"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." ~ Mother Teresa
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate only love can do that." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I have waited quite awhile to write about this. I was not sure I would or could.
My heart has been aching, broken, a wrenching sadness coming in waves, a despair deep as an ocean. Life is sometimes cataclysmic, there is such fragility in this existence.
One day not so long ago all was bright, the holiday season, family, children, all the good things, the best things.
I came home from doing some Christmas shopping with my husband and mother-in-law. We had shared a lovely lunch, we laughed, bustled from shop to shop in the brisk winter chill, holiday tunes playing in the street. When I got home I went to my email and saw an odd heading on one from my daughter's school. I opened it and as I read my heart began to sink, darkness rolled into me, I could not understand what these words said. I hoped to wake up. I prayed to misunderstand.
My husband came to stand behind me and I said, "Something horrible has happened, something so horrible." Tears were filling my eyes and they do right now too. So many tears, for so many days now.
I read how in a town in the same state I live in, not a far drive away, a town just like mine, affluent, quiet, idyllic, the unthinkable had happened.
Adam Lanza, barely a man himself, had entered Sandy Hook Elementary School by force and proceeded to brutally gun down six staff and twenty children. Over the coming days the details of this tragedy would be laid out along with many bodies most of them just six or seven years old. The slaying of purity and innocence is what we grieve, what I grieve.
I have heard many people talk about "evil" in reference to Adam Lanza.Yes, it is easy to be so angry with him, to hate him. What he did is the worst of what we are capable of, the heart of darkness. When we call out evil, blame evil, it lets all of "us" off the hook. If it is just that he was pure evil we don't have to honor his humanity or inspect the pain and despair that must have grown in him over his twenty years of life. I know if we could watch a documentary of those twenty years we would see all the times , events, people and circumstances that led to that moment. We would know him as a child who was somehow not seen, who suffered intensely and was not rescued. There would be people who noticed but did not act, just as we probably all have done with someone at some time. Adam Lanza most likely lived in a very desolate lonely place and he died there too. He was once a boy, he surely wanted love. He was a human being.
When people commit atrocities large or small I think it is wise to remember, "There but for the grace of God go I." I am not making excuses, dismissing responsibility or denying the cry of outrage that issues forth from my own heart and soul as well. In fact I have been angry, furious, screaming to the heavens. I have not been angry with Adam Lanza though, I have been angry with God.
In a way I think I can understand how an Adam Lanza can come to be. I lived some dark desperate times early in my life. When I was twenty I was angry, bitter, lonely, I very often felt desperate and hopeless. I lashed out at people, mostly myself. God or spirituality were a far distant and frankly undesirable land. If life was this painful how could there be grace, not in my world. Grace was for other people, maybe, but if God's grace existed, I was definitely in exile. Unlike Adam though, certain things transpired for me that landed me in hands of help and I was able to start to recover, to heal. I turned my life around.
Over the the last twelve years I have been practicing yoga, at first like so many I thought is was just a physical fitness pursuit, but very quickly it opened my mind and heart to so much more, but my spirit was much more resistant. Then my teacher Vidya came into my life and she has patiently and vigilantly tended to and guided my exploration of a relationship with the divine, with God. It has been a tumultuous process, with one step forward and two steps back. I have witnessed true miracles in my practice. I have felt the growth of true love and compassion in my life. What causes me doubt is the darkness and suffering I see in the world. I watch the news on any given day and I ask God "Why?".
Sandy Hook hit so close to home both geographically and energetically that it was overwhelming for me. I have a daughter who is seven years old. She is bright and beautiful, small and so innocent. I can understand in a way how an Adam Lanza came to be, but I can't fathom doing what he did. To look at a face like my daughters and want to erase it, he must have been in a state of the most excruciating illness. I can come to terms with that. What I struggle with is how God could could let this happen. I have looked to the sky crying and asked, "Where were you, and if your grace was there how could it let this pass?". I have easily extended my forgiveness and compassion to Adam Lanza but I have not yet been able to extend it to God.
As the weeks have passed now, I have persevered and even in my anger and tears I have lit my candle, I have prayed. I begin to understand that it is alright for me to be angry with God, to let it be felt as intensely as it needs to be. I have seen how this event, as tragedies do, has served to bring people together, has inspired kindness and love. It is hopeful.
I have taught yoga classes since Sandy Hook and have brought into them the question of "What do we do with this? Who will we become with this?". That we is really me to be sure. The answer is to go on, to move forward, not in denial but in feeling, to remember the darkness and into it bring light. If the result is that as a people we hug our children more, practice random acts of kindness, attend to each other more compassionately, if the result is more love, then it is new life that rises from the ashes of destruction.
I think one thing needs to be addressed in particular though. We need to love everyone. We need to love the awkward, the eccentric, the misfits. We need to see it when someone is suffering and isolated and instead of looking or running the other way we need to connect. We need to love those who are not easy to love, those who don't know how to ask for it. We need to see all our brothers and sisters as family and leave no one in exile. If we want this kind of violence to never happen again it won't be because of more or less guns, or more security in schools. It will be because we finally address mental illness with compassion and conviction. We must see the unseeable, touch the untouchables. Maybe that is what God in a distressing disguise is praying for us. After all, "There but for the grace of God go I."
As I finish writing this the warm sun is shining on my back and my bubbly bright daughters are calling to me. I am feeling much more forgiving of God and ready to get on with the business of love.
I am glad I wrote this.