“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
It has been quite the horrific and surreal past couple of weeks for Orlando. First came the shocking news of the murder of Christina Grimmie, a beautiful and talented young singer many of us watched blossom on NBC’s The Voice. Her death was a senseless and terrifying reminder of what can tragically happen with fame. Then just the next day, also in Orlando came the bloodthirsty tragedy that befell the gay nightclub Pulse, and murder of forty-nine souls committed by an Islamic extremist. Two days after that at Orlando’s Disney World theme park, we learned of the gruesome death of a toddler snatched at the shore of a lagoon by an alligator as the little boy was wading in shallow water. So much to bear for one city within such a short span of time.
In the last two of these tragedies, there was blame, recriminations, anger, even an immediate and repulsive, “I told you so” by a male US presidential candidate within hours of the murders. Inside the same day of the killings the battle lines were already drawn by the sanctimonious rhetoric of the pro-gun, anti-gun and anti-Islam positions. In the wake of the shootings, my mind has been littered with feelings of bewilderment, helplessness and bitter sadness. To the parents of the dead toddler, my heart bleeds for you both. Not only have you endured an unthinkable horror, but also you have undoubtedly heard the shock and consternation on social media and the airwaves accusing you of not properly caring for the welfare of your child directly resulting in his death. Who can say that to these grief-stricken parents?
If only the Pulse patrons had weapons, the killer would have been eliminated sooner therefore saving lives, says the same male US presidential candidate! If only Muslims were banned from entry to the USA this tragedy would never have taken place – ya, by the same male US presidential candidate. If semi-automatic weapons were not for sale, this wouldn’t have happened. If the government did its job the murderer could not have made the legal gun purchase he did. Now the world knows what Israel goes through, so do something about the Islamic terror network! How could those parents not have held their child’s hand, AT ALL TIMES? Why didn’t Disney have proper alligator warning signs posted by the lagoon’s shore? Disney should have neutralized the known threat that alligators on their property presented. The blame and judgements have been incessant. And also deeply troubling is us. We are a big part of the problem. We become apoplectic. We take sides but zealously only one side. The polarization is now of epidemic proportions. For example, why can’t we be against the existing US gun laws and at the same time also seeking legitimate solutions to the dangerous radicalization of Islamic fundamentalists? Must it be a zero sum game? But that argument has been an impossible one to have this past week or so. By ostensibly assigning cause to unlike positions, proponents of the other accuse you of being soft or worse, ignorant of their raison d’etre and vice versa.
So what is all this? It is fear. Fear of what you may ask?
It could be very much related to our general anger at strangers. Anger at ourselves. Frustration with others. Intolerance of others. Self-loathing. Hating others. And Confucius says, if you hate then you have been defeated.
My fear is only a self-reflection of what I desire. My fear is rooted in wanting something I cannot have. My fear is for the future and the uncertainty that awaits. My fear is that I expect you to behave in a certain way – and you don’t. My fear is that I know what you are thinking. My fear is that I see what is not there. My fear is that I don’t understand the understandable. My fear is that you can’t understand me. My fear is that I see me in you. My fear is based on ignorance. My fear is that I am dependent on what I hate, what I want and what I see. But the answer is love. Love of oneself – fully, completely and without preconditions. The more we love ourselves, the less room we have to fear anything. So my promise to me is hopefully found in my fulfillment to you. If I am pained by your actions, I now know that it is not you that needs to change, it is I.