“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”
I cannot keep quiet about this. Another mass shooting happened this week at a community college in Oregon. Millions of people are fleeing the homes that they loved in Syria due to civil war. Every day kids commit suicide because they cannot live with the constant bullying they deal with at school. More and more often violence is becoming common place, from our police to our schools, in every country. Something in our humanity is broken. The world’s heart is broken, and so is mine.
I do not want to get political. I don’t think that changing gun laws will stop people from killing other people. I don’t think that more or less of a military presence will fix Syria. I don’t think we can punish the bullies until they stop. I want to get emotional. I want to talk about love. We often say that hate is the opposite of love, but I disagree. Fear is the opposite of love. People can logically hate something and not hurt anyone because of it. But, fear makes people do stupid, hurtful things. I know this because I too was afraid.
Let me back up. When I was a teenager, I hurt. I had depression. I had been sexually assaulted by someone I knew and called a friend. I was terrified that it was my fault. I was terrified that it would happen again. I lived in fear. I was so scared that I dreamt that the only way out was to take my own life. I was scared enough to think that the only way to fix things was to hurt everyone in my life. When those boys killed their classmates in Columbine, Colorado, I didn’t think they were evil. I felt envy. I felt like I understood them. I too had been so scared, that sometimes it seemed like violence was the answer. I bring this up, not for sympathy, nor to be commended for my courage for sharing this. I bring this up, to help illustrate that I know how fear can breed hate and violence. I bring this up because I think a lot of us have similar stories. We have all lived through hard things, and have been broken at times. The difference between those of us who move past it and those who get stuck in the darkness might very well be the amount of love in our lives.
This next part might sound corny, but it is true. I found yoga and started reading books by the Dalai Lama. I meditated on sending love to everyone, even the person who hurt me. Slowly, this magical thing started to happen. I stopped being afraid. I’m not saying that yoga, or religion is the answer. But maybe, just maybe, love is the answer.
Perhaps, the reason there is so much violence in the world, is that so many people are scared. And violence doesn’t fix the problems those people are fighting against. It merely perpetuates itself. (Brings to mind the fighting fire with fire metaphor.) What if we were to stop and look at the things and people we are truly afraid of and decided to love them instead? What would happen if we allowed ourselves to do the hard job of loving the people that have hurt us? Instead of demonizing the 20-something boy that killed so many people in Oregon, instead of arguing about politics, lets find a way to fight this fear. Let’s try and love one another. Let’s love those that are hurting so much they feel like they have to hurt everyone around them. Let’s also be honest, and look at the nastiness we all hold in our hearts that often grows within us every time we are scared. This honesty can hopefully create a compassion for the broken few that cause so much pain. Being compassionate to the people directly in your life might not stop civil war. But it might slow the cycle of hate and fear in your community. And maybe that ripple will broaden. And perhaps someday it will reach the people in charge of our country, and other countries. Who knows maybe some day we, as a country, will find a way to send love to the people that need it, instead of fighting them to try and stop their wars. Perhaps, more simply, your kindness will help a troubled person feel better. Imagine a community where we reached our hands out to help those who are hurting, rather than raising voices to blame and fists to punish.
In the wake of yet another terrible tragedy, we need to stop simply mourning and then moving on. This absolutely cannot be how the world operates. I refuse to believe that this is the way things are now. We need to act. We need to find a way to stop the endless cycles hate, anger and fear. How can we start loving and stop fearing?
I, for one, am going to try my damnedest to send love to every single person. So, I’m asking you do to the same. Be kind. Seek out founts of love in your life. Drink it up till it fills your soul. Meditate. Go to church, mosque, synagogue. Go to yoga. Go to the woods. Stand in the center of a bustling city. Feel the life force, the love, emanating from every being. Reflect this love back to all beings. And know, that I love you and am always sending the love and courage to embrace this cruel, messy, beautiful world your way.