If you want it.
“I don’t want to live in this world anymore.”
That’s what the voice in my head said yesterday as I learned of yet another mass shooting in yet another elementary school, taking away the precious lives of more children and those charged with their care and education.
Who can blame any of us for not wanting to live in a world that is torn by violence, divided by hatred and plagued by cynical grabs for political power and fame? No one in their right mind would want to live in this world – and that’s just the problem. We’re not in our right mind. We’re in the ego’s rage-filled, hate-filled mind of separation.
The good news is this: We can live in another world. First, though, we have to withdraw our faith and belief in this world. The ego has invested all of its power in making us believe that this is the only world that is possible. It pulls out all the stops to keep us feeling separate, to keep us feeling lost, helpless and afraid.
The ego’s deception is brilliant and it has held us in its sway of separation and fear for far too long. It’s time to call its bluff. It’s time to stop living in its world and instead create a new world of peace, joy, love and compassion. It’s time we took back our world from the lies and fear of the ego and returned it to its rightful state of love.
How do we do that? We stop investing in its stock and trade of a belief that we are separate from one another. We stop believing in our differences and instead put all of our faith and effort into our commonality – our unity. We do that by refusing to demonize or “other” anyone. We do that by refusing to close our heart to anyone – whether they hold different political views, or even a gun.
This gunman, and all the ones before him, are also victims. They have been victimized by a society that tells them they are worthless for any number of reasons – they are not masculine enough, they are not smart enough, they are not famous enough. In whatever way it matters to them, our world has affirmed that they are not enough and will never be enough. We train our young in the art of killing with video games, freely available guns and a culture that produces movies, products and other things that glorifies “redemptive violence” as the answer to any of your problems. “Might makes right,” as the motto goes.
We have all so internalized this violent culture that whenever someone gives in to the temptation to act and takes away the lives of those around them, we shrug, send our thoughts and prayers and go one with our lives, believing such a thing could never happen to us or anyone we love. Until, of course, it does. No one is immune – not even those of us among peace and love crowd.
How do we claim this new world? We stop “othering” those who commit these acts of violence. The young man in this latest shooting, as well as the other 18-year-old in Buffalo, New York, are not anomalies. They are us. Until we can recognize the violence in our own heads, we will never be free from violence around us.
Make no mistake, my friends, even the most peaceful among us, given the right circumstances, has the capacity to kill, to do great violence to ourselves and others. We send our thoughts and prayers, sure, but deep in our hearts, we want five minutes alone in a room with the latest perpetrator of violence. We want to do violence to them, and as long as that is our first reaction – or even our second or third – violence will remain alive in the world.
How do we change this world? We deal honestly and openly with our own penchant for violence and revenge. We become willing to see our own pain and trauma so it can be brought forward and healed. In short, we do our work. The world is in this terrible state because we have not been willing to do our own difficult emotional work. We believe we can create a world of peace outside without first creating it on the inside. This is not how it works.
Yes, do the work in the world that can make a difference – rally and advocate for more gun control laws and any and all mental health policies that can help to turn the tide. But do your inner work, too. This is the key piece that we forget, but it is the only thing that will truly make a difference in the world. We are all wounded by this world, but it is those who have healed their wounds that ultimately turn the world toward love and away from fear.
“Raise your words,” wrote that Muslim mystic poet Rumi, “not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
This is the moment where our words need to be raised. We must speak words of love, peace, wisdom and compassion. Those words, though, have to come from a heart filled with love and not hate, filled with peace and not anger. Those words must come from the world we want, not the world we have.
My words may sound hollow and woo-woo naïve to some, but the only reason that love’s solution to this world sounds crazy is because we have yet to try it, let alone invest our entire heart, body, soul, and mind into creating a world based upon it. When will we see that this is our only way out? When will we finally get so tired of the ego’s insane “seek but do not find” world that we’ll even think to try another way? When will we say, “enough,” and finally deal with our own inner violence so that the world may live in peace?
If you, like me, don’t want to live in this world anymore, then don’t. Give this other world of love and unity a chance to come into reality. Do your work. Heal the violence in your own heart and mind. Lay down your inner guns, raise your words and rain down the life-giving power of love on everyone – victim and perpetrator alike – because they are us.
Whosoever founder and Editor Emeritus Rev. Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. She earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She serves as the spiritual director of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C., and blogs at Motley Mystic.