Dear Readers – Words. They can shred our flesh, like bullets spraying from the barrel of an assault rifle. Again, we have violence on a mass scale – and the problems cry back to the fiery first moments of America’s creation. A nation full of immigrants, fighting for the freedom to worship God. Fighting for the right to live unencumbered by the fear of tyranny. Fighting for free speech – which has led to hate speech, which has led to hate action. Fighting, seems to be all we know. Our stories echo centuries of hate, as characters and races are endlessly tumbled through the roles of victim and aggressor. Caught in each individual cycle, we fail to see that the aggressor is also a victim. We fail to see the tyrant lording over us all – the constant fear lurking inside our own minds. Words burrowing into minds fertile with fear become bullets.
This is not who we are. “These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Pennsylvanians and are not who we are as Americans,” says Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, in response to the shooting. But as the deacon at my church pointed out, “until proven otherwise, isn’t this, exactly who we are, as Americans?”
The power of written word. Written in the Bible, the Jews are recorded as cursing themselves for the murder of Christianity’s Jesus Christ: “All the people [Jews] answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’” (Matthew 27:25). Even now, over two thousand years later, on free speech websites like Gab, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers, aired his fear and anger towards all those of Jewish descent. Rather than silencing his words, how can listen to them?
Listening to the cries of the world with ease. Max Erdstein shares how a ‘bodhisattva’, a being becoming aware, might respond to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting: “A bodhisattva is said to listen to the cries of the world with ease. [...] So what is it to be able to take in the great pain, the great suffering that is in this world, that will be in this world, but not from a place of fear, not from a place of contraction, not from a place of anger? [By practicing this] when we are called upon [to act], that [ease] becomes our nature, [...], so we are able to respond [more effectively].” – from ‘Thank you for your efforts’ by Max Erdstein on the Audio Dharma podcast (at 36 minutes)