Today a colleague sent me images by email of an 8-year-old boy having his arm crushed by the wheel of a car for stealing bread in a market. Last week, as i sat in my car in the ferry line with my children waiting to take them to school we listened to news of a mother who had murdered her children. The day before, we heard news of ten girls bound and shot in an Amish school. Every day they die of hunger. Every day they die of AIDS. Every day they are shot by militias because they got in the way, or they were homeless. Every day they are neglected in orphanges. Every day they suffer in the bondage of slavery. Every day they watch their mothers beaten and murdered. Every day they are beaten and murdered.
I sit here almost incapacitated by horror. There are images and sounds and stories of torture and murder burned in my memory from the past fifteen years of work. I know i am tired. I know i don't usually consume ANY media for good reason. I know I will wake up in the morning, having managed to fall asleep somehow, and get on with my day, my work, loving my children, my family, my friends. I know that somehow, beyond this moment, i will find again the hope and determination to imagine a future for my species that is free from hatred, fear, and cruelty. A future where each child can grow up unharmed. I will somehow, once again manage to choose compassion over despair. But right now all i can do is shake and cry with the horror of what we can do to each other.
This news that bathes and barrages us with the basest of who we are, depletes us and alters us in dangerous ways. We can lose hope; we can lose faith in ourselves and our species. We can slide from horror to numbness to incapacity. It fuels our flight from reality into endless entertainment. It fuels hatred and suspicion. And most of all it fuels fear--the kind of fear that can be used to manipulate, to silence, to subvert, to oppress.
I don't know if those photos were real. They looked real. They could have been faked. They could have been from a movie. They could have been staged by the CIA or any number of other special interest groups dedicated to promoting hatred between people to further some project or other through a disinformation campaign. I'll never know the truth. Neither will you. What i do know is real is the trauma in my body. The disruption at a cellular level of my self and my energy. My heart contracts in self-protection. Can you feel it too?
It hurts--and it's hard work!--to open and soften that heart again. I am working at it as it type this because i choose to believe that compassion is the only response that will change us--that has any chance of success. And so i breathe in the suffering and terror of the child and breathe out compassion--because it's all i can give him--because i choose to believe that at some level it matters. And then it gets harder--i extend compassion to the man who is holding him down (it could be his father) because i choose to believe that only someone who is experiencing tremendous suffering could harm a child that way. So i breathe in that suffering and breathe out compassion--because i choose to believe that it matters. And i choose to break the cycle. I will not perpetuate the energy of hate and fear.
I don't believe it's about right and wrong anymore. I choose to believe it's about the energy of love and compassion versus the energy of fear. And i choose to believe that it matters at the level of energy--regardless of distance or time.
And i say choose to believe, because i have learned that faith is not a rock that we stand on, but is an activity we engage in moment by moment as life presents us with each new opportunity to be present in a different way.
So the horror and despair are receding--replaced by the ache of a soft and open heart.
-----author's aside to self:
A wondering to capture for further reflection: Things seem to be moving beyond questions--or at least verbalized questions--and into a realm of being or flow. There seems to be no question relevant other than to perhaps be a question. Or be a response. Perhaps we can find repose in our response-ability?