Hard Choices


I hear from my husband the latest news around the most recent mass killings. I am so very angry. So very tired of business as usual. So fed up with the ways that we as a people allow for, supply and even promote the most egregious and destructive of acts against our own kind. I am so done with the choices that we all continue to make that destroy and squander Life.

As hard as it is to bear witness to the atrocities that have grown far too common, what is even more difficult is getting our minds around the fact that none of the violence that occurs “out there” is separate from “in here.” Indeed, it is a startling enterprise to begin to even consider that what is outside of you, is inside of you. That this is not someone else’s problem or doing. That this is ours. All of ours.

It is easy, and oh so convenient, to think that “real” violence is something that you would never do. Something that only bad people, evil people, criminals, lunatics and the deranged perpetrate on the rest of us. Think again. There are many, many forms of violence that we all engage in daily. But because it does not result in immediate death, or look like an obvious and outward form of violence, we do not recognize it as such. But what if our definition was one that said that any thought, word, or action that devalued or harmed Life, any Life in any way, was indeed a form of violence?

How then might we view our daily habits of speech, thought and action? As in, the way our gossip tears other people down. As in, the self-criticism we engage in that harms and dismantles our own vitality. As in, the entitled and gratuitous spending choices that rip and strip the Earth of finite resources. As in, living a life of anesticization by numbing out our precious life force with whatever activity or substance we can get our hands on. As in, annihilating a stranger with our words, reducing them to nothing in our mind because they are not driving fast enough. Or behaving the way we think they should.

And just in case you believe I am only ranting at you, I am not. I include myself in this. I include all of us in this.

The “this” being, what it is that we are choosing. And I am not just talking about gun-laws. For as hard as this one has been to change, it is nothing compared to what it takes to live lives that are based on valuing Life. In all of its forms. On every level. Whether it is difficult or not. For the truth is, laws are ultimately a band-aid, and though desperately needed at this time and in certain circumstances, not nearly enough for addressing the root cause of what we are facing.

To understand this more deeply, let’s take this down into the personal. What needs to go in your life but that somehow you have refused, up to this point, to change? Where do you leap from one crisis to the next; engaging in just enough action to get back to the status quo ASAP? Reflecting and answering in such a way offers the possibility of understanding why it is that no traction ever occurs on a national level on the topic of gun violence.

For the hard truth is, the answers are personal in nature and found by looking at what is being slaughtered in your very own life, where nothing ever changes, despite the desperate cries for help. For truly, the only way to understand “out there,” is to understand “in here.” And if we could begin to do this, we would put ourselves in the powerful position of understanding something so thoroughly as to know exactly where the problem stemmed from, and then most importantly of all, know how to act with wisdom, clarity, purpose and compassion. Which by the way has nothing to do with “being soft on crime,” and everything to do with understanding a matter so deeply that the solution naturally presents itself to you, and therefore, to us.

Can you see what we are up against? Why it is so hard, impossible even, to do things collectively that we cannot do individually? How difficult what it is that I am suggesting? For if we cannot do this within ourselves, how will we change the collective experience? It would be so much easier to believe that gun control is the total answer, or that more surveillance would solve what we are up against. That more rules and more paranoia and suspicion are what is called for. That these approaches and emotional states will be what saves us. But none of this will ever be effective at the level we require. Why? Because it is not addressing the root cause. In other words, why settle for catching the shooter, after the damage has already been done, when we could work to develop a world where there was no need for anyone to become a shooter?

But to do this would require far more effort than choosing fear, blame and a kind of armoring up; calling instead for a high degree of personal responsibility and social accountability. Despite the arduous nature of this course of action, the reward would be great. Monumental and far-reaching. For our attempts and our solutions would be coming from a place of Truth; putting us in the exquisite and Life-affirming position of knowing what is truly called for as we step forward. In short, we quite literally become the solution. This as opposed to looking for one, or expecting others to find one for us.

I understand you may find me naive. Maybe even dangerous in proposing such far-out, “impossible” and idealistic ideas. And perhaps you would be right on certain levels, and from certain perspectives. Maybe. But I will tell you this: People who value their own life and the lives of those around them do not make these kinds of choices. Do not need to be legislated and protected against. That right there is the Truth. As for the rest of it, well…you decide.

For if we know anything about our nature, we know that it can be far easier to be distracted by the wrong things than to do the hard work that the right things require. That it can be so much easier to imagine things out there coming at us, and doing to us versus knowing that we are at cause in our own lives. This is risky for many of us to consider because there are no guarantees. And perhaps because most of all, what we are talking about is such an enormous evolutionary leap to find within ourselves that it would require putting down a whole bunch about who and what we believe ourselves to be, and how it is that we “must” live.

The bottom line is this: Our lives are far more valuable than we are making them out to be. All you need to do is to look around to see how we treat children, people different than us, the species of the Earth. All you need to do is to look at the dehumanizing medical, political  and educational systems that we claim to be the finest on Earth, and yet daily ignore the real needs of the people moving through those institutions, and who it is they are meant to serve.

Something like this cannot merely be spoken of, but must be lived; day in and day out. It is a process, and never about doing it right, and always about the intention that lives behind why you do, what you do. This is not easy to accomplish in the times we are living in where there are so many shows to be watched, so many people to follow, so many drinks to be had, edibles to be consumed, worries to foster, and grievances to be fed. Lest you believe I am demonizing these things, I am not. I am merely, and strongly, pointing out that they are not the source of sustenance with which to feed, value and source a Life.

My practical response to this? I for one will be waging an all out inner campaign against violence. It began on the day of hearing the news when I chose to take a walk to clean up trash that others had dumped instead of sitting at home stewing. It will continue with as many ways as I can imagine to gather people together in the service of what is uplifting and essential. Most of all, I am pledging an all out campaign on any and all life-negating and critical thoughts that I harbor against myself and other.

Too simplistic? Too unrelated to the topic at hand? Maybe. But what if it were true?? What if when enough of us make a choice to honor and value Life in all of its forms, we will weave together a world where honoring Life is the beginning, middle and end of literally every single thing we do, speak, think and pray for? Both individually and collectively.

I’m in. How about you?