Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I want to learn to take in the suffering of the world, and still enjoy a cookie.

That was the answer provided by a student of Buddhism when he was asked why he would travel to France and study with Thich Nhat Hanh at the Plum Village Monastery, giving up the comfort of his quarters for a rustic space where he was made to wash dishes and chop wood.

With so much suffering in the news, I wonder how we do that. How do we look on the faces of broken parents, children in pain, families forever changed, and still enjoy a cookie?

We are all woven together in interconnectedness. This life and imminent death are strands of a web in which we all exist, together, with a single breath. If we wish to make the journey in peace, we must radiate peace to our children. We must hold them close, and open our hearts to those left behind.

Peace is not an empty platitude. It's not an ideal or an objective, or a political agenda. It is a practice of everyday life. We must walk peace in our choices - the words we speak, the things we choose to bring in to our home and the way in which we listen to one another.

The national media is consumed with the task of blaming. Is it a question of gun access? Cultural violence? Masculinity's representation in society? Insidious references that stigmatize the mentally ill and improperly correlate autism with violence, aloofness with insanity, an inability to read social cues with a lack of empathy. And while the pointing of fingers may or may not be important, may or may not elude to the questions needing answered for the sake of creating good public policy, blame is rarely much more than cathartic. At the end of the day, we are left to wonder  how any of us (meaning the murderer) could get so far removed from love, from sympathy, from compassion, from basic common sense and decency that they could coldly and mechanically take life from other people in such a callous, unconscious and destructive way.

In moving forward, we must be both realists and optimists. Suffering has a place in the world. It is inevitable. At the same time, we must recognize the possibility of alleviating that suffering and see the opportunities to create peace in our own lives and in our home. The intentions to be kind, compassionate, helpful, happy, and liberated are among the most beautiful qualities we have as humans. Our thoughts, words, and deeds of empathy, love and caring are the needed counter-forces to hatred, violence, and despair. Our own efforts to find inner peace, our example to our children, can be an important force of wholesome change for people who don’t know of that possibility.

If there is light in the soul,
There will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person,
There will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house,
There will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
There will be peace in the world.

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