This has been an exciting week but for the wrong reasons. My heart goes out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, to the residents of Boston, to the family of the bombing suspects, and to the suspects themselves. I do have more sympathy for the victims than for the perpetrators, but being responsible for the deaths of multiple people would be a terrible karmic position to be in. The fact that someone could be such a victim of his own limited, extreme perspective that he would completely lose sight of right and wrong is tragic. Unfortunately, ALL extremist perspectives can lead to violence.
Before we knew who was responsible for the bombing, people were speculating that it might be domestic terrorists. Although ideologically people who commit domestic terrorism are at the opposite pole from people who commit Islamic terrorism, the mindset is almost identical. Once we swallow the mistaken notion that we are Right and that “They” are Wrong, we can justify anything we say and do to “Them”.
All rigid views, even if they are not labeled “extremist” fit this bill. I had a dead-end conversation this week with an atheist where I realized that this mindset was in play. The Atheists I have interacted with tend to believe that they are Right and Superior and that all “believers” are Wrong and Stupid. Once you swallow that, you can justify cruel, mocking disrespectful words and behavior because you feel that whatever you do is justified because you are Right. I was unable to make any kind of real connection with this person. Disrespectful, rude interactions are typical of not only atheistic but also fundamentalist religious people, radical political organizations, “stay-at-home moms” vs. working moms, vegans vs. meat-eaters, etc. The mindset is the same regardless of the supposed issue. Once someone adopts this all-in “I’m right, you’re wrong and stupid” mindset, rational conversation becomes impossible; they are not speaking to you as an equal, they are condescending to inform you why you are wrong. Conversations with such people are black holes of wasted time and energy.
In order to deal with each other and live in peace and harmony, we have to resist the urge to fall into extremes. The urge is very strong because the world is so uncertain. Extreme and/or rigid views provide a certain amount of comfort because they are “Certain”. Resisting the urge to form little camps of Us and Them can take a great deal of vigilance and effort, but it can be done. It also helps to really try to listen to people, in order to figure out why they believe what they believe, even if you strongly disagree. It doesn’t hurt your position to hear someone out. But be careful not to waste your time trying to convince someone with an extreme view that they might not have all the answers. Such people tend to thrive on conflict and you only succeed in going round and round in circles, getting increasingly frustrated, and wasting precious life energy on a low-level conversation.
For those of us who strive to remain open-minded and compassionate in an increasingly polarized – and violent – society, prayer and meditation really help. These practices help us go beyond the human intellect, which is insufficient to solve the deep emotional problems facing our nation. Prayer and meditation help us to stay grounded ourselves while we use Inner Guidance to figure out how to respond non-violently to the violence (physical and mental) around us.
For those who don’t practice meditation and prayer, or any kind of spiritual practice, you still have access to Inner Guidance, it just might be more challenging to access. Nevertheless, you can still use the inner power you possess to be a representative for Peace and Balance on the planet. If we all prioritize love over “rights”, compassion over vengeance, and happiness over the need to be right, we will be doing our very best.
Have a great week and go follow your bliss…