Friday, December 14, 2012

Inadequate words on a tragic day

Today a young man shot and killed 20 elementary school students. Little kids. The same age as my son. Of all the horrible acts of violence that have happened in the last few years, I think this is the one I understand the least. It makes my brain reel. I was doing all sorts of things today, and doing them sufficiently well I guess, but my mind was half somewhere else. 

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It was one of those days where, when I looked at someone else walking down the street, and he or she looked back, there was an immediate connection, an understanding, because we were reminded of our common bond as human beings. 

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I believe that there's no such thing as "evil." I think that when we label someone else as evil, we do two things: we make them the "other," someone who has little to nothing common with us; and we strip them of a certain level of basic responsibility. After all, the purpose of Evil is... to be evil. "Evil" seems like this force that comes from outside the human realm, something we can't extinguish. But the truth is that normal, everyday people - people like me and like you - can do truly horrible, unspeakable things. They aren't monsters. Their purpose in life was not to create suffering, but those are the acts they chose for whatever reason (abuse in their own life, trauma, mental illness), and in turn they pass on their suffering to others.

I could talk about gun control (I have strong feelings about that) and I could talk about the importance of mental health support (strong feelings about that too), but ultimately, what's wrong here is much deeper than that. 

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"If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Defunct pier, Berkeley marina

"No-one got the instructions. That is the secret of life. Everyone is flailing around, winging it most of the time, trying to find the way out, or through, or up, without a map. This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion, and how they figure out to show up, care, help and serve, as the only way of filling up and being free. Otherwise you grow up to be someone who needs to dominate and shame others so no one will know that you weren't there the day the instructions were passed out.” - Anne Lamott

End of the pier, Berkeley marina

San Francisco Bay

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