I reacquainted with an old friend last week. It was interesting to talk to him again. We both spend the last 10 years on searching for meaning, healing and purpose. Neither of us had an easy ride and both of us still have lots to learn. We agree that it will never end. I also think we both agreed that we thought life would become gradually easier but we are finding forever more complexities and nuances. But we also agree that whatever the hell we are doing here on this planet: it is a fascinating journey. Not easy, definitely not painless but fascinating indeed.
In the light of the most recent developments in Paris it is not easy to find satisfying answers on why we behave like we behave. My friend and I shared the patterns we found inside ourselves that are hindering us in our relationships. Events that we for long held for meaningless turned out to be the cause of more trauma then we were aware of and these traumatic experiences are still reflected in our current behavior. If you look long and hard you can find the root of your ignorance. But our ignorance seems to be less harmful than the ignorance of those who pick up a machine gun to slaughter the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo.
I would say that killing people because you think that what they think, do or express is wrong is a pretty strong expression of rejection. Something must hurt very badly if it compels you to turn to extreme and lethal violence.
We all have a thinking mind and I think it is safe to say that most of us agree that it is an untamed beast. In Buddhist traditions we speak sometimes of ‘monkey mind’ because our thoughts jump from one subject to the other, forever restless. But ‘monkey mind’ might be a bit too friendly a term if we include our tendency to get lost in dark thoughts. Quite a few of us might be able to refrain from physical violence most of the time but I think the far majority of us had violent, evil and tyrranical thoughts at least occasionally. Our inner violence may come out as gossiping, envy, arrogance, passive-aggressiveness or otherwise. Whatever the shape or form it takes: it is still violence. Our violence. And if we let our thoughts inform our behavior we will find ways to act out our violence. With rejection for example.
We all reject the lethal violence used against the editors of Charlie Hebdo. I do too. At the same time I think rejection is not the solution. I think rejection leads to separation and separation leads to confusion. I have no answer. Most of us would like the islamists to stop rejecting values we hold to be important, essential even. At the same time I am quite sure that the islamists feel strongly about the rejection of their prophet.
It is painful to feel rejected. I have faced a lot of rejection in my life myself. I have been rejected for the clothes I wore, for being intimidating, for being weak, for being unclear, for being in love, for crossing boundaries, for being a man, for being a son of my father, for making somebody feel insecure or jealous, for being unconventional, for being too young, for being too old, for being not attractive enough, for being too smart, for being too poor, for not looking or behaving like someone’s standard for a spiritual teacher and for refusing to betray myself. It hurts every time.
Rejection has caused me to feel confused, hurt, betrayed, angry, lonely, inadequate, unloved, desperate and misunderstood. It has definitely caused very dark and evil thoughts although I hardly ever acted them out and even when I did what I did was not half as bad as in my fantasy.
It is our suffering that makes us cause suffering in others. It is our pain that makes us hurt others. We all want the suffering to stop. Some of us think that the suffering will stop if we all obey Allah, some of us think the suffering will stop if everybody can say what he wants. But regulating our belief systems will not free us from suffering and fear. The only thing we can do is challenge our belief systems. I can’t stop others rejecting me and I can’t stop others rejecting others but perhaps I can grow unto a point where I accept myself wholly and completely. My beliefs about what is right and wrong and my condemnation of everything that is wrong is the problem. There is a point where a belief system can collapse and a person experiences complete freedom. I hope to find such freedom in my lifetime.
It would already make a huge difference if we can talk about causes us pain instead of acting out of pain. Perhaps we can use our freedom of expression more wisely and express what is going on inside ourselves instead of furiously pointing at others and their mistakes.
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