“Violence is not merely killing another. It is violence when we use a sharp word, when we make a gesture to brush away a person, when we obey because there is fear. So violence isn’t merely organized butchery in the name of God, in the name of society or country. Violence is much more subtle, much deeper, and we are inquiring into the very depths of violence.”
– Jiddu Krishnamurti
As I was on 9/11, I was glued to the TV on 1/9/11 the day after the AZ shooting. It was news of the death of a 9 year old girl that I couldn’t stomach. 9 years old. The same age as my son and she was born on the same day of the year that I was. 9/11. It did not escape me that those who were injured or killed were not known for being difficult people with highly controversial opinions (to most people anyway) but some of those who came to their rescue were. One gun-toting conservative and one unarmed liberal among them. Though that may sound stereotypical, it’s not meant to be. I know gun toting liberals and conservatives that wouldn’t touch a gun with a ten foot pole. That’s just the way it happened and the circumstances seemed laid out perfectly for us to learn a valuable lesson about each other and how differences don’t amount to much when we are talking about the value of each other’s lives. But, it doesn’t seem like we’ve learned anything at all. I told a group of friends last night that, it used to be, a loss like this would shake people into coming together, seeing past their differences and seek to improve relationships. That’s not what happened at all.
We saw it with Haiti. For the most part, people’s hearts broke open. They poured in and lent a hand. It was disturbing to me that some just sat back and criticized. “Why are we helping them when we didn’t help our own people when Katrina hit?”. I found it funny that the hyper critical were not the people who actually got up and went to affected areas when disaster struck. The people that went weren’t complaining. They were doing. Sure, they may have been outraged by circumstances but they understood that there is more value in taking positive action than there is in making negative statements.
When the Arizona shooting happened, it was shocking. It was cold and inhumane. Unthinkable until you actually had to think about it. This was not a natural disaster. This was man made by someone who, like it or not, is as human as we are. We can try to say he is not. But, we are only denying that we ourselves are capable of deep hatred and of giving in to it. We don’t know the circumstances of his life. We don’t know the abuses or illnesses he’s suffered that would allow his mind to be so deeply disturbed as to take the lives of these people with seemingly no remorse whatsoever. But, like him, we are capable of giving in to our darker side. And many of us proved it not even minutes following. Fingers, pointing, pointing, pointing. Justifications for hatred and anger on the left and right and everywhere in between. Everyone saying how everyone else should learn a lesson and no one learning it. No one exemplifying it. Where is the calm voice? The voice that finds deep meaning in the lives that these people lost. The voice that says they did not die in vain because we have learned that our differences are not worth dehumanizing each other over. The voice that doesn’t say, everyone else is to blame but that says I am responsible for the words I choose and the way I treat my neighbors, my fellow citizens, my fellow human beings. So, instead of excusing my harsh words and justifying my anger, I’m going to just stop it here and now. I’m going to take positive action instead of making negative statements.
My dear friend, Margaret, gave me a book last night on dog training. She knows I’ve had some difficulty controlling my rambunctious labrador around other people. As a result she (Daphne) and I tend to get hyper when people come over to the house. Who better to help train us than Cesar Millan? I started reading it last night and was expecting some great tips on calming my dog. What I wasn’t expecting was such incredible insight into the “issues” of our society. I want to share with you a paragraph from the book “Be the Pack Leader”:
“Humans will follow intellectual leaders. They will follow spiritual leaders, and they will follow emotional leaders. Humans are the only species on earth that will follow a totally unbalanced leader. Animals, however – though I believe they possess an emotional and spiritual side – will only follow instinctual leaders. I believe it is our loss of connection with our instinctual side that prevents us from being effective pack leaders for our dogs. Perhaps it is why we also seem to be failing at being positive guardians of our planet.”
BAM! I love Cesar Millan.
Now, before anyone assumes that I am trying to make a point about President Obama, please…no. Don’t go there. I’m talking about whoever we follow, whoever is our own personal pack leader. Because we often choose. As Cesar says, nature wants balance. I believe this. Every act of violence in nature and in our minds and hearts is in reaction to things being out of balance and is driven by the deep need to return to balance. This is why I’ve said, “My friends, if I were at peace with myself I would not be at war with you.” I am deeply aware that it begins with me. It’s my choice. When I am balanced the whole world is with me. When I am not, the whole world is against me. I know this but I don’t always take control of my own heart and mind. I seek leadership and leadership is readily there to fill the gap. It may be spiritual, it may be emotional, it may be intellectual and, yes, it may be unbalanced. It may be a voice that encourages my anger and hatred even though it comes from a well-meaning friend. It may be a voice that speaks peace like a child perfectly calm and content amidst chaos. Like my child questioning, “Why are you angry? I just want to play.”
As a human being capable of reason I’ll often talk myself into and justify following an unbalanced leader. Why? Because of fear. Because my instinct is for self preservation are I’m looking to protect myself from the source of fear. The problem is, everyone else is doing the same thing. Some capitalize off of it earning money, ratings, attention…banking on fear. We buy into it, thereby, positively enforcing their fear. We lead each other. Our fears feed off of one another’s and we are the unbalanced leading the unbalanced until we’ve all become what we fear the most.
No matter who reads this, it will naturally apply to “them”. The other side. But that’s why the other side is so important. They are truly a mirror. They mirror our own fears and our own basic need to survive. When I am balanced the whole world is with me. When I am not, the whole world is against me. This is why what happened in Arizona is only the fault of the man that did this but, absolutely the responsibility of every single one of us. I know, when bad things happen we all feel called to do something. We are intellectual beings but, in the heat of the moment, we act on instinct the way the crowd responded when the shots were fired. Fight, flight, avoid, submit…depending on our own personal make-up. But, removed by time and distance we choose. And, we, as observers don’t need to fight, fly avoid or submit. Why choose fight now? Why choose negative and personal attacks now? We are not there. We are not in the time and space that this happened. Therefore, the only sane and reasonable course of action is to accept because we can’t change it and move towards balance. Take positive action instead of making negative statements, lead with calm assurance instead of being lead by anger and achieve balance by allowing balance to return. I’m sorry, I know that last part requires faith and I’m not talking religion. It requires faith in our deep connection to each other; to acknowledge it, to respect it.
You can’t change other people. It’s not even your job to do so. Let it go. The only thing you can change is your experience with them. And the only way to do that positively is by being at peace and being assured in who you are. I married my husband because he was a calming influence on me. I was scattered and my mind seemed to even out when he was around. Over time, the balance shifted as does in any relationship. There was volatility, anger and resentment. All were in reaction to a loss of balance. Eventually, we found it again by having faith in our connection, knowing that we each play an important role for each other even though it may be a challenge at times. This holds true for everyone in every relationship. From husbands, wives and children to governments and constituents to countries and other cultures. We play an important role for each other. That’s why it hurts when we dismiss it.
In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute. – Thurgood Marshall
The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity – Leo Tolstoy
You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops in the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
– Mahatma Ghandi