I heard a friend ask this last week, trying to indicate how
we can choose to behave in the world—e.g. if we’re driving on the highway, and
someone cuts us off… well, What Would Hitler Do?
His point was that we can choose to align our negative thinking with that Master of Disaster and flip them off, seek vengeance, and our own kind of selfish order; or we can choose to go another
way with it, a way more forgiving, generous, loving.
Last weekend, I saw The Monuments Men, a movie about a group of Allies who endeavor to
save the art that Hitler and the Nazis were ransacking from all around Europe,
and intended to destroy if he was unsuccessful in his global domination.
He and his troops acquired and housed hundreds of thousands
of sculptures, paintings and artifacts—at least according to the film. All
diligently organized, categorized, catalogued, and stored.
And here’s what I’ve been thinking about, at the risk of
stepping into a hornet’s nest:
All human achievement rests on the ability to bring about
our will and our plans onto the earthly plane.
Let us for a moment, if you’re able, think about the
achievement of this one man: he rallied a country in the midst of an economic
collapse; he held one vision as the goal for his endeavors; he organized one of
the highest levels of precision of action over a grand piece of land and over a
series of years.
There is a saying about folks like me, that though we had
self-will galore, we had the utter inability to point it toward a worthy goal.
And, I think the same is true for Hitler.
The man was organized.
The man had vision. The man
attempted to wrest out of the chaos of the world the kind of order he deemed
IF this same man had been guided by the principles of
forgiveness, generosity, and love… what on earth could he have accomplished?
If you can conceive of a Germany that pulled itself out of
economic collapse by organizing itself around principles of helping one
another, creating opportunity for all their people, celebrating inclusion of
people of all religions and sexual orientations and ancestral background…
If, instead of the destruction of people, Hitler’s same
brain and ambition were aimed toward the Jewish value of “tikkun olam” (to
repair the world)—What on earth could have happened??
I get that I may sound daft, offensive, and totally
inconsiderate of the crimes and atrocities that were in actuality wrought upon
But, I also think there’s a huge lesson to be missed if we
dismiss the fact that one man, one man who ate, and shat, and slept just like
all of the rest of us, changed the entire world. Here was a simple and flawed
human, just like us, who woke up every day with one goal in mind. It was a
horrid goal, I concur and admit and agree and support. But, each day, Hitler
decided that what he wanted to do in the world was the very best thing, and he
didn’t let ANYTHING deter him from that. He continued on, like a (rabid) dog
with a bone, and said, No, World, I’m going to do what I believe I was put on
this earth to do.
That kind of certainty, if aimed toward the “right”
objectives…? It boggles the mind.
Now, the important thing to remember, here, is the “right”
objectives. The proper use of the will, as they might say. I wonder if Hitler
had ever sat in meditation and tried to understand what the highest good was
for him and those around him, if he would have had a different goal. I wonder
if Hitler had tried to exercise, even ungracefully, the qualities of compassion
and vulnerability, if he would have sought a different aim. I also wonder,
if he had, if he would achieved anything at all.
But, then again, there are plenty of examples of compassion
leading the way toward change.
If instead, with his proficient, tenacious,
resourceful, determined, magnanimous personality, Hilter had had the heart of a Mother Theresa, a
Ghandi, or even a Jesus, I believe we would have a much different answer to the question,
What Would Hitler Do?