Life is a flash mob where nobody knows the moves. Enjoy the learning experience, for it's a novelty we get but once!
Well. Twitter knows the news before the news knows the news. I was up late last night, as I am most nights, when all of a sudden stuff started pouring in about the shootings that happened last night in a movie theater not all that far from where I live.
Yeah, I’m in a pretty awesome part of the world, between the location of the Columbine shootings and Laramie, Wyoming.
The first things to start showing up on Facebook were several of my friends checking in who had been out watching Dark Night or lived in the area, assuring everyone that they were not in the theater where it happened and they were okay.
Upon watching media coverage of the event today, my Facebook friends all started posting statistics and links accompanied with phrases such as “People suck,” “I hate humanity,” or calling humans as a whole awful and evil. Some posts went as far as suggesting what torture methods they would like to see inflicted on James Holmes.
I found it all very interesting. These are normal friends. They aren’t criminal. They aren’t mean. They aren’t crazy. But somehow it was socially acceptable to post about hating a stranger (or even his entire species, of which we are all a part) for something he did out of hate for strangers.
Comedian Tom Lehrer once joked, “I know there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings and I HATE people like that.” To me, that’s exactly what everyone was saying.
I choose instead to live by what the Dalai Lama XIV said, which is “A truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively or hurt you.” It makes much more sense to me than promoting a double standard.
I posted this as a status update a while back. Someone commented to the effect of wishing everybody felt that way. I said it was true that not everybody lives in accordance with these words, but to truly live this way and not be hypocritical, we must love them anyway.
One of the most influential documentaries I’ve ever gotten to see is a film called “The Anatomy of Hate,” by Mike Ramsdell. I highly recommend watching it. It explores the science behind how hate is a learned behavior. I found it incredibly enlightening and have watched it several times and taken notes. The first time I saw it, I was incredibly moved by one scene in particular. A white supremacist group was throwing some kind of annual party, and there were a lot of children there. For some kind of fun activity, they let a small greased pig loose and the children had to catch it. They ran around laughing, then eventually caught and tackled the pig. They surrounded it in the mud and kicked it to death, laughing and enjoying their game, and then took pictures holding up the dead pig.
I cried for the pig. I cried a lot for the pig. I also found myself looking at these young children kicking the pig to death, and I cried for them. It would be so much easier to say that people are inherently evil, and I hate them, and that’s that. I just couldn’t find any part of me that felt that way. These kids would probably never be so violent if raised by, like, vegan hippies in California who have their children volunteer at animal shelters and boycott leather. (Now, I’m definitely not implying that vegan hippies are the only good parents, but you know. Just an example.) There are things that can happen in life that make us lose sight of our uniquely human ability to love those who we do not know personally. We are all products of our environment. I don’t think it’s fair to hate anyone else for that. The root cause of any behavior can be found within the society they were brought up in.
The point is that I believe to have a truly compassionate attitude, we must cry as much for the killer as we do for the killed, because some aspect of their environment made them that way.
At the same time, in the interest of being the change we want to see in the world, I do my best to vow never to let my environment impact me in a way that might encourage violent thoughts or actions. For me, that means never to think that any act of violence is acceptable, even if society would have me believe I’m hating all the right people.
It’s easy to focus on the negative during times like these. Horrible things happen, there IS a lot wrong with the world, and we shouldn’t be okay with it. But what I often think we over look, or perhaps take for granted, is the positive side of humanity that comes out at times like this. I clicked on the #theatershooting tag on Twitter, and within a couple of minutes there were over 2000 new tweets from people all over the world sending their condolences to victims and affected families. That we even can feel sorrow for that which doesn’t directly affect us is amazing to me. Perhaps I’m more easily impressed by the little things than most. But I thought it was beautiful.
If I had an audience greater than 5 (lovely!) followers right now, I’d probably get a lot of hate for this from people who insist that the idea of unconditionally loving all of humanity, including the murderers, and the idea of feeling sad for the victims and their families are mutually exclusive concepts. Of course it’s a tragedy! Of course it sucks! Of course these stories sadden me, and I can’t even imagine the pain they must be feeling right now. I’m angry about the whole situation. It’s okay to be angry. But I won’t allow myself to feel hatred towards another living thing. It’s not healthy and it’s not productive.
I love you if you read this. Also, I just love you because you’re human. Thanks, that’s all I wanted to say. :)