A declaration of interdependence
Last month, around the time I was wrestling with what to write here, 49 people were killed and many more were injured in an Orlando nightclub. My heart broke, and I went into something of a tailspin. For a few days I simply had nothing to say.
Actually, it’s not so much that I had nothing to say as that words seemed inadequate for all that needed and needs to be said. All that needed and needs to be said about learning to care for one another and for this miraculous planet we inhabit.
Earlier this week there was a bombing in Istanbul. This morning I see there was a bombing in Baghdad. And how many acts of violence, singular and collective, are occurring in this moment?
My heart goes out to all the peoples of the world. Dear Baghdad. Dear Istanbul. Dear Orlando. Dear Paris.
May we wake up and realize that we are all one.
Damage begets damage
A few weeks ago I spent seven days at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. It was stunning. I have never encountered people who were so committed to advocacy yet so gracious in sharing their message. Too often I know that I myself have become brittle, judgmental, and self-righteous in my own efforts to do good. Somehow it seemed that the folks at Best Friends have learned to identify with the goodness they are serving rather than with an image of themselves as crusaders against evil.
The folks at Best Friends have seen something, too, about animals, that I hope we will all someday see about each other: creatures are not born to be violent. Those to whom great damage is done tend to do damage in return. We must work to prevent and reverse the damage while loving the damaged being. In the words of poet W.H. Auden, “Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.”
A declaration of interdependence
I write this on the Fourth of July in the USA, a day marking the Declaration of Independence. As I listened to that document being read on NPR this morning, it struck me that the same words might well be addressed to the USA by various peoples around the world, including many within our borders. It can be tempting to shut out the uncomfortable truth that much of the prosperity and comfort I enjoy has come at someone else’s expense. It can also be tempting to reject the ways in which the human project has been advanced.
May we not settle for self-righteousness and self-satisfaction nor for cynicism and despair. Let’s keep waking up, keep reaching out, keep freeing ourselves and each other.
We have so much to celebrate and to be grateful for. We have so much more to do.
Don’t fall for the cynical lie that you have to choose between celebration and activism, between gratitude and fierce commitment to change.
You are human. You are vast. You can choose “all of the above.”
May all beings everywhere be happy and free
I’ve come to cherish this mantra, which I learned in yoga: “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.”
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”
Or in the words of the prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace!
That where there is hatred, I may bring love.
That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness.
That where there is discord, I may bring harmony.
That where there is error, I may bring truth.
That where there is doubt, I may bring faith.
That where there is despair, I may bring hope.
That where there are shadows, I may bring light.
That where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort,than to be comforted.For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.
A few weeks ago I was overwhelmed by heartbreak over the state of the world. Even so, I see everywhere reason to hope. I see it in the eyes of children. I see it in the good work at Best Friends. I see it in our sometimes clumsy and ineffectual attempts to love each other and heal our individual and collective ills.
The capacity to hope is reason enough to hope. You have that capacity, and it matters that you know it and use it as best you can when you can–and that you forgive yourself when you falter.
Have a wonderful, wonder-filled week, and please let me know what’s in your heart by sharing it in the comments.