My dearly beloved friends and family,
Like you, I am sure, this week, including as it has the events in Boston, Washington, and now the small town of West in Texas, and also the places where storms may ravage our countryside and our cities, this week has sent me into a deep and quiet place within.
At first I simply felt exhausted of sorrow, adrift in a vast emptiness, having not even enough energy to be called hopelessness.
But I endure such states of consciousness knowingly, aware that they are natural and normal results of my human conditioning in such circumstances. The Bible records that even Jesus wept, and so do we.
And after the tears and the emptiness, then we can let go into quietness and calm, where our balance can be restored.
As I do not adhere to any particular religion and rather honor what I consider the best of each spiritual tradition, I reach out in my weakness at times such as this to many sources for strength, not the least of which is the natural world that surrounds me—the beauty and abundance of the earth, the grandeur and vastness of the night sky, the gentleness of the butterflies that settle on the lush blooming iris, the speaking compassion of the birds, and, yes, even the voices of other human persons living far away who call to me on the telephone or the internet. All of these bind me tighter to life, to the love of life, to love itself. This raises me up, even out of despair.
So this week, I have prayed, in my own way, for each and all who suffer. Even in my sense of loss, I have held a steady place, here at Earthsprings, a place of stillness and calm, and I hope that this radiates out to all.
Today I finally find myself able to add words, my own, to the many words already spoken by others. I hope you were able to watch the complete ceremony today in Boston where children’s voices in song and the wisdom of many elders from a variety of religious traditions were so healing.
My words here, now, are, of course, meant to uplift, but also to caution. For I know that our human conditioning not only can bring despair but also can bring thoughts of vengeance and anger and divisive hatred, all detrimental to our own and others’ well-being. In the cultural climate in which we live, we are greatly at risk of losing our way.
So I offer you here some of the images and some of the passages that strengthen me in days like these. I hope they are meaningful to you.
Sometimes it is difficult to find passages that exactly match my mood or my need. But today my thoughts are of compassion, compassion not only for the victims of violence but also for the perpetrators whose mental condition has driven them to such extremes. Our society’s need to care for those in mental darkness is so great and so little acknowledged that I feel compelled to raise up these ‘sinners,’ these destroyers, these killers, as those also in great need of our prayers.
Many are the voices raised for the victims. I add my voice in prayer for the mentally deranged who have been so twisted and perhaps tormented by the life they live, by the distorted thoughts and violent images that assault them, by their judgments of wrongs done unto them, by, in short, the evil that has taken hold of them. They too are victims.
So I search out passages of scripture that take me beyond myself, beyond my own anger and self-righteousness, into forgiveness and compassion, even for the least, the very least and darkest of my brothers and sisters.
And, as we all feel, somewhere inside, the wounded child crying out, “Why, why, God?” I find that I again have to come to terms with, even forgive, life as it is, with meaning when it is absent, with “the ways of God” that are beyond my comprehension, and I steady myself by entering into this place of absolute surrender to the holiness, however it may be, of the Great Mystery in which I live and move and have my being.
I offer these words of many prophets, wiser than I:
“The good road and the road of difficulties you have made me cross; and where they cross the place is holy.” Native American. Black Elk.
“In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” Christian. Martin Luther King
“What is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst? Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters…” Sufi. Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.
“O Heavenly Father, we beseech thee to have mercy upon all thy children who are living in mental darkness. Restore them to strength of mind and cheerfulness of spirit, and give them health and peace.” Christian. The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer
“Hatreds never cease through hatreds in this world; through love alone they cease. This is the eternal law.” Buddhism. Dhammapada 3-5.
“According to Anas ibn Malik, the Prophet said, ‘Help your brother whether he is oppressor or oppressed.’ Anas replied to him, ‘O Messenger of God, a man who is oppressed I am ready to help, but how does one help an oppressor?’ ‘By hindering him doing wrong,’ he said.” Islam. Hadith of Bukhari
“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should return from his ways and live?” Judaism. Ezekiel 18.23.
“A superior being does not render evil for evil; this is a maxim one should observe; the ornament of virtuous persons is their conduct. One should never harm the wicked or the good or even criminals meriting death. A noble soul will ever exercise compassion even toward those who enjoy injuring others or those of cruel deeds when they are actually committing them—for who is without fault?” Hinduism. Ramayana, Yuddha Kanda 115