During my recent visit to Boston, I thought about the athletes who were hurt and killed in the recent explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Our hotel was on Boylston Street, lending to inevitable flashbacks of the images I saw in the news just weeks ago. I thought about the lung-gripping terror of the families of so many runners and spectators as they scurried to inquire about the safety of their loved one(s). Thankfully, meeting a friend for an adventure to an enormous farm-stand in Lexington, a few hours of quiet at the Cambridge Zen Center, and a slow stroll (uh-hem, full disclosure… pregnancy-waddle) on the Freedom Trail textured the trip with sweetness, reflection, and joy.
I was chatting with my friend over delicious Indian food in Arlington, MA and she mentioned additional tragic news: women kidnapped over a decade ago were found in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Oh good gracious“, I thought. I work so devotedly for my own personal freedom and mapping toward an infinitely-expanding availability of peace. Yet, news of violence and violation keep coming. My initial response is urgently triggered anger. As my heart rate calms and my vision clears, I think: “What can I do? How can I relate? Where do I put this news and my ache for the victims?”. Despite my refusal to watch cable, I hear news of tragedy often. I think about the the recent news on rape cases in Ohio, Nova Scotia and India. I think about shooting in schools… recently close to home for us, in Oakland, CA. I think about the bomb makers, shooters, rapists, and any other human beings involved in planning and perpetrating attacks. What? How???? Why????
Do they so need to share their torment, that violence is the only route that feels accessible to them?
Are they so disillusioned, betrayed and violated themselves, that they believe that creation of tragedy is the only voice they have left? Perhaps the “ending” they imagine somehow seems to justify the violent means?
Maybe loneliness in misery has consumed them, and the only human interconnectedness they believe they can experience is in misery and darkness, rather than in spite of it?
A few months ago I read a moving article by a favorite blogger of mine: ESGEE Musings. He wrote about the “[…] horrific massacre of school children and teachers in Connecticut, USA”, and “[…] barbaric rape and “murder” of an Indian medical student in Delhi.” He explores the way the public responds to such horrific events, and prompts us to ask ourselves:
“But could it be that as we come across such evil and darkness in the world, there lies a seed of responsibility within us? When we accept the status quo of injustice on the plea that this is how it has been? When we prefer to remain an onlooker to a crime perpetrated on someone else? When we spend our energy to protect our own cocoon only? When we expect the Government and the police to follow standards of morality and behaviour higher than our own?”
He writes about the healing potential of “HO’OPONONO”, an “extreme responsibility” approach to mental health disturbance. He really got me thinking. I recommend reading his article.
When we hear of violent tragedy, how do we relate to it? Where is our responsibility? Do we immediately disconnect, call it barbaric, and distance ourselves from the evil? I feel myself wanting to, absolutely! I read John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill” in 5th grade. My grandmother was disturbed by the content, and argued: “Annie, why do you allow these awful images into your head?” She suggested that I fill my mind with positivity only. There is so much richness in her advice. On the other hand, is it healthy to engage in a definitive and immediate distancing from inconceivably abhorrent acts perpetrated by our human siblings? Interconnected as we are, I believe that we must consider why violent circumstances come to be. Dare I say we are more likely to offer healing to global existence if we do?
I think about the Milgram obedience studies, repeated and replicated over decades. Milgram began his experiments in hopes to better understand how-in-the-heck the Nazi regime destroyed so much life. Outcome: an overwhelming majority of subjects were willing to “discipline” a volunteer “student” (in another room) by delivering potentially lethal shocks when the student answered questions incorrectly. Tweaking variables, Milgram repeated the studies, hoping for a different outcome! He found the same terrifying conclusion: most of us obey… to a potentially murderous extent!!! This breakthrough experiment connects us all to the ugly underbelly of human existence… connects us all, resistant as we may be, to perpetrators of abhorrent acts.
If one human is capable of perpetrating violence, given their unique birth-given genetic mapping in harmony with the environmental conditioning unique to their life experience, might another be, given precisely equal circumstances (nature/nurture)? Milgram’s studies suggest that the answer may just be: YES. When I originally read through Milgram’s experiments (12 yrs ago), I was heart-sick for months. Ironic as it may sound, the only reconciliation I find is through a deliberate understanding that this dark human potential is present in all of us. I believe that the very denial of its potential and our connection to it is what makes us prey to its invasion. Therein lies my hope: the more we understand it and plough through our resistance of it, the more we can eliminate its treachery.
I am attracted to an operating belief that evil is something to be gotten rid of, eliminated, or at least distanced from. If we were capable of that, might we have accomplished it already? I don’t know…
For now, will you consider a hypothetical with me, using the mathematical scenario that I’ve come up with to express myself? It will make me so happy if you indulge me here!!!
What if evil is something we cannot possibly be rid of, in human form? Attempting to eliminate evil is magnetically satisfying, yet prison “rehabilitation”, death row, war on terror, outlawing drugs etc, etc… just aren’t doing the trick, are they? Let’s pull away for a moment, and observe humanity from the sky-scraper view. Many believe that there is a balance of good and evil in our world. What if this balance is, indeed, one of many laws of human existence? In thinking of this balance, a yin and yang, let’s conceive of each participating element (good and evil) as existing in definitive mathematical quantities, equal to one another.
X = Good, Light, Contentment, Positivity, Serenity, Freedom, Peace, Nirvana;
Y = Evil, Darkness, Sadness, Dukkha, Dis-ease, Anguish, Suffering, Wanting;
Although (the total sum of X) = (the total sum of Y), X and Y are dispersed unevenly throughout the human population, residing in each of us in a different balance. In other words X does not = Y in each human being. In some of us X < Y, and in others X > Y. Our luck of the draw, fate, and/or freewill combine with the circumstances of our nature and nurture to endow us each with a certain portion of X and Y. At different times in our lives we may manifest our portion of X and Y in different ways, OR we may experience an increase in our portion of each value of X and Y that we are carrying. At certain times we may notice that we are making mistakes, hurting someone we love, or hurting ourselves through destructive habits. These manifestations may alert us that we have suffered an increase in the portion of Y that we are carrying, often due to unresolved loss and/or trauma.
When one is carrying too much Y to endure, he/she may believe that a transfer of Y to another human is possible, and that it may provide relief. Observing someone especially rich in X, this tormented soul may believe that their chosen victim can endure an increase in Y, and share it through violence and/or violation (likely using the same or similar method of transfer they experienced in their own receipt of Y). Once victim, this perpetrator may remember the desperate quality of their own perpetrator’s behavior. Having experienced a loss of their own X when they themselves were victimized, perpetrators may (sub/un)consciously misperceive that their past attacker was the recipient of the X that they so abruptly lost. Many victims of violence and violation are told, or otherwise led to believe that they are to blame for the event(s), further reinforcing the residence of Y and loss of X in the system. Further, perpetrators (once victims) may misinterpret the relief they feel in expressing Y. Relating to the tumultuous confusion of their own trauma, some may even believe that, through their violent act(s), they are recipient of their victim’s lost X.
It’s no wonder we explore this through symbolism in the arts and entertainment industries. What pops to mind is North America’s current fascination with vampires, zombies and other life-eating/energy-transfering characters– a fascination that seems to recur in different generations. The evidence, time and time again, shows us that this attempt to get rid of Y through transmitting it to another, and/or to steal another’s X does not work. The perpetrator of the attempted transfer remains in a wretched destination, with even more Y to carry. And, calamitously, the victim is left with his/her very own increased burden of Y to either hold, express, or resolve.
If X = Y, and the existence of Y is absolute and cannot be eliminated, the hypothetical possibility I’d like to propose is this: What if we all eventually learn to voluntarily carry an equal share of Y? At first glance this may sound terrible– why would I elect to carry evil? “Oh blast it all, that’s just insane to boot!!!!” But stick with me through this hypothetical… stick with me.
Arguably we are all carrying some Y, to varying degrees… maybe more than we know. Maybe you’ve yelled at your spouse or child in overwhelmed frustration when he/she was pressing to get your attention when you didn’t have time/space/energy to give. Perhaps engagement in gossiping, bullying, criticizing, antagonizing, or passive aggression ring some bells? Maybe you’ve smoked a cigarette or had a few too many alcoholic beverages (harming self; a manifestation of an impulse to investigate Y by expressing AND receiving Y, in order to satisfy an impulse to express Y without harming others). Anorexia, bulimia, over-eating, promiscuity, and cutting are a few forms of this that are all too common. Refusal to see and accept the presence of Y may be the very force that allows it to take our behavioral reins from us, and fully express itself.
So, what do I mean when I suggest that we all learn to carry an equal share of Y? Am I suggesting that we all weigh ourselves down with a focus on negative, yell at our families, and chain-smoke!???!!!! I am, indeed suggesting the opposite.
What might carrying our fair share of Y look like exactly??? It’s going to sound simple, but if you’ve ever tried it, you know that it takes courage and reflection to accomplish. I believe that it looks something like the this:
- Refusal to ignore the existence of Y in the human condition.
- Refusal to leave the Y as a mystery or “Dark Passenger” (a pull from “Dexter”), shadowing an excluded and distanced “other”
- Willingness to understand how such an abundance of Y may come to reside in one human form, or group of humans.
- An unmasking of perpetrator, and willingness to see that perpetrator was once victim.
- Refusal to abandon and demonize our fellow human siblings who are in torment and so struggling to express, cure, and be rid of their Y, that they may be willing to act in terrifyingly desperate ways.
- Embracing the interconnectedness of all living beings.
- Willingness to face what may be if we were to swap circumstances with a human sibling.
- Refusal to allow victims of trauma to remain alone, alienated, and disenfranchised to the extent that the Y piles up, fills their spirits, and bubbles over in tragic expression.
- Exercising the courage to protect self and those we love from the destructive forces of Y, while holding compassion for the process that rooted a high concentration of Y in a human sibling (or group).
- Processing anger and fear, such that we are capable of seeing beyond, even if anger and fear still hold residence in our systems.
If we can all do this, maybe the Y won’t be capable of residing in such concentrated form in one being or group, such that it spills over in violence, destruction, and tragedy. If we each hold our small, controlled share and surround it with hope, light, and compassion, perhaps it can finally rest, seen and accepted, dormant and exhausted.
Through recollection of our interconnectedness we take ownership for our collective behavior. The circumstances that a human sibling is enduring could just as easily be our own, and vise versa. As such, we all own this collective experience as one community of human siblings. When we remember this, together, perhaps each share of Y will not feel so heavy? When loved, accepted and understood as a welcome resident in our collective HOME of human experience, perhaps the impulse the Y feels to manifest, express, and to transfer amongst us, will lose its potency. With so much company in the Y-carrying vocation, we will be free to take pride in this employment as an intent to protect and guard every member of our community of human siblings. Exposed to one another in our collective pursuit, perhaps we won’t feel so alone, confused, and shamed by the underbelly of the human form?
Indeed, if we all carry Y together, hand-in-hand, our X will be free to resonate exquisitely at our expressive center, positioned perfectly as a willing receptacle for the infinitely abundant power of the sacred ALL. Our X will be lifted and trusted to drive our behavioral vehicle. Perhaps when we see the Y unmasked and exposed in it’s tormented and burdened form, our X will shine so brilliantly and boldly, that we can afford the Y a voice without feeling threatened… pain and torment will be heard, understood, and accepted, leaving no need for it to steal the gavel, and crash the vehicle of our collective community.
I wonder whether this is the key to solving the riddle that is winking its trickery at each living being rowing upstream in the rocky boat of human experience. Perhaps turning this key will shift our boats downstream, returning us to our eternal home? This is my hope.
May all beings be peaceful and know that they are loved, today and every day. Squeeze hugs from Annie at Biocadence
P.S. You may say I quote Jack Johnson too often. I will respond: “Well, that’s just not possible, good sir!”
I would turn on the tv but it’s so embarrassing to see all the other people, I don’t know what they mean. And it was magic at first when they spoke without sound. But now this world is gonna hurt; you better turn that thing down.
“It wasn’t me”, says the boy with the gun. “Sure I pulled the trigger but it needed to be done. Because life’s been killing me since it begun. You can’t blame me because I’m too young.”
“You can’t blame me. Sure the killer was my son. But I didn’t teach him to pull the trigger of the gun. It’s the killing on the tv screen. You can’t blame me; it’s the images he’s seen.”
“Well you can’t blame me says the media man. I wasn’t the one who came up with the plan. I just point the camera at what people want to see. Man, it’s a two way mirror; you can’t blame me.”
“You can’t blame me.”, says the singer of the song, or the maker of the movie which he based his life on. “It’s only entertainment as anyone can see. The smoke machines and make-up, and you can’t blame me.”
It was you, it was me, it was every man. We’ve all got the blood on our hands. We only receive what we demand, and if we want hell then hell’s what we’ll have.
And, I would turn on the TV but it’s so embarrassing to see all the other people. I don’t even know what they mean. And it was magic at first, but let everyone down. And now this world is gonna hurt. You better turn it around. Turn it around.