Armodoxy for Today
On the last evening of a visit to Armenia, I sat at sunset staring out the window of my room. The room was high enough to give me a panoramic view of Yerevan, under the majestic shadow of Mt. Ararat. During my trip, I had met with people doing work on the cutting edge of technology. I spent time with people who were challenging the norms and excelling for the betterment of themselves, their families and their country. There was real hope in the air.
I remember looking out the window and praying for peace. It was simple wish: If this small but potent country could only have peace, miracles could happen. The miracles we would see would not be from any outside source, rather, they would come from within, if only there was peace. It was possible, it had been nearly 30 years that this country, which had known centuries of oppression, massacres and even genocide, was now living in peace. I looked out at the Yerevan skyscape and knew we would see the best of miracles, if only there was peace.
It is now 2022. A friend called me from Armenia this morning. At the end of our conversation he said, “If only we have peace, we can do anything, we can aspire to the best and be the best. If only we have peace.” It was as if my prayer from a few years ago was recorded and being played back to me in the voice of my friend. His prayer was more current, though, and had a more urgent tone to it. After all, the 44 day war in 2020 had taken place and the war in September of this year, initiated by the Azeris, has left everyone on edge, to say the least.
It is difficult to understand the pain and suffering of others from a distance. One of the core tenants of Armodoxy is a call to walk in the shoes of others. It is the expression of empathy, that is, to fully understand the pain and suffering of others, we must walk in their shoes. And small exercises can help us place our feet in the correct place.
Those of us living in the United States might not fully understand the prayer for peace in Armenia, but we might begin by imagining a world where we were constantly being attacked by our neighbors in Mexico and Canada, to the point that we live with the uncertainty of maintaining our independence, day-in and day-out. Perhaps the example is not fair considering the size, power and geography of the US. Those of you in Europe, in Africa, or in the Middle East, where countries are so much closer and intertwined with one another, can consider a country such as Switzerland, if its landlocking neighbors, France, Italy, Austria and Germany had only one intention, to annihilate and destroy that relatively small country.
And if still difficult to imagine, sit in your own home, in your house or apartment and picture all of your neighbors – every one of them, next door and across the street – wanting only one thing: to overpower, overcome and rid you from the neighborhood.
Walking in the shoes of others is a call to empathy. It is understanding that the only real and true miracle that we must pray and work for is peace. Walking in the shoes of others gives us the capacity to understand and once in the shoes, we must walk towards resolution.
Appropriately, today we pray the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.