Terror

When I try to imagine people so caught up in their sense of righteousness, so filled with intolerance and hatred of “the others”, that they are capable of murdering in cold blood for an ideal, it terrifies me.

And when I try to imagine how intolerance and hatred simply breeds more intolerance and hatred, keeping mankind imprisoned in a chain reaction, a spiral of violence and terror that seems to have no end, it terrifies me even more.

This evening a memory popped into my head: during a performance of Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, my mother turned to me and whispered, “Can you hear the world crying?” During the past 24 hours I have heard the world crying.

I want to turn my face away, forget that it’s happening, hug my loved ones, and contemplate the beauty of a single flower in the early morning sunlight.

I think that many of us feel this way. It’s almost too much horror to take in. I can only feel anguish and despair… and this incredible terror… for the world.

Others react with anger. Powerless anger, blindly seeking an outlet. And there are those who do turn their faces away in helpless denial.

The only thing I can do is to allow myself to feel the anguish, allow myself to hear the world crying. As I close my eyes, I see people torn apart with grief and unbelief. I see fists clenched in rage and powerlessness. I see a mother weeping over her dead son, screaming out to her God, how could he allow this to happen? I see a father, bowed with grief, because he knows that his God does not want this, this terror that his son is a part of.

I breathe all this in, trying to take it into my heart, crying for the world. And I breathe out gentle compassion, sending loving kindness to all of us who need it. I repeat this over and over again. This is a Buddhist practice called tonglen. Is it sufficient to heal the world? Probably not. But it’s the only thing I can do that makes any sense to me.

The most important thing we can remember is to allow ourselves to feel the distress. Don’t push it away or block it. Keep feeling.

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