Sunday, September 23, 2018

Being the Peace

For the second year in a row, I participated in the Be The Peace challenge with the lovely Peace Ripples Institute. Here's a video from last year's challenge where you can see two clips from me, and the form of this year's challenge was to take the three days between September 21st and September 23rd to contemplate the following prompts:

DAY 1: The Vision - Clarifying the Peace You Wish to See in the World 
DAY 2 - Being - Clarifying How You Can Embody Your Vision
DAY 3 - Creating - Clarifying How You Can Create That World 

This year, my answers were similar to last year's about feeling the sense that a world of peace is one that operates from a principle of oneness, but I felt like it took on a different dimension. The key principle that occurred to me as I followed the guided visualization provided by Catherine at Peace Ripples was this:

The world I would most like to see is a world where the tension between different perspectives and opinions plays out more like a dance than a battle.  

I dream of a world where we can disagree without anger and hatred.  Where we work together on the challenges inherent to a planet with such rich diversity of life, of cultures, and of values.  Where we deeply recognize that what hurts part of life hurts all of life, what heals part of life heals all of life, and we work together on all the so urgently needed healing around us. 

Peace is not getting away from difference, disagreement, or diversity.  Rather, it's tapping into the harmony of the variety of unique individuals, creatures and environments on this magical planet. The tensions in our differences can be such a source of growth, if only we set aside the need to be right, to judge, or to win. 

The world I would most like to see is a world where we allow the forces of nature to lead us to balance.  Where each individual cultivates their own unique perspective, voice, and gifts.  Where the Great Spirit known by many names has the best opportunity to bring groups of our voices together in creative movements of harmony for healing, restoration, and evolution. 

After I wrote that piece for The Challenge, I felt called to change channels and write a post on another topic that had been turning in my mind: 

It felt good to write.  It was the reconciliation of perspectives that felt so hard to find as I surfed around reading different things to get informed about the unfolding drama around the Supreme Court nominee.  And it felt like just the sort of dance I had written about for The Challenge: looking at two different perspectives and putting forth a way of seeing them that didn't have to be a battle.

When I got to day 2, it felt easy to see how I could embody the vision.  Writing that piece on Facebook and reading the kind-hearted comments from people of differing points of view on the post made me feel clear that engagement with the divisions and disagreements is how I'm most drawn to embody my vision of a world at peace.  I can choose to move toward those disagreements with a spirit of curiosity and interest, openly expressing my own perspective in a sensitive, caring, and compassionate way.  

Feeling inspired, I followed up with a friend about a conversation we had back in June.  Our meeting in June was the first time we'd seen each other in six years.  When we used to work together, we loved the enjoyable debate about different perspectives, so we were both the type to charge in to talk about the latest controversy.  In the last few years, we had both sadly experienced how difficult those conversations had become.  We both found ourselves so often misunderstood and misjudged by someone with a different perspective, and we both found ourselves starting to avoid those same conversations we used to love.

Before we left, we hatched an intention to look into what we could do together to encourage more civil conversation.  I hadn't found the time to properly follow up on that intention since June, but as the challenge was wrapping up and my Facebook post renewed my faith that there were more people craving civil dialogue and that it was certainly possible for us to stir more of it, I reached back out to that friend to see if she was still interested in creating something together.

And so, as Day 3 of The Challenge coincided with an enthusiastic yes from this friend,  my answer to the prompt of what I can create right now was so clear.  I can help create that world of peace I imagine by creating a Facebook group encouraging and modeling civil conversation.  I intend for it to be a forum to practice this dance in the tensions of our differences, to be an open space for people to feel safe expressing their own views and knowing that they won't be belittled or called names for doing so.  I intend for my friend and me to moderate the space using a set of guiding principles that we'll create to will help foster the sort of conversations that can unfold more like a dance than a battle.

To be continued...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Other Side of Blame

I remember the day when the shooting at Columbine happened well.  It was my first year in law school and a girl with red hair whose name I can't remember but whose face I'll always remember came into the library where I was studying with a bunch of other people.  She told us there was a high school shooting going on in Colorado.  I didn't even fully understand what she was saying there in the library; I'd never heard about anything like that before.  It wasn't until I got home in front of my own tv screen that I began to understand and feel the heartbreaking gravity of the situation. 

Now, almost 19 years later, scenes like the ones from that day in 1999 have become commonplace.

Jack Johnson lists off a number of people and groups that could be blamed when a shooting happens in his song, Cookie Jar:

A verse could certainly be added for the NRA that consistently blocks gun reform, the politicians that don't support changes in our gun laws that might help keep guns out of the hands of minors or the mentally ill, the makers of automatic weapons, or even the makers of video games that give people the opportunity to experience and even practice these horrific acts.

But, even with these and more added to the list of what we can blame for why this keeps happening, the wisdom I've most resonated with in this song is this:

"It was you; it was me; it was every man.  We've all got the blood on our hands."

As much as we can justifiably point fingers when something horrible happens, that assignment of blame doesn't seem to make anything better.  

Some will say that the blame helps us by: getting important questions answered so we understand what happened, putting dangerous people into police custody, and causing security measures to be increased in ways that save lives.  I can agree that these things may have an impact in some incremental way, and if all the people and things we could blame would change, there might be a significant impact.

I just feel that none of those things addresses the heart of the matter in a way that will keep these horrible tragedies from happening and even escalating.  As I see it, the blame that we throw around is actually a potent ammunition that we keep pouring into the dynamic that fuels these violent acts. 

The only thing that will bring real change is: if we can influence the intention that is behind the violence; if the hearts and minds of people who may be feeling similarly isolated and moved to commit horrific acts violence can be reached; if there is an environment of love and openness that allows these people to feel able to reach out for the help and support they need to heal.  

Blame comes from a view that we are separate actors with easily sectioned off responsibility, and yet, that isn't reality.  In fact, we are all connected.  Some words we speak to a stranger at the drug store can have a ripple effect that travels through so many people and stretches far and wide.  We are each an important part of what happens in our world - both beautiful and tragic.  Even if only in quite subtle ways, we all play a role in holding up the environment in which these violent tragedies occur.

And when we look at all the insults and anger thrown around in our public dialogue, we can begin to see how the escalating mass violence is actually a reflection of other behaviors that have become commonplace.  The way we carry on a discussion with someone we disagree with isn't actually happening in a vacuum.  The way we send nasty messages out to tons of followers isn't just some insignificant action of venting anger.

These actions we take, often quite thoughtlessly, are all connected to the whole.  They are those rippling energies that we're sending out into an already volatile system.  They are the ways that many of us have the blood on our hands for terrible things that happen in the world, even though the full chain of cause and effect cannot be traced.

Seeing the blood on our hands need not induce guilt or shame; it can empower us.

We can stop believing in this immature and illusory dichotomy that the world is split up into perpetrators and victims.  We can embrace the reality that from situation to situation, perspective to perspective, we are all both perpetrators and victims, and so much more. 

We are also powerful creators.  When we are really open to seeing where we feed into the realities that we hope to shift, we can claim our greatest power to create the changes we want to see in our world.  On the other side of blame, we might just be able to create the world that days like yesterday make us crave.