The journey of a thousand steps
Updated: Apr 26
Hope feels beyond my scope today. I am gutted by the school shooting in Texas. There are things that, to me, are consecrated, that are protected and holy, untouchable by injustice and harm. Children are of this sacred bevy. I don't know why I believe this when history, our collective and my personal history, has shown me otherwise. Still I hold on. Perhaps it's part belief, part wish, part bargain, the only way I can actually release my children to the world each day.
This is grief that knows no parallel. My heart bleeds for those parents, those educators, the community of Uvalde and for all parents, all children, all educators and schools. All humans.
We can legislate guns, limit the availability of weapons that can cause this kind of destruction (please, can't we?) but we cannot govern the true problem - the ruptured souls of our fellow humans. This is a truth I do not know how to bear.
Each reckoning I hope will be the last, our chance to pivot, to let the world of disconnection, of greed, of competition and hierarchy, of hate and cruelty, finally fall away, a chance for something new to be born. I'm increasingly aware that the transformation must begin within, for each of us to choose to live beyond the machinations of our minds and egos, beyond the superficial, to learn to light our own darkness and heal our own wounds. This seems the only way to stop the cycle of harm, to our planet, to our people.
Brutality on this scale is like the top of a submerged iceberg. We see it, we grieve it, we point at it as the problem when in fact it stands upon a massive base, a pedestal that has given it life above the surface. It is a slow build that went unseen, lurking in the dark below, until one day it springs up, seemingly out of nowhere, and we don't recognize the framework on which it stands.
It is the same with racialized police violence that is steeped in toxic white supremacy and rape culture that is born out of misogyny and patriarchy. It is time we stopped railing against the symptoms and actually get to work building entirely new systems where violence isn't just not wanted but not needed.
I'm tired of putting our hope on elected leaders, on those in charge, tired of relying on laws and corrupt politics. The truth is policing will do little to fix this problem. The only power we truly have is within. It's a blistering truth but the only one that offers true redemption.
We live in a culture of violence. We breed it everyday - in the news, on the crime shows on TV (how many spin offs of Law and Order do we need anyway?), in video games. Violence is entertainment, well-funded and well attended. It's normalized. It's Twitter wars and internet trolling, it's bullying in the school cafeteria and across social media platforms. Perhaps it's time to ask ourselves what the price of violence for entertainment is costing us, is costing our beloved children.
And so I ask myself where violence lives in me, where I lash out, where I use my words or thoughts to breed discontent, judgment and separation. Where and when do I compare myself to others, sink into the disillusionment that there is such a thing as one human being better than another?
Violence thrives on the hierarchy of a capitalist society where humans are ranked on a ladder of worth. We perpetuate violence when we judge other bodies and when we judge our own. Perhaps we are, in fact, the greatest perpetrators of violence on ourselves - in our low self-esteem, negative self talk, feelings of worthlessness - deluding ourselves into thinking that cruelty stays locked inside.
Though we like to plunge into a shooter's history, dissect their mental state and motivation, it serves us very little. These horrific mass shootings do not occur in a vacuum. These individuals are not outliers in an otherwise functional society. Nearly all of us helps push the wheel of violence around, doing our seemingly insignificant part to feed the system. Though it's not the same as pulling a trigger, we have a role in these terrible outcomes.
It's time to ask ourselves where we fit into this system. If this seems disappointing, if you were hoping for a better solution, I'm with you. I want one, too. I want this fixed yesterday. I want to never see another headline about guns and death and children.
But the only way to build a world that is thriving and whole is for us to first be that with ourselves. It is not simple, not tidy, not a pain-free journey. Most of us have shadows we would prefer to relegate to the dark, but to what end? Even though we might not believe it, we are not passive bystanders. We are each participants in creating this world, these societies in which we dwell.The power for change is literally within each of us.
This is how we create what Eckart Tolle calls a New Earth.
"We are also learning that action, although necessary, is only a secondary factor in manifesting our external reality. The primary factor in creation is consciousness. No matter how active we are, how much effort we make, our state of consciousness creates the world, and if there is no change on that inner level, no amount of action will make a difference"
(Tolle, A New Earth, p. 290).
My heart does not know how to hold the reality of what happened yesterday in Texas. Those who are suffering do not feel separate from me. And so I hold them as best I can and let myself break. When there is pain, the job is just to be with it. I will hope that enough hearts beating for those suffering might make their breath come just a bit easier.
A new world is possible. I believe the transformation is already underway, pebbles cast into still water, the ripples expanding outward, sparks becoming flames. Let us not minimize our role in this awakening. Let us not allow our uncertainty and delusions of our impotence distract us from our individual and crucial role in this becoming. A new world rests in the balance.
I see hope has returned to me and I thank it for never deserting me for too long. Hope is the fuel we need for this evolution. Every step inward counts. May I remember that "the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" (Lao-tzu).