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Change Our Story

Composer, author and philanthropist Peter Buffett on finding your own path to life fulfillment.

Original Sin

Peter Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is an Emmy Award-winning composer, NY Times best-selling author and noted philanthropist. Currently, he is releasing socially-conscious music and touring his "Concert & Conversation" series in support of his book Life Is What You Make It.
original sin 

Recently, I was curious about the concept of original sin and, not being a scholar of religion or history, I started where I often do: Wikipedia.

Within the first sentence, I realized why I had been thinking about this topic at this time. Original sin is also known as ancestral sin—the idea that sin lives and is carried through the generations just by being related to the original act.

And here it was Columbus Day, and Christopher Columbus, under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain and carrying out a very commercial enterprise, is being remembered for his “discovery” of America.

The place he landed was Hispaniola in present day Haiti. Haiti today is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere by every known indicator. The deepest part of the wound is the point of entry.

When Columbus landed here’s a sampling of what he saw and his interpretation of it:

"As I saw that they were very friendly to us… It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants… They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. With fifty men I could subjugate them all and make them do everything that is required of them. They have no arms, and are without warlike instincts; they all go naked, and are so timid that a thousand would not stand before three of our men. So that they are good to be ordered about, to work and sow, and do all that may be necessary, and to build towns, and they should be taught to go about clothed and to adopt our customs."  

I am flooded with both sadness and rage when I read these passages.

That original sin spread throughout the hemisphere leaving entire cultures in ruins. Freedom dealt a crushing blow to people who actually understood the meaning of the word.

Because of my work on the television series 500 Nations, I know all too well what happened next—over and over and over again. Often using religion as a disguise and commercial exploitation as the fuel, millions of people were used up and killed. This may be a story as old as time, but this version is America’s story. 

A country built on enterprise and feeling pious enough to call itself exceptional, America was built on the backs of others. Either through forced labor or genocide, the country grew and never looked back. Yes, there are extraordinary things about this country. But just like every person on the planet, it has a complex story that must be recognized in its entirety to be recognized at all. Until then, it’s just running from its own shadow ... its own story.

In many ways, I’m not sure it matters who our next president is. This country is still desperately looking for redemption for its original sin. Until the creation of what we call the United States of America is seen in its full light, we can never clean up the mess that is being made in the name of “growth,” “progress,” and “prosperity.” There are too many people hurting to ignore it much longer.

Until we recognize that we are just part of a much larger whole—that we are only as free as the most bound among us—we will continually run as fast as we can towards oblivion. It’s time to create a new story by fully telling the old one. 

Imagine no religion
Imagine no possessions
Imagine no countries
Columbus landed in that place. 

What do you think? Share your story at changeourstory.com. Visit www.peterbuffett.com to learn more and Change Our Story to join the conversation on how we all can become active participants in shaping our future.  

Image courtesy of Amy Long. 




david lunbeck
11/3/2012 2:45:12 PM

when I think of the Karma , the entire country , as a nation , it becomes almost overwhelming to think about .

mark stewart
10/18/2012 11:27:24 AM

October 18th Next Day TURN BACK TO GOD Luke 22:32 "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." LUKE 22:32 The concept of "conversion" is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures at least 14 times. The basic meaning of the term is a turning or returning to God. This implies a turning away from sin and a turning to God. Repentance and putting faith in God are corresponding synonyms to conversion. The theological basis for conversion lies in the truth of the "atonement." Although man lapses into sin, the truth of the atonement remains. When men turn to God in repentance and faith, the effects of the atonement - reconciliation and forgiveness - avail. The apostle Paul expresses the act of conversion in this way: "Turning to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (1 Th. 1:9). Also, "to open their eyes (the Gentiles), and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" (Jesus) (Acts 26:18). Jesus instructed Peter to get back into ministry after he repented of his denial. If Jesus had not given Peter this command, many people might have doubted that Peter should be in a position of leadership. Indeed, Peter himself must have doubted whether or not he was fit. After Jesus' resurrection, the Lord again admonished Peter three times to serve Him by ministering to His sheep. In the context of Luke 22, Peter's faith was shaken and he denied the Lord but did not reject Him. Jesus' admonition to Peter was that when he turned back again to Him (converted), he was to strengthen the brethren.

walter paul bebirian
10/17/2012 8:41:12 PM

let me see now Peter - it does seem to me that considering the dialog or information that you have provided here above is absolutely accurate (Wikipedia does sometimes have information that is not correct or exactly true) that the concept of what was about to take place called Hispaniola was not a new concept at all specific to this location and time and place but was of a certain nature of the way people had been treated for many years - is this not so? - is my interpretation or perception incorrect in this matter at all?