When Tragedies Befall 'our' Children - how do we care?
Tragedies Happen So Often
What do I feel when i read that yet another child died in terrible circumstances?
Us vs Them
Wherever we happen to be living on the planet, an inordinate number of our children come to grief. However, on the whole, unless they are our ‘home grown’ children, we do not grieve for them.
205 Palestinian children died in the war in Gaza in 2009.
24 children is the death toll for November 2012 in the same area.
9 children were among those killed by a rogue American soldier who went on a house-to-house killing spree in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of children have been dying in the Congo every year, for many years.
5 children died in Delhi, India, when a wall collapsed on December 12, 2012.
69 young people died when Anders Behring Breivik hunted them down on the island of Utoeya, Norway, in 2011.
Some 3.3 million American children witness domestic violence in the ‘sanctuary’ of their homes. How do we estimate the number of children this violence kills, directly or indirectly, every month?
2,000,000 Vietnamese civilians lost their lives in the Vietnam War. Thousands of children and infants were among the dead.
4 children died there, too, on December 4, 2012, while playing with an unexploded shell they had just found.
Wherever we happen to be living on the planet, an inordinate number of our children come to grief. However, on the whole, unless they are our ‘home grown’ children, we do not grieve for them. When they are our ‘home grown’ children, some of us empathize with their parents – or we imagine we do – for as long as our attention span allows it – and them we move on.
Indeed, we have allowed TRUE acceptance/empathy (the bedrock of TRUE love, of BROTHERLY love, of NEIGHBORLY love) to be squeezed out of the fibers of our culture for a few centuries too many. And the worldwide cultural socio/economic model we have allowed in its place has left all of us very vulnerable.
If we remember that we are ALL accountable, ancient souls disguised in our dense body-suits of flesh and bones, it becomes easier to accept that karma will go on delivering its lucky breakthroughs and its tragedies to us, individually, to communities, to countries in every nook and cranny of our civilization - and that karma will reject all prayers for postponement.
In regards to a lingering common concern: How to address the Sandy Hook tragedy spiritually or, for that matter, any mass tragedy involving children, I think it’s a fair answer to say, ‘The same way as any at-risk groups and communities worldwide have addressed their own loses. At least, in America, one blessing is that the grief-stricken community of Newtown, and those affected in sympathy, are able to access many more services to help them process the horror of their tragedy.
In the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook primary school massacre, a world-wide outpouring of emotional support embraced the community of Newtown, Connecticut, in a manner probably never extended to either the distraught families of the Gaza strip - or those residing in any war-ravaged African community.
The magnitude of this emotional support would indicate that the death of twenty American children in their class rooms, shielded by their teacher, was more of a ‘world-shattering’ event than the deaths of other groups of children, shielded by a grandmother or by an older sibling, ‘mowed down’ like buds in a meadow.
This outpouring of emotion might also indicate that death-by-shooter is felt more emotionally than death-by-missile, death-by starvation or even death-by-parental neglect. Or it might suggest that ‘these’ young lives lost were perceived as having been more ‘beautiful,’ more full of potential’ than others, which would amount to a case of Us vs Them, signalling that ‘our’ losses count more than ‘theirs’.
Though it is undeniably the case for the American people, it is unclear why it should also to be the case for the rest of the world. Unless, of course, even when oceans separate us, we empathize with the trials and tribulations of cultures similar to our own – proof of how long is the range of the separatist thinking of Us vs Them.
Why ... is Irrelevant!
Though it always is a matter of utmost concern, it is no use pondering WHY the Newtown shooter - or any other shooter for that matter - picked a particular location to go on a rampage on a specific day, at a specific time.
Honestly, how ultimately comforting is it to eventually find out that the Sandy Hook shooter was an introvert who fell out of bed hearing voices clamoring for revenge or that his brain had been short-circuited by an overdose of chemicals or that he was a political lone wolf making a statement. Similarly, how comforting is it to know the exact motivation of a war-lord willing and able to decimate entire villages – or that the perpetrator of the crime was an indoctrinated suicide bomber?
How comforting can it be to know that hundreds of parents involved in domestic violence kill their children BECAUSE they are unable to deal with the pressures they built into their own lives? Or that, on the physical level, the REAL cause behind most of the thousands of youth suicides every year in the States is that their significant others were, for the most part, unaware of the depth of their despair?
What's Luck Gotta Do with Anything?
The damning thing about our collective belief in the west regarding random and fatalistic good/bad luck is that it absolutely strips us of any personal responsibility, which could explain why we choose to hold on to that belief as actively as a baby to her mother’s breast.
When it comes to disasters, it is fruitless to wonder why one single child was spared while her classmates were shot in a classroom at Sandy Hook primary school, why one child died but her twin was spared, why three passengers survived a plane crash in which 240 were killed, why an elderly woman was killed in her garden by a vehicle out of control, why a ‘loving mother of four’ died crushed by a crane on her way to work - or why a family living on the poverty line won a dazzling huge sum at the lottery.
Similarly, it is most important to refrain from attributing events to either good luck or bad luck. Equally, it is important to avoid the oft-trotted reference an ‘unfortunate chain of events’ or to vacuously utter, ‘It’s a miracle ....’ because, doing so veils the entire karmic system from our consciousness and renders it made null and void in terms of our lifestyle and daily preoccupations.
As it fails to offer a considered explanation and as it usurps any honest introspection into the depth of our personal M.O., how can the belief in mindless randomness be in any way helpful and comforting - if only at the intellectual level?
Neither should we ponder, let alone make judgement, on the karma of parents or loved ones afflicted by a tragic loss, regardless of its shape or form, because karmic intentions are not crafted for popular edification.
Deaf and Blind
Sure, when it comes to ‘innocent lives lost’, just as bomb and rocket control is needed in warfare, arms control is needed in America. How to explain that ‘assault weapons,’ somewhat different from other legal, concealed weapons, are as easily accessible in ‘picture perfect’ American towns, perhaps even more cheaply, than from an arms trafficker in Afghanistan or Colombia?
Having said that, except in some sci-fi scenarios, weapons do not lose control. They do not press their own triggers – not even assault weapons - but people do kill other people on a grand scale, mostly always out of anger, envy or resentment. Our cultural model tacitly permits this hecatomb of citizens by citizens, even in the absence of civil war - even as the judicial system is staggering under the weight of murder ‘files’ it processes daily across the united States.
As an aside, it is difficult to comprehend why, in this day and age, little boys STILL go around shooting people with their index finger and thumb cocked and/or with toy guns, presumably bought by well-intentioned parents and relatives.
After all, for us, adults, parents, and law-makers, it has been a fair while since the last Hollywood epic battle between *Cowboys and Indians* - a long time, too, since the last John Wayne movie. So, why hasn’t this socially ‘mal-adjusted’ boy behavior been phased out in ‘our’ homes world-wide, in ‘our’ gardens and in ‘our’ school yards?
Why has the ongoing roll-out of films and TV series - not to mention 'games' and novels - portraying death set in our streets, in our work place, in our homes, in our bedrooms, with husbands and wives, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters - alternating between the role of perpetrators and victims - NOT rang very shrill alarm bells about OUR common fascination for ... killing and the death of others?
Everything that happens to us, individuals, to us, as a country, does happen for a reason, right?
What's Behind ANY Disaster
Clearly, tragedies and disasters do bring ‘us’ together for a finite period of time but, with growing awareness, they should be seen as delivering the cosmic message that we are, indeed, collectively responsible for what befalls some of us – or all of us – in turn. Tragedies also show us that we are really quite able to love our neighbor as ourselves, to act selflessly – provided we are moved to do so.
Though it is heartbreakingly difficult to accept, sometimes impossible, tragedies befall us for a reason: they are intended to expose the real ‘us’, the truly vulnerable part of us – our heart.
Tragedies are intended to strip us of all we have been taking for granted.
They are intended to expose us to ourselves.
They are intended to bring us together as a better functioning single unit and they are intended to bring us together with our *loved ones*.
They are meant to bring us together as a community - as a country.
Us = members of one family, first and foremost.
Instead, the family too often fragments under the pressure because, at the crux of the pain are hearts that are closed to all but to their personal pain.
Us = us and our extended family.
Too often they remain attentive for a finite period of time.
They, too, often fragment around us. What has befallen us has not touched them ENOUGH to really touch their heart though, of course, they do care a lot.
Us = the ‘others’ closest to us, friend and colleagues. They, too, on the whole, show they care with flowers, good words and personalized attention but, basically, they remain unchanged and are keen to return to their *own* lives and get back to whatever it is they have been doing, to whatever they are aspiring to – the manipulation of their perceived reality and the pursuit of their own sets of person-centered goals.
Again, everything that happens, does happen for a reason, right?
Serious question: what if it were according to the ‘manner’ in which those who grieve for their children [and those who grieve for their loved ones generally-speaking] process their loss ... from the inside/out ... that their karmic tally sheet would be edited in the fullness of time?
What if our karmic tally sheet ‘out there’ just as much as our emotional health, here and now, were adjusted for the better by our ability for forgive from the depth of our heart, to bond with our loved ones from the depth of our heart and move on from grief tempered by the ordeal?
What if surviving a tragedy from the inside/out were our purpose for this lifetime?
What Clogs Up our Hearts
“Let us ask ourselves,” said Moriya, my teacher, “why it is so hard to forgive and accept from the heart? Let’s first look at what is clear,” she began explaining.
The part of us we call ‘heart’ is mostly filled with insecurity and guilt. Both grow and thrive like weed from the inability to truly forgive and forget. Also like weed grow dislike and hatred. They are on the same sliding scale.
Worries grow out anxiety about situations that for the most part are played out in our minds and they grow, too, also like weed, in regards to fearful situations invented about a non-existent future that blossomed out of this insecurity and guilt.”
Then she added, “They are all connected together like beads on a thread. By removing any one bead, we make enough room to bring in another of a different type. That one new bead is the start of a new pattern which will develop over time. That's why forgiving is as good for us as it is for the other – regardless of the other’s actions.’
True Right of Passage into Adulthood
Forgiving is an action.
Independently of what it may or may not do for the ‘other’, the act of forgiving heals us from the inside/out.
Forgiving is the dual action of controlling both Ego and Pride by putting them where they belong - in the back seat of our thoughts and under strong restraints.
Forgiving is the action of ACTIVELY accepting What-Is. It is the action of ‘making peace’ with it.
For some, What-Is is a part of the divine plan. For others it is a part of the karmic plan. For others, What-Is is a totally random chain of events driven either by others’ pettiness – or driven by bad luck with occasional lucky breaks that are few and far in between.
For those who believe in a divine plan, for others who believe in a karmic blue print, ACTIVELY accepting/positively processing means having [or developing] a total faith in a god, or in an omniscient, omnipotent force or in Soul.
Forgiving means ACCEPTING whatever has happened to us or to others we profess to love or care about. However unfair, however emotionally or physically hurtful, what has happened is, each time, an event especially crafted for us, here and now – for a reason.
That reason, it is believed, is never the act of a vengeful, angry anthropomorphic ‘god-father’ nor is it retributive punishment for something or other done in this or in a previous life. Whether we label events as pleasant or as unpleasant happenings, each is sent to us to test not only our character, but mostly our spiritual mettle.
Just as it is unthinkable to refuse or abort an event perceived as a ‘lucky’ breakthrough, it should be unthinkable to refuse what we perceive as an ‘unfortunate’, cruel or tragic setback.
Yet, even the ‘lucky breaks’ are laden with invisible ripples, not necessarily all benign, that will shape - for better or for worse - our days and years ahead.
How each lucky break will go on to affect us will depend mostly of how holistically, from the inside-out, we process the spin-off of each situation – for the greater good of self and the greater good of all around us. Perhaps sadly, that requires a lot more of us than throwing a party or ‘throwing money around,’ while drowning our unbridled joy in bubbles.
Equally, not forgiving, hanging on to resentment, even if not being outwardly angry, is a state of mind and heart laden with invisible ripples that will shape for better or for worse our days and years to come. All matter of spirituality aside, resentment and anxiety go a long way to shaping our health which in turn shapes, over time, the physical comfort and quality of our life.
If on the mental and physical level, the inability to forgive constitutes a chronic at-risk behavior as detrimental to our health as Nicotine, on the spiritual level it denotes a lack of faith in the greater power. The inability to forgive, thus to accept, has us reacting as teens who, whenever they don’t get their way, even on trivial matters wail, “Awh, what did you do that for? You are SO mean! I’ll never trust YOU again. You’re off MY list!”
Ego/automatic pilot, the aspect of us which creates mind/feeling/action connection for us is, indded, like this teenager who can only react through kneejerks of lesser or greater magnitude and who is ‘totally gutted’ by any perceived slur or indifference in others.
We observe our teens’ reactions and we shake our heads and yet ... though our bodies have matured considerably, our emotional response to some of life’s challenges, to pleasure and pain, has not matured significantly – particularly not when a *strong* happening manifests in our present reality - in our 3-D reality.
Forgiving means being emotionally and spiritually growing up.
Forgiving means accepting what manifests in our physical environment - not merely as character-building, but also as spirit-consolidating.
Easy said but, admittedly, damned near impossible to achieve, unless one’s [blind] faith, one’s heart, is literally in the right place.
Still, the harder the forgiving, the harder one’s trust in the Plan, the greater the rite of passage into mature adulthood.