In a group of friends, we recently shared stories of our respective childhoods. We were all a bit surprised to find so many parallels in our histories. Tales of physical and emotional neglect or abuse. Sometimes to the person telling the story and sometimes to one of their parents. Tales of loneliness, fear, and anger. And – invariably – a tale of transcending all this to become a strong, wise, and loving human being.
That which binds this particular group of friends together is the love of nature and its beauty, love of reading, and a deep-felt longing for a better world. A more humane world where humans are respectful of the earth and all living things. These are all passionate and compassionate individuals.
When I look at the perpetrators of violence, abuse, or simply uncaring behavior, it helps me to realize that these people are usually passing something on they received themselves. Those of you familiar with systemic work know that patterns can be carried on from generation to generation in a never-ending cycle.
In my autobiographical book, Passage of the Stork, I describe some of these patterns and how they shaped me. And I describe the long and arduous process of transcending them.
So why is it that some people are capable of transcending the violence that shaped their young lives, and others aren’t? The friends I describe come from different backgrounds and social strata. Some are in a loving relationship with another person; others are single. I’m not sure what the key is to the fact that we broke out of the patterns; I wish I did know.
What is the secret to learning how to care about all human beings, all life on earth, and the earth itself?
These days I hear some people mourn and pray for the cops killed in Dallas or the bomb victims in Paris and Brussels. But I don’t hear the same people mourn and pray for the black men killed by white cops for no reason or the bomb victims in Baghdad and Istanbul. Is selective compassion becoming the norm?
What can I do to infect all humanity with the ability to feel compassion for all life? Because life does matter!
Black lives matter
White lives matter
Muslim lives matter
Hindu lives matter
Cops’ lives matter
Homeless people’s lives matter
Bees and butterflies matter
Birds and wildlife matter
Clean water and air matters
The world we pass on to our great-grandchildren matters
If you are struggling with anger and fear, if you are aware of being a victim of patterns passed on by previous generations, if your hatred of some people is stronger than your ability to be compassionate towards them… find help! Find some way of breaking the pattern and loving the world. Please.
Madeleine Lenagh is blogger, nature photographer, and author of Passage of the Stork: Delivering the Soul. Her book can be ordered at most online bookstores.