Words and Wisdom for Light, Hope, and a Way Forward
“I was in the same moment confronted by an unbearable loss and also by the realization that there were people and community that were there to help me bear it.” ~Kate Braestrup
My oldest child is a first-grade student, seven years old. My youngest five. The news out of Connecticut hits much too close to home.
The imagination reaches into the darkest caverns where a parent’s mind dare not go. I have no idea what I might say to my boys, but, like many, I have gazed upon them with awakened eyes as they lie asleep tonight.
Our heartfelt condolences to all the families and the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
In times like these, let us turn to some of our wisest elders for light, hope, and a way forward. Our colleague Kate Moos (@katemoos) found solace in listening to a dharma talk titled “Mindfulness of Anger: Embracing the Child Within”:
Thich Nhat Hanh is the voice for me today. @Beingtweets‘ recording of the Zen monk on mindful anger.
“…there is a seed of anger in every one of us. There are many kinds of seeds that lie deep in our consciousness, a seed of anger, a seed of violence, a seed of fear, a seed of jealousy, a seed of full despair, a seed of miscommunication, a seed of hate. They’re all there and, when they sleep, we are okay. But if someone come and water these seeds, they will manifest into energy and they will make us suffer. We also have wholesome seeds in us, namely the seeds of understanding, of awakening, of compassion, of nonviolence, of nondiscrimination, a seed of joy and forgiveness. They are also there.
What we see, what we hear, what we eat, always water the seed of violence, the seed of despair, the seed of hate in us and in our children. That is why it’s very urgent to do something collectively in order to change the situation. Not only educators, but parents, legislators, artists, have to come together in order to discuss the strategy that can help bring the kind of safe environment to us and to our children where we shall be protected from the negative watering of the seeds in us. The practice of transformation and healing could not be effective without this practice of seeking or creating a sane environment. When someone is sick, you have to bring him to a place where he or she can be treated and to heal.
If the human person is affected by the poison of violence and anger and despair, if you want to help heal him or her, you have to bring him or her out of the situation where she continues to ingest the poisons of violence. This is very simple. This is very clear and this is not only the job of educators. Everyone has to participate to the work of creating safe environments for us and for our children.”
You can listen to the entire talk here. Write firstname.lastname@example.org or @trentgilliss and tell me what you find relevant in Brother Thay’s words or where you are finding solace.
At this time, I also recall a moving story by Vincent Harding, a theologian and speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr., who recounted a grave moment when civil rights leader Bob Moses learned three protestors had been murdered in Mississippi and told a group of mostly white, college-age protestors that they could quit and return to their families:
“In group after group, people were singing:
Kumbaya. ‘Come by here my Lord. Somebody’s missing Lord. Come by here. We’ll all need you Lord. Come by here.’
I could never laugh at kumbaya moments after that. Because I saw that almost no one went home from there. This whole group of people decided that they were going to continue on the path that they had committed themselves to and a great part of the reason why they were able to do that was because of the strength and the power and the commitment that had been gained through that experience of just singing together, Kumbaya.”
On this final night of Hanukkah, these final two stanzas from a poem by Rachel Barenblat (@velveteenrabbi). She reminds us to rededicate our lives to the hard work of trusting and opening up — and “to the task of bringing light.”
At last I light the lamp:
the glint, the glow
regenerating, the homefire
Learn to trust again
that this oil is enough
to open my eyes
to God, already here.