Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living creatures, man himself will not find peace.
– Albert Schweitzer
If a person cannot see horror, then he can neither see beauty, nor sadness, anger, fear or love.
- Alexander Lowen
Life is full of so much, and so much of it seems riddled with contradictions.
This morning I woke up, felt a little bit tired and cranky, and positioned my cup of coffee to be the ideal projective object, dubbed the ultimate magic potion that was going to transform my state of consciousness and cure all of my ills.
If only I could get through my cup of coffee in peace, then I would be a happier, more compassionate person. ; )
As my hands cradled the warm mug of divine sustenance, I saw a very silly post on Facebook that was beyond the usual “oh, that’s cute”. This was uncontrollable-belly-laugh, tears streaming down my face, and the ultimate release of a stress-induced, overly tight diaphragm that had been limiting my ability to breathe freely and deeply. Such ridiculous silliness! There is no logic for why something strikes one as being hysterically funny, it just is.
Yet, the very next thing I read was a post about a family killed in South Kordofan.
They died because their home was bombed. In Sudan, the government continues to indiscriminately bomb civilians. Antonovs are not precise vehicles of military surgical strikes. They are rough approximators and work well when the goal is the opposite of what we typically think of in war.
Genocide is unlike war in many attributes. So-called “collateral damage” is not a secondary, regrettable consequence in genocide, it is the goal. Civilians are the targets, especially women and children.
I had only barely recovered from my fit of all-encompassing hysterical laughter… and then, Sudan.
It gripped me. For a moment, I felt guilty. How can I sit and be caught up in such silliness when people are dying? And yet, this is the nature of life.
Perhaps the art form of living is to learn how to ride the alternating, ever-changing, seemingly contradictory waves without resistance.
The laughter had actually opened me so that I felt more. My capacity to feel grateful for all I have, and feel sorrow in the exact same moment for those killed, surrounded by their family members grieving their loss while running, hiding in caves, lacking access to food, water, and medicine, just trying to survive another day, another hour, another moment… my capacity to feel both gratitude and sorrow had increased.
How do we put these things together? How do we process things that horrify us when the nature of horror is that it is the incomprehensible?
Many are still reeling from the shooting in Connecticut. We are shocked and saddened to think of so many children, so young, all being slaughtered at the same time by a random gunman. Many say the result has been that something has shifted in this country. This time is different and we must have change. We will not forget in a few days time. This time we resolve to take action.
We often neglect to think about the fact that young children are slaughtered in other countries every day. If not by Antonov bomber, by direct gunshot, or landmine. If not by overt violence, by the indirect violence of famine, and lack of medical care.
How do we put these things together? How do we process the extreme incongruity of life on this planet?
We are caring, loving, concerned citizens, right? We are basically good people and compassionate in nature, right? Yet, we live in a world of such vast contradiction. In the U.S. even in tough economic times, WE HAVE SO MUCH. And the trouble with having so much is that it can increase generosity, or it can become numbing, create distance from suffering and decrease compassion.
I have never understood why we aren’t more concerned about and helpful to others who are suffering. There seems to be a belief that we are to take care of our self here on this earth, and take care of those in our own immediate family. Too often it stops there.
Time and again I wind up back at the meaning of “Ubuntu”.
Across this globe, across all of humanity, it is my very strong belief that we need to change the paradigm. We need to live in pursuit of the common good for all of humanity, for all others who live among us, and to find our way to re-establish our love affair with Mother Earth.
We all affect each other. We make choices and they have consequences. We have incredible potential for enacting warm, loving goodness. We have incredible potential for cold, oppressive destruction.
We will become even more powerful for good by being willing to become more intimately acquainted with our limits, and ability to do harm.
We are largely the problem, and the solution all at the same time.
I believe we have yet to scratch the surface in terms of the potential for good that lies within each and everyone one of us. We have access to the ability to bring tremendous positive change to this earth. It will not be an easy path. Discouragements are plentiful. Yet we can learn to allow deep feelings to have their way with us.
We must learn how to grieve well, and often.
We can allow even more genuine goodness into our life by learning to stop insisting on allowing in only feel-good things. When we open, we open to it all, and we must have a strong sense of groundedness to know how to deal with that wisely. We need the support of one another as we pursue this process as everyone gets off track and runs out of energy at times.
I write this mindful that this is the day, 12/21/12, some have said the world was going to end. Others said it would be the beginning of a new consciousness. I don’t honestly know if there is any significance to this date on the calendar or not. What I know is that I see a different way for us to be together on the planet, recognizing the preciousness of life itself, and holding each other in heartfelt value, within the pursuit of supporting the well-being of us all.
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
[Ubuntu] n. Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human being.