synopsis: Metta for Beirut, Metta for Parisit’s not just Paris–it’s our world.
I’ll let you know the dates closer to the event.
I vaguely remember a movie called “A History of Violence,” and the title, if not the plot, stuck.
Nothing is more true than this: humanity is violence prone, and therefore, in the wake of the deaths in Paris yesterday, it seemed appropriate to mention that this event is simply the latest in an endless stream of “us vs. them” violence.
And this is the meat of the problem. We are programmed from birth to form mental images of who “we” are, and maybe more important, who “they” are. Old, old behaviour, going back to when we swung down from the trees, sticks and rocks in hand.
We tend to demonize “the other,” and “angel-ize” (if you will) “us.” And yet, what happened in Paris is quite similar, actually, to the Oklahoma City bombing — nut-bars with weapons killing innocents for not being “the right kind of people.” Only difference was that OC guy was white.
There is nothing new under the sun
Lion’s Roar, a great Buddhist site, had a list of Buddhist thinkers responding to the events in Paris. Two stuck out for me:
Jack Kornfield, famous Buddhist writer, wrote (in part):
I feel such sadness for the people of Paris, for the pain and fear they are going through from this terrible attack. This is a time for the world’s compassion and reaching out to our friends in France.
When I look at the tragic photos and news, I see both the horrors of the bombs and shootings and the thousands of helpers who have rushed in to care for all the suffering. It shows that the world has both suffering and the overcoming of it. It is in the overcoming of it that we are called to respond.
By practicing with mindfulness we align ourselves with those who refuse to hate and, with each moment of compassion, sow seeds of peace. This is our way—to support the causes and conditions that reduce violence and all along to remember the Buddha’s ancient words: “Hatred never ceases by hatred.” (Lion’s Roar)
And George Takei:
I’m writing this backstage at Allegiance, my heart heavy with the news from Paris, aching for the victims and their families and friends. There no doubt will be those who look upon immigrants and refugees as the enemy as a result of these attacks, because they look like those who perpetrated these attacks, just as peaceful Japanese Americans were viewed as the enemy after Pearl Harbor. But we must resist the urge to categorize and dehumanize, for it is that very impulse that fueled the insanity and violence perpetrated this evening. Tonight, hold your loved ones, and pray or wish for peace, not only from guns and bombs, but from hatred and fear. If it is our freedom and joy they seek to destroy, give them not that victory. Against the forces of darkness and terror, love and compassion shall always prevail. ?#?JeSuisParis? (Lion’s Roar)
The reminder of the truth of our being is there.
We are both the victims and perpetrators. We are each capable of good and bad. We suffer, and we have in our hands means for the release of suffering. Not “us vs. them,” but all in this together.
And no, I’m not a pacifist.
When and as things like this happen, firm, deadly measures are required in response. But not out of vengeance and anger. We must not become what we are fighting against. Instead, with caution and a heavy heart, we act decisively. And of course, by “we” I mean the brave women and men who are actually going to be in harm’s way, not the “we” that pretends I’m actually doing anything.
On the other hand, I do believe in metta, and in being present with the pain the world is in. I feel for, and send metta to, all those who, this night are hurting, are grieving, are caught.
That said, and thus the opening photo, this isn’t just about Paris. It’s about our hurting world, including the “non-white” parts where shit happens regularly, and never makes the news. For example, see this Instagram, re. Beirut: Lebanon (https://instagram.com/p/-DmUOwJ0tC/) has also recently (and regularly) experienced bloodshed.
Let’s talk metta.
Send a compassionate thought outward, and see if you can even include the people you hate, or judge, or find fault with. Start easy, as is typical of metta, and:
- send metta (loving-kindness) to those you love (parents, relatives, partners)
- then, to people you are acquainted with
- then, to the hurting in Paris,
- then, to the hurting in Lebanon, and all through the Middle East,
- then, to those who you judge to be “against you,”
- then, to those in the world who want to destroy you,
- and then, even to yourself.