It Felt Love
Did the rose
Ever open its heart
And give to this world
It felt the encouragement of light
We all remain
Frightened. ~ Hafiz (trans. by Daniel Ladinsky)
I’m sure that you, like me, have read the social media and blog posts today. Perhaps you’ve also read the news, or listened, or watched, as the stories of violence and death, and heroism and hate, have unfolded in Connecticut.
Then there are the posts and news stories that tell us what we should be doing - gun control and armed guards in the schools. Even posts suggesting that we require our teachers to go through combat training and do their work armed for battle as is necessary in Israel. There are posts that tell us this is a sign of evil abroad in the world, and posts about the need for healing for the victims and those who love them.
And I think about all those whose material life is ended, and like most, I feel the tragedy of the garden laid to waste, the roses that will never open.
But I also think of those who chose the path of laying waste to the garden. Those who chose to take up a weapon and indiscriminately end life after life. And I wonder what disease, what disillusionment, what disenfranchisement brought them to the place where that option even occurred to them, let alone was the most appealing path they could see.And I don’t see many posts calling out for healing for those people. Not many posts suggest that this could have been prevented - not by limiting access to guns (because, after all, 22 children were killed in China. With a knife.) Or by increasing security (does anyone really think that school children feel safe because their teacher is carrying an automatic weapon? Do you really think Israeli children don’t understand that those measures are necessary because they are NEVER safe?) Is it really such a fantasy to think that the dis-ease that causes these events that are occurring with greater and greater frequency, might be prevented by tolerating verbal and emotional violence less and showing love more - while these future murderers are still in the “bud” state?
Because until we cure that disease at its heart, it will spread like blight through our gardens. All the gun control, all the armed guards, all the security systems we can invent or implement will not serve to end the violence. Understanding the source of the distress that brought those events to pass does not excuse or condone the choices made by the killers, compassion does not eliminate consequences. But to focus all of our healing energy and our protective instincts on the victims we can see today and can easily relate to perpetuates the problem. Because it ignores the hidden victims who will someday be the murderers we cannot protect ourselves or our children from.
Last night, knowing I needed a little lightheartedness, my mate suggested we watch Napoleon Dynamite. Most of you have probably seen it. I had not. While I laughed, I also pondered. Because it was exaggerated, but not completely off the mark. Think about the messages sent: If someone is odd it’s natural to avoid them and make fun of them. It’s okay to beat kids up in the hallways, but not okay to hit a pinata that is made in the likeness of a popular person. Power and protection, such as Pedro’s cousins exuded, is in muscle or possessions. It’s a cute film, but somehow it didn’t leave my heart feeling light.
Because I realized that most of the disease, disillusionment, disenfranchisement, distress, and disturbed minds that I see or hear about can be traced back to being “dissed.” From seeing the effects of the disrespect that others show each other we learn to fear being disrespected by others. From buying into the disrespect that others show us, we learn to disrespect ourselves.
We create a culture of bullies and blame - a human chemistry that will result in an explosion every time - and wonder why it blows up in our faces.
This is what happens when people disrespect each other, and it is also what happens when nations disrespect each other. It creates an emotional pressure cooker that is going to break out in violence, the only question is when, how, who will wield the weapon and who will be hurt. Sometimes it’s only name calling. Sometimes it’s war. Sometimes it’s murder.
So may I suggest fostering a culture of respect - of reveling in differences instead of shaming those who are different, of celebrating those who color outside the lines, and delighting in the little yellow roses that somehow show up on the American Beauty rose bush. May I suggest showing respect to others on principle, so that they might learn to respect themselves and others. May I suggest that love and respect are to violence what Vitamin C is to the common cold - not always a cure, but an essential element of prevention.
It doesn’t take much courage to blame. It doesn’t much courage to hate. It doesn’t even take much courage to love those who are beautiful and innocent. But who has the courage to love those who are awkward and plain, the tightly closed buds with tips blackened by frost? Who can show the courage to offer that en-courage-ment to every rose in the garden so that those roses might have the courage to bloom?
If we can find that courage - who knows how many lives we might save, or how we might transform our own.
*The picture is a rose that bloomed in my garden last spring.