump up their illegitimate records, the oil companies lie when they pooh-pooh global scorching, the NRA lies when it claims a gun in every house will protect you from robbers. (It is more likely to kill your children.)

Is the will to control evil in itself? NO —so long as we know how to keep it as one step in a dance of competence and community.

Only one step.

Not only human beings but all life forms seek to exert control over the air, water, food around them. This works well - up to a point. The amoeba multiplies and multiplies and multiplies until the triumphant population of amoebae eat up all the food. Then the amoebae die.

UNLESS - they have learned to limit their own growth, their own numbers and power, so as to allow other species to emerge. Species that feed them even while using some of the food they might have eaten.  Species that help create an ecosystem in which all can thrive - within limits.

Flowers make sure there is enough nutriment that they don’t eat, to feed the bees that nourish them. If not - they die.

And human beings build great empires, craft brilliant inventions . - Yet if they overbuild, overmake, overdo, their Towers fall like Babel of their own weight.

Babylon and Egypt overwhelm their neighbors - and some small farmers/ shepherds of Canaan find Revelation in a new form of community, in Torah.

Rome overwhelms its neighbors - and some of them find Revelation in new forms of community—Rabbinic Judaism, in Christianity, in Islam. 

Modernity overwhelms all the cultures on our planet, and many species besides - and we, we ourselves, are struggling to shape new forms of community that will include the ozone layer and the CO2, the Amazon forest and the seashores of Bangla Desh, the diminishing water levels of the Great Lakes and the too-hot waters of the Gulf, the polar ice and the rain in Georgia.

The act of control, of Doing, of making is an aspect of God —symbolized in Biblical tradition by the Six Days of Creation. But that act of Creation failed and failed and failed again, until God “learned” to seal six days of Making and Doing by the Day of Being.


Minus that step in the dance, we suffer from - the dis-ease of steroids, assault weapons, bombs, torture, fossil fuels and CO2.  It is a spiritual disease.

Said one ancient rabbi: Who is the greatest macho-man? The one who can master his own impulses.  Said another: The one who can turn his enemy into his friend.

The one who can dance the step of community as well as control, friendship as well as competition, love as well as self-assertiveness.

The one who dances in a rhythmic flow—time for pausing, dancing, singing, love-making, learning wisdom, celebrating the One, the Infinite - as well as time for work.



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