“With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” ~ Max Ehrmann, Desiderata
Every day when I do my morning prayers, I open with a silent prayer that is, essentially, a call to the “protective forces” of the universe to gather around me. I call on them as I prepare to go about my day asking that they protect me from harm in all that I do. I’ve been practicing Buddhism for twenty-seven years, so this opening prayer is like an supple old coat at this point. When I call on those invisible forces, I feel them gather around my shoulders.
My tribe. My angels and guides.
I know that the beautiful souls that have graced my life on this side, sit just beyond the veil. They travel with me. They surround me. I am safe in their care. I find comfort in the notion of this protection, but I don’t take it for granted. I appreciate it but I don’t imagine it will protect me from suffering. After all, suffering (aging, sickness, death) is part of life. No one gets out of here alive.
At the end of my prayers — both morning and evening — I pray for the dead. I pray for my Daddy and my sister Roxanne. I pray for my high school classmate Laurie and my cousin Delilah. I pray for a long list of relatives and friends — some who died of old age, some who committed suicide, some who died in accidents. I pray for members of my best friend’s family who have all crossed the river of death. I pray for a dear friend’s sister, father, mother. As a Buddhist, I believe that life is eternal — that the essence of those I love — cannot be destroyed by death. I believe it is the body that is left behind when we depart. However, the spirit — the light inside of a person that is unique to them — that continues to burn forever. In death, that spirit becomes latent. When that soul is ready to be re-born, that spirit manifests again.
I have been thinking about these things in the wake of the shooting a couple of days ago in Colorado. As families try to make sense of the carnage, I wonder if we will learn the lesson that these deaths might teach us.
- Will we finally admit we are a culture that glorifies violence that needs to change?
- Will we examine why we allow even the most deranged among us access to weapons that should not be for sale anywhere to anyone?
- Will we search our souls to uncover why we only seem willing to consider the consequences of our gun laws as we watch the body bags pile up?
- Will we ask the hard questions such as why we value access to guns more than we value life?
- Why is it that so many among us are paranoid and fearful?
- Why do we fail to help so many of our fellow travelers who are struggling with the specter of profound mental illness?
I suppose all these are rhetorical questions.
Can they be answered? I don’t know. It seems that there is neither the social or political or spiritual will to address them. Changing the laws without changing the internal forces that so desperately need to be addressed seems counter-intuitive.
Those of us who feel that guns should not be so ubiquitous are labeled as simply unable to comprehend the dangers of the world. We are defective in our desire to see humanity in a light other than a monstrous one. Those who feel that every man, woman, and child should be packing heat, seem to think we are living in a “Mad Max” world — a post apocalyptic wasteland full of mutants and misfits — whose only joy in life is shooting the crap out of tin cans (or anything else than moves) on the back ten.
Is there no middle ground?
I am drawn back to the notion that what we focus on, increases. What we believe about the world (good, bad or ugly) generally tends to play out like a bad B-movie, showing continuously in bloody technicolor.
If we don’t do the inner work to change this, that “movie” will keep featuring horrible carnage. I circle back to my morning prayers for protection and my morning and evening prayers for the dead. I try to make sense of something that will never make sense. Still, I put my faith in the center — at the heart of my life — and I keep going. As we all must do.
© 2012 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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