“In our societies and in our hearts, we are still willing to use force — to bomb people into peace — thus empowering our government to do so. This, we must transform ourselves to no longer be able to bear.”
-angel Kyodo williams, excerpt from essay doing darkness: change vs. transformation
Drop compassion, not bombs!
At heart, I’m an indecisive, introspective escapist. I also work with bodily complications which impair my concentration. After I experienced severe migraines and a bout of work burnout, I didn’t think I wanted anything from life besides freedom from the pain. I left the position because I knew I could work in a needlessly complicated environment just with my own voice as company – and I have indeed been struggling. Making changes in an effort to transform into an agent of justice takes time, and I ultimately owe my lack of focus to withheld pain and misdirected anger. I have used aggression where I should have used compassion, and it must become unbearable for me to behold.
For unbiased guidance of my efforts, I look to a series of principles rooted in the universal experiences humans share: Buddhist philosophy. Now a multifaceted religion, Buddhism began as a series of experiential observations that is universal and, at its core, meant to unite the likes of all people through accepting and living up to what is good for all (as opposed to a select few – Kant’s categorical imperative deals with that idea too). In alarmingly concise terms:
We all suffer
We all want to end our suffering, which only makes it worse
We can train ourselves to end collective suffering
Basically, I want to do more that is conducive to the good of all. Obviously MUCH easier said than done. And I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist by even a long shot. But I certainly appreciate the practice in support of social justice implemented at the Center for Transformative Change. You’ve heard the saying “Air so thick with tension you can cut it with a knife”? Well, the air at that place is so thick and rich with clear intention you want to eat it with a scoop of vanilla. Now, this is not the path everyone takes to promote the good of all and justice in the world, which is just fine. Every path is paved with obstacles and imperfections. But, all denominations aside, we must practice compassion and good will not only with our families, but toward all that we rely on. In an attempt to practice indiscriminate compassion, I quietly look inward to see where my actions promote unnecessary tension or delay peaceful interaction. Sitting in acceptance of my missteps makes the truths that define them as ‘missteps’ much more obvious. This helps me see situations with clarity, informing my practice of accepting my most well-intentioned self, and others, with a level mind and compassionate heart.
We can’t erase history. Can’t erase those dreams we wish our past selves had understood were nightmares. But I am realizing how pain can breed compassion (thanks, body, for releasing the same hormones whether I’m having sex or a baby! Blessing or curse???). I now see clearly what some call the ‘thin line between love and hate’ so clearly in my passion and aggression over the years, and it is incredibly difficult not to react aggressively (whether passive or direct) when something in you just screams you deserve better. I must create space in my intentions to take action towards finding that common ground, no matter the difficulty. Which has required a hell of a lot of effort and research so far, and will ultimately take a lifetime of it.
But I know I’m not alone in my bouts of suffering. I won’t force anyone to see the benefits of transformation, but I can be an example (shy as I may currently be about it). Let the training continue and the compassion grow.