There are many huge things going on in the world at the moment (indeed, at any moment) that are making people sad, angry, frustrated, terrified and frankly, dead: war, politics, immigration, natural disasters.
The week I write this article, a passenger plane was accidentally (I hope) shot down flying over a conflict zone—a terrible and sad event. Then there are all the everyday things going on, also making people sad, angry, frustrated and fearful: arguments, unemployment, sickness, life.
Some would say that we manifest these things ourselves. I would suggest not saying that to someone who just got diagnosed with cancer, or whose brother just got killed in a war zone. It may or may not be true —depending on what level you view it from—but either way, it is not helpful to say to someone in crisis.
For me, these events are questions.
Life is permanently asking the question of each and every one of us:
Who are you?
Who are you when someone yells at you?
Who are you in the face of fear, terror, death?
Who are you when your loved ones are hurting, angry and crying?
Who are you when the going gets tough?
Some of us never have to answer these questions in a national news kind of way. We are usually not part of the big stories that go down in history…except that we are.
Each and every one of us is part of the great collective that drives politics, governments and decision makers.
Each and every person is 1/7billionth of the “public!” That might not feel like much, but imagine if seven billion people were all one percent more cheerful on some random Monday, or if seven billion people all didn’t harm anyone else for just one Thursday.
Okay, so all of us doing it at once is still a little far fetched, but that doesn’t mean that you and I can’t start today.
If we all reacted to the news with less fear, less territoriality, with more compassion how would that change the world?
Anyway, back to the question of the question. I read a news report this week of an extreme right wing politician, in another conflict zone (such a polite way of not calling a war a war), who advocated killing all the mothers of her opponent’s forces, so they could not have any more children who would grow up to be her enemies. Bad enough in itself, but then the replies to this article—the hatred, the violence, the escalation of such horrible thoughts—I won’t repeat any of it here. It does not bear spreading.
But all of these things got me thinking about how we respond to the question that life constantly throws at us: “Who are you in the face of this event?” Our responsibility, our ability to respond to the events in our lives, comes from this question.
I would like to be able answer this question with this response: “I am Love.”
Some days I rock it, some days I wobble through and some days I miss completely. The question I ask myself when I am trying to get centered is, “How would love respond?” This is such an amazing question, that it is actually the title of a book written by a friend of mine (How Would Love Respond, Kurek Ashley, 2008).
Most of us don’t get to make big political decisions, or decide to send people to war (or create “conflict zones”), but that is just as well since those are huge decisions and problems. It is much easier to deal with the everyday life kind of situations—bullying, illness, grumpy people, intolerance. These are the times when we truly can decide how to respond—with more bullying, with avoidance, with anger? Or with kindness, with love, with patience?
Each of us is one seven-billionth of the emotional energy of the planet—imagine if we all chose happiness, love, kindness more often.
The most acclaimed spiritual and peace advocates of our time all say pretty much the same thing: you can’t fight hate with hate, you can’t create love if you are fighting at all. So, in answer to the events of life, whether they are random or manifested or predestined or karma or whatever, I ask these questions:
Who am I in response to this?
How would love respond?
And then the answer is always Love.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Travis May
Photo: Kiran Foster via Flickr