Like many of you, I turned on the news Friday, May 18th and saw yet another horrific school shooting followed by the now, all too frequent, despair, outrage and cries for change.
I was watching one mother’s interview and she said something that struck me. It wasn’t the first time I heard similar sentiments, but this stood out…perhaps due to their seeming frequency. The heart of the statement was:
“How could this happen in my community?”
I thought about this for a while and I think the more appropriate question is, “Why hasn’t it happened YET, in my community?” (If, of course, you are fortunate enough not to have been affected already).
Practicing Meditation & Mindfulness
The Zen Teachings program has brought me into contact with many people who do not practice meditation and mindfulness. Of course, I think they should. Whether they do or not, however, what has really stood out is the amount of people searching for some type of meaning in their lives. An unchecked lack of meaning has the tendency to produce bad results. Often these are seemingly trivial such as:
- Low grades
- Poor self-regard &
- Dysfunctional relationships
But, the unchecked lack of meaning also has the ability to produce horrific consequences. Far smarter people than me have written and theorized about this topic for lifetimes.
“Life is Suffering”
As the Buddha said, and as so many other religions have echoed, “Life is suffering.”
We have talked about the dangers of not taking this too far to believe that, “ALL life is suffering.” In our darkest, bleakest times, we tend to add this little word that makes so much difference in our understanding of the world around us and our role in it. If life were truly just unceasing, mindless suffering, 24 hours per day, then it could be argued that it isn’t worth living. This would be a horribly flawed argument, but one that almost 45,000 Americans make every year, as they are unable to see past temporary pain and darkness and find reasons to fight on. Perhaps it would even make sense to take people with you. Maybe that could be horribly twisted into an act of mercy, even.
Eric Harris, one of the Columbine shooters came to a similar conclusion. He wrote, “the human race isn’t worth fighting for, only worth killing. give the Earth back to the animals, they deserve it infinitely more than we do. nothing means anything more.”
Do you not see the danger of having no meaning in your life? These Perpetrators like Harris and so many others certainly suffer from some type of warped and horribly wrong worldview. Could it be that they have added that word, “all” and are responding in the only way they know how? Could it be that they are taking their rage out at their very existence on everyone else? I think it is at least a possibility.
How do we create meaning in our lives?
I’ve written and given talks about how to determine some meaning for your life and how to make that suffering bearable.
As Nietzsche wrote, “He who has a ‘why’ to live can bear almost any ‘how’.”
But without that “why,” “how” is a ridiculous and premature question. It would bring us back to the REAL “why” of “why would any sane individual put up with any of this in the first place?” People need something to cling to in their darkest moments. That takes many forms for many different people, but the need is universal. Without it, giving up is far too easy.
It is one of the greatest self-inflicted wounds that our politically correct and far too accepting society has ever perpetrated upon itself to live the lie that, “you’re ok, just the way you are.”
You’re not, at least not all of the time. I am not. No one, save the TRULY enlightened giants of history (who often have religions created because of their time on this Earth), is operating at full self-realization and capacity. Who among us can truly say that we have everything figured out and have no pains and suffering? This is NORMAL. But then you feel worse about yourself because as you suffer, some well-intentioned fool tells you, “Don’t worry, you’re fine.” Then it’s back to “what’s the point?”
I would think at some time period, we would WANT to be told something is wrong with us so that we can at least work on fixing that. If the universe is against you, then you are really in bad shape. And if you believe that it is, then it is. T.S. Eliot’s 1949 play, “The Cocktail Party” explored similar themes. One character said,
“I must tell you that I should really like to think there’s something wrong with me- Because, if there isn’t, then there’s something wrong with the world itself-and that’s much more frightening! That would be terrible. So I’d rather believe there is something wrong with me, that could be put right.”
How to find your own “why”
You cannot find your own why, if you do not know who you are. It is the most fundamental and important quest you could ever undertake to get as close to that answer as you possibly can. If you don’t find that answer, your life will far too frequently feel meaningless and you’ll find yourself entertaining some very dark thoughts for far too long. How could you NOT be affected by this person’s Facebook page or the latest trend or subjugate your own self-worth to the “likes” of others, if you are looking to them for their approval and validation of you, as a person. There are times when, YOU ARE NOT OK! But, that’s ok.
We can all work on it together. We must begin with fixing that which is closest to us. And that means, ourselves. Breathe. Find your center and quiet place. As you practice this, you will be able to deal with the world as you CHOOSE to…not out of some knee-jerk reaction. Will this fix the world or stop horrible things form happening? Of course not. But, it will affect you and those around you. If they begin to do the same, the growth and progress can become exponential. With your newfound view of the world, you will more readily be able to recognize things that are wrong. When you do, don’t lie and say that they’re ok. Reach out and help those who will let you.
It is no secret: I want you to meditate. I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can possibly be. Without personally knowing you, I know there is more to you like there is more to every other human being on the planet. The first step in addressing a problem is naming it. It is seeing it for what it is. You are free to ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the room at your peril. But you cannot simultaneously claim shock and outrage when it hits you in the head.
You have gifts and talents that are unique to you and the world needs you to share them. Put yourself in order so that you are able to share them effectively. Some people get so lost that they cannot be found. By virtue of the fact that you are reading this, you are not one of those people. Meditation, introspection and mindfulness are the paths out of chaos. Quiet your mind, find out who you are and live intentionally. Practice love and kindness and practice hard! Everyone depends on it.