January 9, 2011

What we must learn from Congresswoman Giffords’ shooting.

Listening To Tragedy.

Today at least five people were killed, and fourteen more seriously wounded. This included a federal judge, a congresswoman, and a nine year old girl…

The gunman was a 22 year old kid…the culprit was fear.

Jared Loughner shot those people because he was sick. He did not choose to shoot those people anymore than you or I choose to lash out at a friend or loved one when we feel threatened. His actions were far more drastic, but I assume he lost the capacity to choose along time ago.

It is sad. I do not know that there are any consolations to be offered for the senseless death of a nine year old girl, or anyone for that matter. However, it is important to remember that they were senseless. Insanity was in control of this situation.

I think it is far too easy to blame today’s tragedy on high octane political rhetoric. Certainly, the political climate in America has become divisive, and full of sensational talk on both sides of the aisle. But even this is a symptom of a greater problem.

Earlier, Waylon Lewis sent me an e-mail. In it he said, “Hopefully a lot of good and waking up will come out of this.” I have now thought for an hour or two about what good can come out of a situation like this. I asked myself, “What could he have been so afraid of that forced him to act in such a way?”

The truth is I do not know…in the worst of times, I am usually just afraid of fear.

I know that I do things from time to time that I regret. I hurt people in the hope of having my own selfish fears silenced. I do not want to hurt anyone. I do it without any thought of them. Perhaps, that is my saddest thing of all…That we can push ourselves into such a tight spot that we act without any thought of others. Every time I reflect on my selfish actions I realize I was afraid.

Forgetting others is always preceded by an obsession with myself. I get so caught up in me that I become paranoid. Terrified of what others think of me. In the final analysis this paranoia is always revealed to be a left-handed projection of my own second guessing, my own distrust of myself. I forget that I am fundamentally trustworthy and intelligent, and begin to make decisions on the basis of misinformation. If I buy into this self-generated propaganda for long enough I find myself in a claustrophobic situation. That is, a situation where life appears tight, or solid. It seems like nothing is workable. Like everything is happening to me, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. Life becomes too dense, and begins to collapse at the center. “Choice” seems to have evaporated, and I feel compelled to either hide or destroy.

I suspect that is where Mr. Loughner found himself today.

From the 6th chapter of Shanitdeva’s, The Bodhisattva’s Guide To The Way Of Life:

“If inflicting harm on others is the nature of the foolish, then my anger toward them is as inappropriate as it would be toward fire, which has the nature of burning.

If this fault is advantageous and if sentient beings are good by nature, then anger toward them is as inappropriate as it would be toward pungent smoke in the sky.

Disregarding the principle of cause, such as a stick and the like, if I become angry with the one who impels it, then it is better if I hate hatred, because that person is also impelled by hatred.

In the past, I too have inflicted such pain on sentient beings; therefore, I, who have caused harm to sentient beings, deserve that in return.”

His actions are not excusable by any means.

It is an unfortunate transgression of life’s most basic urge—life seeking to express itself. However, writing him off as a lunatic or blaming today’s events on sensational politics minimizes the situation, in my opinion. We as a people—not Westerners or Americans, but as a human family—simply do not revere basic sanity. Our lack of reverence for our internal welfare gives rise to all sorts of disasters: pointless arguments with loved ones, domestic violence, child abuse, wars, temper tantrums…

Perhaps, this is not a message that will be received well, as it hasn’t been the most popular answer in history! The fact is, this is a sad event. It is painful for a great many people, especially those closest to the tragedy. We cannot apply a sugar coating to such travesties. We can not sweep this under the rug by blaming it on some intrinsic unsolvable mental illness, or an explosive political climate. I do not feel that imputing supernatural afterlife consolations onto the victims does justice to the situation either. We have to look at it for what it is, ugly. It is literally an abomination of life…The most unnatural thing imaginable.

Perhaps, if we sit back and develop an appreciation for the profoundly unnatural and irreversible consequences insanity is capable of producing, we could develop a greater appreciation for basic sanity. Maybe, if we realize how ugly we make the world when we ignore our fundamental well being, we can begin to cultivate a sense of gratitude for the beauty and prestige we are capable of expressing when we take the time to love ourselves. To observe our situation. To touch it. Feel it. To sit and just be with ourselves. Maybe, if we as a people spent more time with ourselves—real time, in silence—we would realize that life is spacious enough to accommodate all of our differences, even our own internal discrepancies and contradictions.

I have never felt more at peace or in love with myself than in those silent momenta when I see and accept as real all of the things in me that I hate, all those things that do not agree with my contrived self-image. In those moments insanity is transformed into sanity. Chaos becomes order. Hate is revealed to be love. Filth is seen as beauty, and conflict ceases to be.

I will leave with you with a quote from Carl Jung and a video where he begs humanity to look within for the origin of destruction…

“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life.

That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ—all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ.

But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself—that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness—that I myself am the enemy who must be loved—what then? As a rule, the Christian’s attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we say to the brother within us “Raca,” and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves.”

Read 16 Comments and Reply

Read 16 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Benjamin Riggs  |  Contribution: 42,460