I was invited to present a seminar in Hiroshima, Japan, the city devastated by the atomic bomb in 1945. As I approached the Hiroshima train station via the bullet train, I felt uneasy, wondering if the psychic shadow of the holocaust would linger unto this day. To my surprise, Hiroshima Station felt light and airy, passersby friendly and upbeat. At initial encounter the place actually felt more peaceful to me than the dozen other cities in Japan I have visited.
As my host drove me through Hiroshima’s streets, I was impressed by the comeliness of the area. Rivers wended beneath many bridges, banks highlighted by cherry blossom trees in full bloom. Families picnicked by the riverside as children laughed and played. Was this the same city instantly burned to a crisp by the world’s most dire single act of man-made destruction?
At the center of Hiroshima resides a lovely manicured park, dedicated to the intention that peace prevail on earth. Manicured green commons create a soft backdrop to fountains and a waterfall. At one end burns an eternal flame set atop a simple altar where people from all over the world pray and leave flowers as a symbol of their wish for peace.
There my host told me that various seers at this site had explained that in the wake of such massive destruction through warfare, the desire for peace has magnified to an extraordinary degree. Hiroshima has become a nexus for many gatherings in the name of world harmony. Recently His Holiness the Dalai Lama was joined by Bishop Desmond Tutu and another Nobel peace laureate, Betty Williams, for a conference, ceremony, and prayer to further world peace.
As much as the name Hiroshima was once synonymous with decimation, the name is now being associated with healing. Abraham (of Abraham-Hicks) underscores the value of contrast. Negative events generate intense motivation for their opposite. When you get what you don’t want, you are more highly motivated to create what you do want. A bad marriage moves you to have a better one. Physical illness amplifies your intention for wellness. A business failure induces you to generate more success. When you experience what is clearly Not It, the next question is “What is It?” and “How can I get It?”
A few blocks from the peace park stands a small monument indicating the exact spot where the atomic bomb fell. That spot now has a grocery store on one side of it and a parking lot on the other side. The street is busy and unless you notice the stone slab you might overlook it altogether.
That night as I lay in bed in my hotel room a few blocks from the monument, my mind was spinning. I had no box in which to file such an experience. I was about to go to sleep a few hundred yards from the hypercenter of where an atomic bomb had once exploded. When the bomb went off, it instantly reduced to ashes practically everything in a twenty-kilometer radius. Yet, now there stood parks, hotels, stores, restaurants, apartments and people in the midst of a vital, colorful life. What was the truth about that place on the globe? How did I fit into it? What could I learn from it?
I was slipping back and forth between parallel realities. In one, a huge mushroom eclipsed the sky, signaling the beginning of humanity’s ability to wipe itself off the face of the earth with one careless press of a button. In another reality life was blooming in glorious, productive ways, love was clearly present, and the greatest respect for peace on Planet Earth prevailed.
On some level I was being prompted to choose which reality I would live in. The more I focused on the idea of an ominous megalithic cloud overtaking life with all its evil consequences, the more unsafe and depressed I felt. When I looked out the hotel window and saw Hiroshima’s main promenade with people driving, walking, talking, laughing and listening to iPods, I felt encouraged. Then I recognized that I serve far better to focus on life rather than death.
All things change. Nothing is always one thing or one way. Before I went to Hiroshima I spent a week in Tokyo. Considering the radioactive pollution from the Fukushima nuclear plant, I thought, “I’m looking forward to going to Hiroshima to get away from the radiation.” While at first this felt like a bad joke, later I realized the profound lesson of juxtaposition. Life rushes to replace death and healing seeks to erase wounds. As the bumper sticker says, “Nature bats last.” Human beings can do an act as heinous as dropping an atomic bomb on their brethren, and horrific as that act is, life will return. With the exception of one skeleton of a building now used as a tourist attraction, Hiroshima has been resurrected. Not just as a city, but as a city of determined peace.
You and I, too, have had our moments of pain, destruction, and perhaps even decimation. Yet, those experiences always give way to life, and sometimes even greater life. May we all learn from the contrast in our lives, individually and collectively, so that we may build parks of beauty over the ashes of war. As A Course in Miracles tells us, “The holiest spot on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.”