The truth of injustice in this world is almost too horrific to look at. Like the Tom Hanks character in Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut”, the absolutely confounding madness of what we see in our world causes us to wander through our lives in a state of denial or confusion about what’s really happening around us.
In my preface to the forthcoming EDGE FLOW collaborative book project, I wrote:
The thing is— the truth is frightening, ugly…and just plain horrible to face. If you read the world news on any given day, it’s clear that humans are pretty wretched beings. Selfish, self-absorbed, despotic, fundamentalist, racist, sexist, murderers, baby killers and psychopaths. And those among us who are most needed to show up, to step up our game and do what we can to make a difference—the highly creative, empathic, change-oriented, good-hearted, mindful people—we’re often the ones who suffer most deeply from seeing all this. And so we turn away.
How often have you heard these words, or told yourself even: “It’s just too much, I can’t handle it!” Or, “I haven’t watched the news in years, it’s too depressing.” But it’s only because we’re not strong enough in ourselves that we can’t handle this stuff. Because when you have a stronger handle on the truth of who you are, and can stay grounded in that longer, you can really see all this stuff and not let it be a complete headf*ck. We need that, so we can roll up our sleeves and say,
“OK, I see what’s going on — I know I can’t fix it all myself, but my heart is pulling me to do _this_, and I feel pretty strongly that it might make a difference. And I can handle this, I got this….”
And then you do it. And it does make a difference. And it’s good.
I am saddened and outraged at the psychotic killings and massacres being perpetrated endlessly by religious extremists in the name of “Allah’s will”. Utter insanity. It raises such deep anger and sadness inside me that my immediate impulse is to lay blame, point fingers and seek revenge. (Justice must be served, and it will.) But the problem with this kind of separationist thinking is that it only compounds the problem. And it does little to account for the underlying causes and extreme complexity of this sick behavior. In an interconnected world rife with injustice we cannot remove our own individual responsibility from the equation.
Surely we aren’t to blame for such extremist acts of terror, but what role do we play as part of a society that’s driven by consumerism, greed and extreme self interest? Is it the instinct for self-preservation that drives us to turn our heads and say effectively, Oh man that sucks so bad, glad it’s not me… before turning back to whatever it is we’re doing? How can we rewrite the cultural Story of Separation that we have been brought into?
I’ve been reflecting on these themes a good deal in preparing this EDGE FLOW project for release (on Monday January 19th, free to the public). In her remarkable interview with Krista Tippett for On Being, Joanna Macy, eco-philosopher, spiritual activist and one-time CIA operative says:
That grief, if you are afraid of it and pave it over — clamp down — you shut down. And the kind of apathy and closed down denial or difficulty in looking at what we’re doing to our world stems not from callous indifference or ignorance so much as it stems from fear of pain. […]
If we can be fearless to be with our pain it turns—it doesn’t stay static. It only doesn’t change if we refuse to look at it. But when we look at it, when we take it in our hands, when we can just be with it, and keep breathing, then it turns— it turns to reveal its other face. And the other face of our pain for the world, is our love for the world. Our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life.
This willingness to bravely face the fear of pain, and the pain itself, and in so doing to let it flow through us on its journey to healing and being fully released — I believe this is what is needed now more than anything. The world needs the good-hearted creative Soul Rebel searchers and leaders among us to stand in our power and shine our light. To step into our highest power, to reach into the calling of our souls and act upon that. Straight Love In Action.
It may take great strength and courage and perseverance, but we cannot afford to turn our heads or walk around with eyes wide shut any longer. Just as we cannot allow for these acts of cowardice and horror to stop us from standing in the light of our highest truth and walking in beauty.
You’re tough enough—you can handle the truth. And in pushing our edges to be able to withstand the pain and grow through it, we grow in our capacity to step into our highest calling and potential too. To emerge victorious and stronger. To bravely out-create the horror with our light and passion. And this is, perhaps, the greatest unrealized benefit of the suffering and darkness that exists in the world.
This week, Artist Lucille Clerc tweeted the following image:
— Lucille Clerc (@LucilleClerc) January 7, 2015
From whole, to broken, to strengthened. It’s the power of creative Soul-expression to help raise us back to our feet—no matter how hard the blows—to help us relocate the beauty through the cracks of horror.
It’s why you doing the work that matters, really matters. And the beautiful truth is that more and more of us are standing up with strength and courage—coming together to face the darkness and work towards a better world.
We are Charlie, we are France, we are re-writing the story of separation and standing in our power. We keep on doing the work that matters, because it matters.
Truth, Love and Victory.
Eyes wide open.
In Love and solidarity,
For more to reflect on this subject, read: Is Islam to Blame for the Shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris?
Terror incidents lead many Westerners to perceive Islam as inherently extremist, but I think that is too glib and simple-minded. Small numbers of terrorists make headlines, but they aren’t representative of a complex and diverse religion of 1.6 billion adherents. My Twitter feed Wednesday brimmed with Muslims denouncing the attack — and noting that fanatical Muslims damage the image of Muhammad far more than the most vituperative cartoonist.
The vast majority of Muslims of course have nothing to do with the insanity of such attacks — except that they are disproportionately the victims of terrorism. Indeed, the Charlie Hebdo murders weren’t even the most lethal terror attack on Wednesday: A car bomb outside a police college in Yemen, possibly planted by Al Qaeda, killed at least 37 people.
One of the things I’ve learned in journalism is to beware of perceiving the world through simple narratives, because then new information is mindlessly plugged into those story lines.
Muslim voices from the United States and around the world joined with thousands of others to provide a kaleidoscope of straightforward, anguished and angry replies to the question posed in Nicholas Kristof’s column “Is Islam to Blame for the Shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris?”
“Speaking as a Muslim, born and raised in a conservative Muslim country, I think Islam is to blame,” Rudy wrote from Providence. Though his parents were “borderline agnostic,” he wrote, “they were willing to indoctrinate us in the ideals of Islam where respecting the Prophet trumps the ideals of individual choice and free speech.”
And this: The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible (Charles Eisenstein)
In a time of social and ecological crisis, what can we as individuals do to make the world a better place? This inspirational and thought-provoking book serves as an empowering antidote to the cynicism, frustration, paralysis, and overwhelm so many of us are feeling, replacing it with a grounding reminder of what’s true: we are all connected, and our small, personal choices bear unsuspected transformational power. By fully embracing and practicing this principle of interconnectedness—called interbeing—we become more effective agents of change and have a stronger positive influence on the world.
Monday, January 19th: EDGE FLOW is publicly released. Sign up to the list to be notified.