[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
The entire world has been shocked by the news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The numbers are staggering: Some estimate that the death toll will eventually reach 200,000, with countless more injured, left homeless, or affected in some other way. An entire country is in ruins. Beyond the numbers, the pictures we’ve seen of terrible human suffering are truly heartbreaking; the devastation is hard to fathom. We send our loving thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by this horrific event. As I reflect on what has happened, I’m brought back to the thoughts I had when 9/11 happened, which I shared in an article wrote at that time: thoughts of darkness, light, and the call for miracles.
First, the darkness: Once again, we have a grim reminder that this world we made out of the ego’s hate is a world of impermanence, attack, suffering, and death. It is an immensely sad thing to behold. And what always strikes me when disasters like this happen is that they are really not that unusual; they are just more obvious versions of what happens in our world every day without us noticing. For instance, as I noted in my 9/11 article, 24,000 people per day die from hunger in this world. That’s approximately one person every four seconds — six or seven people have died of hunger since you began reading this paragraph. But this never makes the headlines, and we don’t see people rushing to send money to the hungry.
Death and destruction is, indeed, the way of the world; the Haiti earthquake is ample evidence of that. This is a world in constant flux. All things change, fade and die; nothing here is permanent. As the Course says, “What seems eternal all will have an end” (T-29.VI.2:7) — even night and day, the tides, the seasons, and the stars. Death, dissolution, and decay are at the very heart of physical existence, the inevitable consequences of the world our egos have made as an attack on God. This is not a rare tragic moment in what is otherwise a “wonderful world.” Sad to say, the suffering that is happening in Haiti now is not the exception; it is the rule.
Second, the light: As a Course student, events like this make me appreciate more than ever the Course’s assurance that this physical world is unreal, and all that is real is God and we who are His creations: the members of the Sonship, abiding forever in the Heaven of His changeless Love. True, this teaching does not appeal to everyone. Some people get downright angry when they hear it. And we certainly shouldn’t aggressively preach it to people who are suffering from this or any other tragedy.
But for me, there is something in the mere idea of the world’s unreality that fills me with a tremendous sense of relief and gratitude. Thank God that, however grim the Haiti earthquake looks to us, in truth everyone involved is still resting safely in the Father’s everlasting embrace. How wonderful that even as we look with horror and compassion on “pain and death, on grief and separation and on loss” (W-pI.99:5:4), our loving Father guarantees that everyone’s true nature is shining in Heaven eternally unchanged. How beautiful that in the midst of even the most horrific suffering, God gently assures all who suffer: “You are still My holy Son, forever innocent, forever loving and forever loved, as limitless as your Creator, and completely changeless and forever pure” (W-pII.10:5:1).Of course, for those of us who believe this, it is only effective as a healing balm to the degree that we commit to practicing it, using the practice tools the Course itself gives us day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. Here are some practices I like to use in situations like the Haiti earthquake:
- Lesson 14, which has us apply its practice line specifically to “all the horrors in the world that cross your mind” (W-pI.14.4:2). For instance: “God did not create that earthquake in Haiti, and so it is not real” (based on W-pI.14.4:7).
- The beautiful first paragraph of the “What am I?” section (W-pII.14.1), applied in second person to all who are suffering in this situation.
- The prayer from Lesson 245, “Your peace is with me, Father. I am safe.”
- The prayer from Lesson 163 (W-pI.163.9), “There is no death. The Son of God is free.”
- One of the practice lines from Lesson 99, “Salvation is my only function here,” applied directly to the situation: “God still is Love, and this earthquake in Haiti is not His Will” (based on W-pI.99.6:8).
- A couple of lines from Lesson 193, “All things are lessons God would have me learn,” lines which are meant to be applied to “all suffering regardless of its form” (W-pI.193.5:2). The first line is this one (which I’ve converted to first person): “There is a way to look on everything that lets it be to me another step to Him, and to salvation of the world” (W-pI.193.13:1). The second, which I say to myself, is a line which expresses this new way of looking: “Forgive, and you will see this earthquake in Haiti differently.”
- The various “response to temptation” practices from Review II, which are all meant to be applied to “this” (a particular situation) or a particular person (and can also be applied to any group of people). For instance: “Let me perceive this situation in Haiti only in the light of God’s plan for salvation” (based on W-pI.86.2:4) or “Let peace extend from my mind to yours, my brothers in Haiti” (based on W-pI.82.2:1).
Of course, just one application of any of these lines is unlikely to produce a significant shift. For maximum benefit, they need to be repeated again and again.
Finally, the call for miracles. On the Course’s path, we are not meant just to passively learn that the world is an illusion, and we’re certainly not meant to say to those who suffer, “Get over it, dude, it’s just an illusion.” Rather, the Course wants us to extend what we’ve learned of God’s Love to others in the form of truly loving and helpful words and deeds; as Jesus said to Helen and Bill, “the members of my party are active workers.” Events like the earthquake in Haiti remind us once again that the Course is calling each and every one of us to become a miracle worker, an active agent in God’s plan to bring us from the darkness to the light. One of my favorite lines from the Course is more appropriate than ever as the world turns its attention to the agony of Haiti: “Look about the world, and see the suffering there. Is not your heart willing to bring your weary brothers rest?” (W-pI.191.10:7-8).
Of course, not all of us will be guided to extend miracles specifically to the people of Haiti, though many of us may well be. Where, when, how, and to whom we give our miracles is up to the Holy Spirit. The important thing is that we become truly miracle-minded through our practice of the Course, and allow the Holy Spirit to extend miracles through us in whatever way He sees fit. I hope that this tragedy will serve as a catalyst that will inspire people around the world, whatever their particular path, to become miracle workers in their own way — beacons of love, forgiveness, and healing in a dark world that dearly needs the light.
Many are doing just that in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. As with earlier events like 9/11, the Asian tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina, we have seen a tremendous outpouring of loving help — prayers, humanitarian aid, donations to help the relief effort, etc. — from around the world. I have been deeply heartened by the love this tragedy has brought forth. I can only hope that it will continue once Haiti drops from the headlines, as in time it surely will. (Along these lines, if you are donating to the Haiti relief effort, I recommend marking your calendar and making another donation a year later. It will still be as much needed as ever, and the tendency with events like this is for donations to bottom out quickly once the event is no longer in the news.)
Miracles are the Course’s prescription for a deeply ailing world, and we are meant to be the doctors who administer them. In the Urtext, Jesus even reminded us that he sent out his disciples to be “Physicians of the Lord.” Let the horror in Haiti remind all of us, as Jesus tells us in the Course, that “Each day should be devoted to miracles” (T-1.I.15:1). Let us ask him, as he invited Helen and Bill to ask him: “Help me to perform whatever miracles you want of me today.” Let us make true the promise that Jesus gave them at the very beginning of the Course’s dictation: “You will see miracles through your hands through me.”
This is how we will finally undo the world in which horrific events like the Haiti earthquake are possible. This is how we will transform the world from a “slaughter house” (M-13.4:4) to “a gentle world…with mercy for the holy Son of God…a kindly home where he can rest a while before he journeys on” (W-pII.325.1:6). This is how we will lift all minds and hearts from the darkness of the ego’s hateful world to the eternal light of God’s loving Heaven.