So Above, So Below: Holocaust Remembrance Week

Photo: Steve Burmester

Photo: Steve Burmester

We live in a world where opposites co-exist: light and dark, yin and yang, good and bad, up and down. According to Taoism principles, opposites in nature exist to balance all things. Rain cools. Heat dries.

Paradoxically, it could be argued that these opposites actually create the whole. There is also a universal theory or principle of oneness which argues: What is in the one is in the whole. Or, so above so below.

I share this because today I am thinking about war and peace, good and bad, light and dark, and how these energies reside within each of us. And how when these energies are activated in mass force, they spill out into the collective consciousness. Sometimes for good. Sometimes for evil.

I am thinking about this as America commemorates the Holocaust this week--April 27-May 4. I am not Jewish. But I am a human being who feels remorse for the systematic slaying of millions of innocents during the Holocaust and the collective wound I think we all share as a result. Even if we’re not conscious of it.

What is in the one, is in the whole. And the wounds, even when not inflicted by us, are inflicted upon all of us. They leave an indelible mark on our psyches, make us a little harder, a little less trusting, a little less tolerant.

We might not even be aware of this truth.

All of this hangs out in the ethers as a reminder of what we’re capable of as humans. And while it may appear invisible, out there in the ethers, this darkness often manifests into form in the visible world, even in our personal worlds.

Think about it.

And let’s ask ourselves: Where are we at war with ourselves? What wounds do we carry from childhood into new relationships or into everyday life that keep us victims to the past, or worse, turn us into perpetrators who do violence to ourselves? Where do we become entitled, righteous and angry in our political or religious beliefs and sync up with “like-minded” people to rage against those who differ from us?

Fear is the enemy. And it’s opposite–love–is the healing balm.

Viktor Frankl, a noted psychiatrist, chronicled his time as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II and wrote about it in the book, Man’s Search for Meaning. In the midst of chaos, in the midst of unspeakable crimes, in the midst of inhumanity, he chose to focus on love. He knew the one thing that could balance evil was goodness, the one thing that could vanquish the dark was light, and the one thing that could drive away fear was love.


So, today, I am choosing love, while still shining the light on what was a dark period in history. There’s plenty more to look at–past and present. Like slavery. Or the Rwandan genocide. This year is the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide where 800,000 people were murdered within 100 day while most nations closed their eyes and wrung their hands in disbelief. Right now, Syrian forces ( government or rebel, which ever side you believe) are using chemical weapons on their own people.

There is a price we all pay for war, war of any kind. It matters not if it is in our backyard or across distant continents. Because what happens out there will happens within us, if we are not aware.

The pain and displacement of war invade us all, snaking through invisible boundaries to infect our spirits and psyches.

Now one might argue that what is within us, is what is projected outward to manifest distrust, betrayal, war. But I believe it works both ways. The darkness comes to us and it comes from within us.

So above so below.

So choose love as much as possible. Practice peace. Pray. Work on your inner world, in the hopes that somehow, someday, we might affect our outer world.

If what is in the one is in the whole or the all, then let it be love.

“Peace in the city,

Peace in my home,

Peace in my heart,

Peace everywhere.” –Irish prayer

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at or on twitter @taoflashes.


5 thoughts on “So Above, So Below: Holocaust Remembrance Week

  1. You must know the million ways I love this post, and I thank you for writing it. There are so many reasons why I love it (among them that Viktor Frankl’s book was very important to me, and I’ve written about it in the past) but mostly because it comes from your heart.

    This week I celebrate my grandparents who had the courage to leave their family and friends, and their country, with their two little boys, 6 weeks before Kristellnacht. They helped to fulfill a promise that I, too, will try to fulfill for my entire life: NEVER FORGET.

    • Cathy, thank you for the kind words. I also wrote a post about Frankl’s work about a year ago. What a beautiful soul. I am so grateful your grandparents made the decision they made; and I wish you and all of your relatives love and peace. Hugs my friend.

  2. Beautiful, Lisa! Unlike Cathy’s, my grandparents on both sides were not fortunate enough to leave the countries of their birth, and my family was directly impacted by the atrocities that occurred in Europe during that time. We’ve seen so much dark, but I love the sentiment that you can combat the dark with light. It’s all we can do, really, if we must survive. Thank you for a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to those who have suffered.

    • Mindy, I don’t even have the words. I am so sorry about your grandparents…I am sorry about the hatred they encountered and what that undoubtedly meant in the end for them, and your family. I have the goosebumps as I write this. Please know that I will hold you and your entire family in my prayers this week. I promise.

  3. Lisa, What a beautiful reflection and way to pay homage to the Holocaust Awareness Week. How right you are that we have the freedom to choose love.

    Man’s Search for Meaning, had an enormous impact on me. One of my favorite passages is when he writes: …”I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious “Yes” in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose. At that moment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, which stood on the horizon as if painted there, in the midst of the miserable grey dawning morning in Bavaria. “Et lux in tenebris lucet”–and the light shineth in the darkness.”

    And it does…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s