More horrible news from San Bernardino and from Colorado fill the headlines, and that’s only from the U. S. We might say in response that “the world is falling apart” but what’s falling? Not the apple or cherry tree in my yard. Not the hillside beyond it. There is a light rain falling around me, but that’s not it. The rain isn’t falling apart but falling into the earth and onto the rest of us. What is falling apart is a feeling of safety and stability when I read about “world events” or politics or society. But here, sitting outside my house and looking at the hillside around me, there is “falling into” but no falling apart.
The sense of threat expressed by “the world is falling apart” can be so powerful. Yet, everything around me is just here, beautiful, stark, rich, and something beyond any word I can write. I need this contrast. We all do. There is a social reality, and there’s this bigger reality. When I try to understand “what’s happening in the world,” it is important to keep the rain and the trees alive in me. When I try to understand US society or human society, I need the society of the earth. Ideas, world and personal events need to be analyzed but are only understood through contrasting them with a diversity of perspectives, including the quiet of the rain and the trees. Without this contrast, it is too easy to get lost in our explanations, beliefs, technology, and the news.
Of course, sometimes the rain itself cries out– about global warming, water pollution, etc.
I wrote a few weeks ago that teaching students how to understand and deal with terrorism includes teaching what strength means and how to be strong in case of emergency. Strength of this sort emerges from an inner quiet. Meditating, sometimes just walking in the rain or taking in the beauty of a tree, or planting vegetables, trees or flowers, can give you that. The news can be so disturbing and cause such a disruption in your mind and heart that finding balance and quiet can be difficult. Yet, it is worth the effort. A quiet mind enables clear observation of “inner” as well as “outer” reality. It enables you to monitor thoughts, emotions as well as your feelings about the others around you so you can understand them better. To learn from and let go of thoughts and emotions you need to feel them. To feel what connects all of us, feel the earth, feel how every time you walk, talk, yell, scream, or make love, you are the earth speaking.
And the earth can no longer afford the hate and blame game. Some people blame all Muslims for ISIL. If so, do you blame all Christians for the violence and murders carried out by Christian groups like the Army of God at Planned Parenthood clinics? (Robert Dear, responsible for last week’s violence, was a Christian but is not known as a member of this or any anti-abortion group.) Do you blame all Americans, including yourself if you’re an American citizen, for the lies, deaths and chaos caused by the invasion of Iraq and for other American policies? Do you blame yourself for being human?
As many people have been reminding us lately, hate does not serve us well. Martin Luther King Junior said: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate…Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” The Buddha said, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love…” Maybe it’s about time to figure out how to live by this principle.