“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
My heart goes out to all of you as we as a nation attempt to integrate and mourn the tragic events in Connecticut. As parents, the deepest fear we all carry is that of losing a child. There is no greater imaginable horror, and we literally don’t know how we would survive it.
We may attempt to ameliorate our grief with whispers and prayers of relief that it was not our family that was touched by this violence. But if we look deeply, we will be forced to remember that it IS our family, that these ARE our children. And that all the people who die in crossfire or in the line of duty every day are our children. And that the 1 in 4 American children that go to bed hungry every single night are our children. And that the over 30,000 children who die from starvation each day on our planet are our children, too.
History shows us that human beings have always had the capacity to behave violently, destructively and selfishly. No news there. But there are so many of us now, and our weapons are so destructive, our money so worshiped, our media so dependent on violence for effect, and our people so unhappy and unhealthy and uncared for, that we are literally at the tipping point for how much brutality the planet can sustain. We are not “getting away with” this bad behavior anymore. It is coming home to roost.
But history also shows us that human beings have a huge capacity for compassion. So when — and more importantly how — are we going to put an end, once and for all, to this insane march toward violence and self-destruction? When and how will we institute sensible gun control laws? When and how will we create systems and safety nets for identifying and adequately serving those among us who are troubled, isolated, and/or mentally ill and desperately in need of our help? When and how will we call the media and entertainment industries to task for their excessive pushing and selling of violence to young children? When and how will we stop ignoring those who suffer worldwide, often at the hand of our great nation? When will we stop creating the conditions where a tragedy like Sandy Hook is even imaginable, let alone a semi-regular occurrence? Do we have the power, individually and collectively, to change things?
These are questions worth stopping for a moment to consider in the cracks of planning for the holidays, caring for our children, working to survive, and otherwise running around like the crazy, over-scheduled and over-stimulated people we have become, despite our often Herculean efforts to simplify. I know it feels like we don’t have the time, but there’s another clock ticking and the alarm, when it goes off, will be the rudest wake-up call conceivable.
I questioned moving forward with our December song release in the midst of all this, until I received an email from a mom sharing with me her experience with her child falling asleep to Lovingkindness while she listened from the other room in the midst of her pain, paralysis, fear and confusion regarding Friday’s tragedy. She reminded me that music “has the power to help heal our broken hearts.” So here is some music for you. I hope it helps heal your broken heart, or at least helps you cry and release some of the grief inside. Or helps you remember some joyful memories from your childhood, thus filling your heart with some much-needed happiness and love in this moment. And I hope it helps you remember to hold ALL our children close.
The song is called The Light. The theme is that light itself (whether in the form of twinkly tree lights, flickering candle-fire, the sun or stars) is central to every culture’s winter holiday. And it universally symbolizes purity, a hope for peace, a desire for awakening and transformation, and the amazing opportunity we’re given to recognize the basic human goodness in one another — the opportunity to lay down our fear, judgement, and illusion of separation and come together, in love, as one. For deep down, everyone wants to love and be loved. The experience of sharing love brings us our greatest joy, and the fear of separation from love is the source of our deepest pain. This truth is at the heart of all that is both tragic and transformative about humanity. And it carries within it the path to a peaceful world.
This message takes on another dimension in the wake of last week’s tragedy. And, at least for me, it takes on another level of insistence. If not now, when? Perhaps you will find some hope in these words, or some ideas about how you can address this difficult stuff with your kids or even what you can do to help as an individual or community. Please let me know what you come up with, for I, too, am paralyzed with the enormity of the challenge facing us. We need each other now more than ever. Thank you for being here.
Peace be with you this season and always. I love you.
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
~ Howard Zinn