On Violence And Love In The Trump Era ::: A Spiritual Journey
Been obsessing about an entry point into sharing my take on the latest political "crisis" (one after the other), looking for a way to get to the root, the crux of the complex - convoluted problem and how am I dealing with it?
At some point in grown-up hood I made it a personal spiritual practice to attempt love in every moment, including loving a perceived enemy, or an 'enemy to my happiness' and so yes that now must include the beast of a human, Donald Trump and his inner circle of hateful friends and everyone who thinks the way they do.
I'm struggling with my empathy. I feel deep sorrow for every thought and decree of violence that comes forth form their mouths, yet I look upon them and see a human with a mother and I remember that we all begin basically the same.
Yet, the difference is - - the dividing factor is - - between them and me is that I cannot be really free when other humans are not free.
Maybe it is genetically hardwired into my brain that I feel the sanctity of life so deeply that I don't want to incur harm to a fellow human...maybe that's all it is, or maybe it was learned.
I was raised in an aggressive, abusive household. It's not something I'm usually public about because my parents are still alive, and I forgive them. In a nutshell the behaviors I endured were fueled by generations of internalized psychological trauma + mental illness +
neurodiversity + alcoholism.
Yet, I was also raised Quaker and taught that there is light, a divine spirit, in every single person and one must strive to see and respect that divine spirit in every single person—no matter what.
We didn't own a TV, but on movie nights my mother would haul a black and white TV and a VCR player from the public library so we could watch Gandhi and Cry Freedom (about the life of Steve Biko), and The Mission. We popped popcorn and I saw heart-wrenching things that I could barely understand, but I got the message.
Violence is the most unholy, unloving thing a person could ever be engaged in.
So, I was raised in contradiction and it led me to be obsessed for awhile with religions and their inherent contradictions. I studied theology at Quaker College. I read the mystics, the prophets, and the metaphysical scientists. I spent Sundays in silence. I read different versions of the bible and took a pilgrimage to the Abbey of Gethsemani where Thomas Merton did great work with prayer. Nearby I found an artist's retreat run by Catholic nuns and stayed for the weekend. I made arrangements with them to come back after graduation and stay for a long-term retreat so that I could be in silence, in nature and create 'world change' through prayer....but I was skeptical because their chapel, where they took communion, really felt like a contradiction.
I didn't want to feel forced to be a part of any ritual that immortalized any one man. I wanted to contemplate the problem of violence and love—and find solutions. So, in my heart of hearts I wasn't sure about the nuns and their beautiful retreat.
I finished school, traveled and met the love of my life in Taos, NM. He introduced me to Rumi, Krishnamurti, Idries Shah, Rabia and more. He introduced me to a mentor who also had studied all of these Eastern ideas, including all Western ideas I had studied.
This mentor introduced me to the word agape. A certain kind of love that is not a feeling. Love that is a compassion - an act of accepting others the way they are, no matter how vile, because all sides and ways are life too. He presented the radical idea of beginning with the inside of me first. To love myself with this same kind of love, and then a world with that kind of love would be created outside of me. It was worth a try.
He offered the idea that this kind of compassionate love says it's ok to turn away from other's that have a different way of moving through the world, and let them carry-on in their violent world, with themselves and whomever they share their violent tendencies with. Their actions will have consequences and eventually they will have to reconcile their hate with themselves. I learned that it's not my job to try and change other people, or to stop others from doing what they desire to do. What if my only concern was to put great attention into what I am doing and how could that ripple out? How can I keep and hold spaces of love and shelter or sanctuary for others as well.
When it was time to go to the nun retreat, I didn't show up. They were worried and called my Mother with great concern. I really wronged them, but at the time I didn't know how to tell them I was cancelling on the premise that living in the world is a more effective teacher than to retreat and seek in silence. (I must credit that realization to Chris.)
I felt that the problems, the conflicts of society would teach me more effectively about how to love. I thought that I can only learn to love when I am presented with hate.
But you see first that had to be my aim - - to love.
I have learned that we must not skimp on what is considered violent. We must be willing to admit that we might be acting in violence every single day. Not physical violence, but in the subtle ways we go about and attempt to control our lives and other's lives. We are being violent to ourselves and others.
When we try to change things, maybe we are being violent. The world is over-run with so.much.violence. We have conflict in our hearts every day and we act out of this conflict. Violence is inside of us and therefore it is also on the outside—in the world. The world is in a constant state of conflict, there is no peace. ...and how could there be? Millions of human beings in conflict day in and day out striving, struggling...this is the world we create every single day. A sort of violence against what is.
Sure, the greatest violence we could say is unfettered greed run amok. People with power preying on the weak...but it is up to us, every single person to not be a victim and rise up, to lift each other up, to not also be greedy. We are all the same.
Sure, we're all living with different life outcomes, but we are all the same in that we all struggle with the same urge to have more, better, different. That is our shared human condition and the definition of greed. Out of that we can find a path to love, even the most despicable of us.
It's a lot to see and understand, and the fact is that the only true revolution is inner evolution first—one human being at a time—evolving what's in our hearts and minds.
In the meantime we are working toward curbing the violence and hatred against our most vulnerable and weakened brothers and sisters of this world. We are trying our hardest to protect them against the most outwardly violent people (and those with firepower).
We have to be careful because hatred is relentless, and we get tired. Exhaustion is real and then we sink into the violent and hateful thoughts we as a collective were raised upon.
It takes tremendous energy and awareness to learn new, nonviolent ways to live. Tremendous energy to catch ourselves in the heat of angry feelings and sort out what the offense is and do we have an accurate or inaccurate perspective of it?
To truly love is to take responsibility for the way you see things, to remove ALL BLAME.
In the case of this political crisis, it feels the only way forward is to resist, to fight against, to try and stop. ...but this is unstoppable. Let it roll on, let it roll on and lose steam and fall flat.
It’s violent to push against it and try to stop it. We must just act in our way that is loving. Continue to love at every turn. Love the enemy. Can we all just turn to each other and continue to take care of each other. We don’t need policy to do that!
I don't claim to have the answers for anyone else, but these are the things that I quietly do, that I quietly think—with love.