Like the rest of the world, I couldn't even absorb what had happened in the Connecticut school shootings. I couldn't begin to process the enormity of an act of such violence against such innocence. I couldn't conceive of so much hatred in one person. I almost couldn't bear to think of those poor parents, of lives interrupted and forever altered. I felt incapacitated. On Monday, when I went to pick my kids up from school, I watched the little first graders come gamboling out to line up for their buses and I just...I just started to cry.
At first, I thought that part of my reaction was a by-product of all of this work I'm doing on trying to remain un-numb and vulnerable in a world that seems increasingly dark and filled with random acts of hatred. Because what I learned about about numbing myself is that it numbs ALL of me. I can't selectively numb my emotions so that I don't feel the depth of despair when I hear stories of such vile hatred and inhumanity, and still feel the heights of joy when I look at my children. There is no way to ONLY address the painful emotions that make me feel naked and exposed or uncomfortable. When I numb THOSE emotions, I numb everything else, too, including the positive emotions. And the result of all that numbing is disconnection: from the world, from my fellow humans, from my authentic self.
So, I've been really working on that. But when such a heinous murder of innocents presented itself, I can honestly say that it was one of the hardest things I've ever done to just stay present with that grief and despair. To feel it and feel the pain of that community and those parents and not reach for some numbing mechanism.
I think another part of my reaction was just how small I felt in this vast sea of darkness. I just felt so powerless against a rising tide of intolerance and vitriol. I had to give myself a break from social media because the deluge of hyperbole and bitterness and polarization made me physically ill. I have had enough of hate. I have had enough of politicizing a tragedy to further a political stance. Enough of the stridency.
You know what, though? The truth is, we ARE small. Individually, nothing we do is going to make much a difference against the hatred in the world. It's kind of like being a vegan. I am under no illusion that my little one-person boycott of factory farms will change the course of the vast and corrupt food industry. But maybe if enough people choose to boycott the misery of the factory farms, at some point, there will be a natural progression to more humane and sustainable sources for our food.
I was thinking about this today and it occurred to me that somewhere in there is what I want to choose as my reaction to the Connecticut school murders. And the rise of torture and rape in war. And child abuse. And blatant racism. And intolerance, and greed, and freaking road rage. It's not enough to absorb the pain of the world. It's not enough to cry with the bereaved parents. It's not enough to throw a few dollars to support the causes near and dear to my heart.
It's not enough.
I'll tell you what I'm going to do. Are you ready?
I'm going to meet force with force.
I'm going to sow kindness and peace and acceptance and love with a ferocity no madman can touch. I'll be a freaking peace warrior. I'll be a soldier of kindness. I'll be a beacon of acceptance in the face of increasing darkness. I will practice patience in a world of frenzied activity with the same power of an automatic assault rifle. Everywhere I see hunger, I'm going to feed someone. Everywhere I can, I'm going to bring healing to people in pain. Everywhere I see a need, I'm going to try to fill it. I'm going to march out of my house every day dressed in ANTI-fatigues. Every time someone cuts me off in traffic, I'm going to consciously forgive that person and wish him or her well. I'm going to hold the door open for people, offer my umbrella, give a few dollars to the homeless guy on the street corner. I am spreading the mother-effing LOVE, people. I'm going to be a Love Ninja.
It's all I have in the face of the stark cruelty of this world. It's all any of us have.
I confess that I have this hope of being joined by you. I think it will take all of us, each burning a tiny candle of determined, unselfish, committed love. I have this hope that if we can all burn as brightly as we possibly can, we will make a huge difference. That we can light up this world.
I get to choose my response: I can succumb to fear and insulate myself and my little family from the pain of this world, or I can meet evil with the force of my heart, which is far, far greater than all of the malevolence.
I'm choosing love, in the biggest way I know how.