All photos credited to the author, unless indicated otherwise.
Just as I am drafting an introduction to the book, The Power of Love, hatred breaks out in "my own backyard." I live in Redlands, California, near the townhome where two terrorists lived a double life. On the surface, they were newlyweds "living the American dream," devout and private, with a newborn baby. In secret, they nursed a hatred of America and condemned our way of life as "evil."
On December 2, 2015, this young couple, Tashfeen Malik, 29, and Seyd Rizwan Farook, 28, left their 6-month-old daughter, suited up in black tactical gear, loaded a rented black SUV with assault weapons and pipe bombs, drove a few miles to the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, and gunned down Farook's co-workers who were gathered for a holiday party. It was a cold and calculated mass killing. Some of the people killed had recently attended a baby shower for the couple. The killers left pipe bombs to be exploded by remote control.
14 dead, 22 wounded. "Carnage." "Unspeakable." These were the words spoken from the first responding officer who entered the killing room, still fresh with the smell of gunpowder. At the time of the killing, the female shooter, Malik, posted allegiance to the leader of the "ISIS" on Facebook. This attack has been called the "largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11."
It was the very ordinariness of the location - a holiday party for county workers - that leaves us feeling vulnerable.
The Memorial Site
At the "memorial site" near the shooting - candles, flowers, prayers, flags, pictures of the deceased, stuffed animals. A week ago, this intersection was unremarkable - another traffic light on the way to work. Now it is a sacred site. It holds the longing and pain of the human heart.
People need a place to express the heart. Honor the dignity of life. Reaffirm our hope. Unite with others, rather than divide. Light a candle. Say a prayer. Kneel and ask for mercy. Remember those who have passed. Reach out and hold the hand of a friend. Weep quietly.
We shake our heads - how could this be? What on earth leads people to kill innocents in the name of God? Sadly, over the course of centuries, our soil has been soaked with the blood of religious extremism and the killing of innocents.
I said an inner prayer I learned from my spiritual teacher many years ago: "Forgive the one in me who has ever done this or could do this."
As much as I'd like to distance myself and view the killers as an "enemy," I am aware of the danger of projecting the unconscious "shadow" onto an outer "enemy." This projection is the very basis of hatred. Vilifying others as "the enemy" only obscures the real enemy, which is ignorance.
At the memorial site, there were 14 American flags for the 14 people shot to death by the terrorists.
Ironically, one of the victims was a Christian woman who had immigrated from Iran two decades ago to escape Islamic extremism, only to be gunned down by Islamic extremists here in the U.S.
One of the men killed is remembered as a hero. He saved the life of a friend by covering her with his own body, taking the shots so she didn't have to. "I got you" - he told her.
A young woman among the dead was the same age as the shooters; she was admired for her dedication to helping others. How to explain the difference? One young person on a path of loving, the others a path of killing.
Another person killed was a gay man, known as "a free spirit" to his many friends, whose death evoked a heartfelt prayer written at the memorial site: "On behalf of the LGBT community, our prayers and love to our human family. Violence is NEVER the Word of God. Rest in Peace and Healing to our community."
The Killers' Townhome
I also went to the townhome where Farook and Malik lived, not far from me. When authorities broke into the house, they found poignant evidence of a double life. The couple's garage housed an "arsenal" of ammunition and bomb-making equipment, alongside the signs of a passion for tinkering with cars. Baby gear and gun cleaner were next to each other in the kitchen. The baby crib stood in a room that doubled as an office with computer and document shredder. In the trash can were electronic devices, smashed to eliminate incriminating evidence.
The couple had evidently planned to carry out further mass shooting and bomb attacks after the initial "soft target." Why else all the ammunition? Their SUV was loaded with 1400 rifle rounds and 200 handgun rounds at the time they were intercepted and killed in a shootout with law enforcement. Where were they going? We may never know. Farook, working as a county health inspector, had seen inside many local schools and facilities. The perfect job for scoping out targets.
Their townhome was boarded up, no signs of life - a contrast to the unit next door with its silver snowflakes in holiday sparkle.
There were no flowers, candles, or flags placed on the steps. No banners to affirm hope. No posters with heartfelt prayers for the deceased. No expressions of sorrow for the loss of their young lives.
Only dismay. And a chill up the spine. "How could they have done this? Living so close, plotting to kill, and we didn't know?"
"If it can happen in Redlands, it can happen anywhere."
As I was standing in front of the townhome, a delivery man drove by and asked from his window, "Is this where the killers lived?" I nodded.
Then, a pause. Farook and Malik were indeed the "killers." But weren't they also the victims of hatred? There were 16 people - not just 14 -- killed by hatred in this tragedy. It would be easy to see them as the "enemy," but the real enemy is ignorance.
The photographs of Farook and Malik as teenagers show a light in the eyes, the hopefulness of youth, and a certain congeniality and softness. In the recent photographs, however, this "inner light" has been extinguished. They look blank and hardened. Joyless. What happened to them? There is a coldness in the eyes. Something very menacing had taken possession of them. I mourned the loss of their young lives and the female infant left orphaned by hatred and currently in foster care.
The Shadow of Hatred
Hatred in all of its forms is destructive: deception, judgment, disdain, arrogance, revenge, impatience, antagonism, aggression, outrage, sarcasm, pouting, hostility, intolerance, explosive behavior, spite, jealousy, indignation, slander and false witness, criticalness, stubbornness, anger, oppression, control, abuse, manipulation.
Massacre of innocents is a form of hatred that is singularly savage.
As I stood there in front of the townhome of Farook and Malik, I bore the inner tension of seeming opposites. On the one hand, I have to face the existence of hatred in a place I least expected it. This killing points to a danger I had been wishfully hoping was "not so bad."
Denial is the accomplice to violence, as any survivor of childhood abuse knows. Minimizing a menace only increases the future death toll due to delay of curative action - like catching a cancer "too late." This event shakes me out of denial.
The fact that Farook and Malik were Islamic-identified terrorists is not pleasant. No one wanted this to be the case. Our local Muslim population is horrified and fearful of retaliation. They have criticized the attacks and raised funds for the victims' families. We have joined together for interfaith vigils and dialogues.
"We are all in this together" is the feeling. No citizen, Muslim or non-Muslim, is served by minimizing the threat of groups who aim to kill in the name of Islam.
The terrorists' stated mission is shocking. They refer to America as "putrid" and "evil" (and much worse, not suitable for this article). Their apparent goal is to dominate the Middle East by playing on widespread anti-American hatred, eliminate Israel, infiltrate and destabilize Europe and the U.S. in whatever way available (digitally and entering through all borders), and destroy Western culture. Extremist sharia law would replace our Constitution, with beheading and other forms of public execution as a common occurrence to eliminate all dissent.
This is not a religion; it is hatred under the guise of religion.
The Power of Love
On the other hand, hatred has not won the day.
Love has taken the form of affirming the value and beauty of life. Kindness, open-heartedness, compassion, and loving-kindness. Listening and receptivity. Nurturing the bonds of universal friendship. Gratitude, hope, welcoming each other, forgiveness, affection, generosity, appreciation for all that one has and is.
Meeting hatred with hatred doubles the hatred. Love dissolves it.
Love casts no blame; it seeks to understand. Love is patient and steadfast. On the physical level, loving intentions and acts of kindness produce healing hormones that facilitate a state of calm, safety, and health.
Whereas hatred isolates and catastrophizes, love interconnects and encourages. Love says, "We'll get through this together. Your pain is my pain. Your joy, my joy." Whatever we do to another, we do it to ourselves, because we are all part of the whole.
Love never judges. It has infinite compassion for all human beings because it sees the innocence of consciousness. The child cannot discriminate what it learns as "truth"; if surrounded by violence and indoctrinated with hatred, how can the child not become violent and hateful?
His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, one of the world's most highly regarded lamas, is a Tibetan refugee living in India at Gyuto Monastery.
Author at Gyuto Monastery, India, home of His Holiness the Karmapa
When I interviewed him for the book, The Power of Love, he spoke on the power of "pure love" in the face of suffering:
[When pure love is in us], we are seeing their suffering, we are seeing the other as a part of ourselves, and we feel ourselves to be a part of the other. For that reason, when we witness their pain or their happiness, we experience it as our own pain and our own happiness. And when this basis is there, the basis that comes from love, then naturally their pain becomes unbearable for us to witness and we must act to do something about it. Interview with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa
He said that, recently, a friend of his was murdered. Love means to forgive the one who killed.
It is very possible to see that the person who does the killing is actually an object of greater compassion than the victim of the killing, because it's an action done out of great ignorance. Looking at the action, the action was clearly wrong, it was a mistake, and there's no way around that fact. There is no excusing of the action. But the person himself can be forgiven. Interview with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa
When His Holiness visited the University of Redlands earlier this year, a student asked him how to view terrorists such as those of the Islamic State. "With compassion." We may have an initial reaction of anger and want revenge because the violence is so "horrific." But we can take a breath, step back from the strong emotional reaction, and see things from a "broader perspective" -- made possible by compassion. Compassion is born when we see that the terrorists are essentially "brainwashed from an early age." They are helplessly brought up to believe in a violent ideology and forms of behavior through "no agency of their own."
His Holiness the Karmapa walking into a class building at the University of Redlands
Photo credit: Carlos Puma/University of Redlands
Remembering these comments from His Holiness, I sought to learn about Farook and Malik. In the most recent statements from the F.B.I., it seems that by the time they met online at a Muslim dating site, in 2013, Malik and Farook were already "radicalized" by terrorist ideology, focused on jihad and martyrdom. In fact, their courting may have been a subterfuge. He spent over a week in Saudi Arabia in summer of 2014, telling co-workers he had gone there to get married. He brought her back with him on a fiancée visa.
Farouk and Malik lived here in Redlands and kept to themselves. She never drove, and even close family members say they did not see her face because she wore a niqab, covering all but her eyes. Farook told his friend he was impressed with a woman so devoted to her religion that she would take on the strictest adherence. He expressed disdain for American culture and found it hostile to his religion.
Farook and Malik were devoted, committed, and loyal - but how did these generally positive traits become so mal-aligned?
Our life can be devoted to love and beauty, or it can be devoted to hatred and destruction. A chisel can be used to carve sacred Buddhist art, or to destroy the world's largest standing Buddhas.
Tibetan craftsman at Norbulingka Institute, Sidhbari, India
In the very same week that the terrorist killing happened, two antique Iranian rugs were delivered to my house - inherited from my parents. I contemplated the irony. Both paths - the rug weaver and the terrorist - require years of intense dedication and training. Yet one path is devoted to beauty, and the other to destruction.
What determines the direction of a human being's life?
Looking into the background of the young woman shooter who was my neighbor, I can see that I might have followed a similar trajectory had I been raised as she was. Malik spent much of her life in Saudi Arabia, an authoritarian Islamic kingdom where there is little religious freedom and women have few rights. It is not allowed, for example, for women to drive or go anywhere without a male chaperone. Saudi Arabia (historically our "ally") is deemed a major violator of human rights, despite its claims to be "modern."
Islamic sharia is the basis of civic law, guided by a very strict interpretation historically influenced by Wahhabism. According to Saudi Arabia's Basic Law of Governance,"the aim of education is to implant the Islamic creed in the hearts of all youths" and it is the "duty of every citizen to defend the Islamic Creed." The government's aim is to "protect the Islamic Creed, apply the Sharia, encourage good and discourage evil, and undertake its duty regarding the Propagation of Islam."
Public beheadings occur for those accused of non-lethal offenses such as drug trafficking, "apostasy" (disagreement with the legally approved interpretation of Islamic faith), "sorcery and witchcraft," "adultery," homosexual sex, and other "crimes." Under this code, I imagine that 99% of the 70,000 residents of Redlands would be liable for execution in Saudi Arabia.
This year, 2015, has seen the highest number of executions in Saudi Arabia since 1995, averaging one execution every other day. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International categorize Saudi Arabia as one of the world's top five blatant violators of human rights. Lack of fair trials. Execution of people under the age of 18. Public beheading and stoning. Oppression of women. The majority of those executed have committed offenses that are not considered "crimes" in the U.S. or would carry light sentences.
Had I been raised in this environment, it is reasonable to imagine that I, too, would have become "radicalized" by hatred, justifying violence to carry out the propagation of my religion.
As it is, my life has been deeply influenced by Sufism, a path of love. The Sufis follow absolute non-coercion in matters of faith, highlighting the Quranic verse: "Light upon Light. Allah guides to His Light whom Allah will" (24:35).
Sufi devotees at saint's tomb in New Delhi, India
As I stood in front of the townhome where Farook and Malik lived, there was a choice. Would I hate them or love them?
To choose love does not mean to deny the existence of hatred. Love is inseparable from truth, and truth sees things as they are. Love is not wishful thinking and does not "bury its head in the sand." Love knows that hatred and suffering are part and parcel of earthly life, and love works to lessen the suffering and dispel the illusions that contribute to it.
According to various spiritual traditions, this world is not meant to be a heavenly paradise but a place of maximal opportunity for spiritual evolution. "Love is the ultimate law of the universe" (David R. Hawkins, Letting Go). The presence of suffering facilitates spiritual liberation for those who see it as such an opportunity.
A spiritual outlook transforms one's life into an opportunity for love and liberation
The choosing of "good" (love, compassion, forgiveness) requires the presence of "evil," within an environment of free will. As the Dalai Lama says, "With no enemy, how do we learn tolerance or forgiveness?" (Soul of Tibet, A&E Video).
We are not forced to "love our enemy," but if we do so, the step forward benefits not only ourselves but the whole human family. "Loving the enemy" is no mere spiritual platitude. It is an act of inner courage with major consequences for oneself and the world.
It is the all-inclusiveness of love that is so demanding. People say, "I want love," without realizing that love has no conditions to it. Genuine love is unconditional and does not depend on the actions or responses of others.
Elder Pavlos is the senior monk at St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, Egypt. He was recently featured in Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer, a documentary film on the centuries-old practice in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Father Pavlos of Sinai, speaking at the University of Redlands
In his comments to me, he was emphatic that genuine love has no room for judgment because we do not see as God sees.
The great ascetic writer Abba Dorotheos of Gaza said, "Even when you see a person sin with your own eyes, never judge him because you don't see the struggle he waged before he fell into that sin." God is Love. And God who is Love sees what we do not see. God sees how the person struggled before he fell into sin. God will place a great deal of emphasis on this struggle, and God judges him according to the struggle, not just on what we saw. For we saw only the outcome, the last stage, and nothing that went on beforehand. Interview with Elder Pavlos of Sinai
Elder Pavlos said that the monks pray for those that hate them. Their monastery is located in the Egyptian desert, and not all the neighbors are friendly.
For us, genuine love as Christ taught it, and He himself lived it, means that we don't just love those who love us but also those who hate us. On the cross, our Christ prayed for those who crucified him and this is the point to which we also must reach. It is easy to love those who love you. But the one who doesn't love you and hates you, it requires effort to love him. And so the very greatest expression of genuine love is to love the one who doesn't love you but hates you. It's a long road and difficult an uphill one road. But this is the true path to genuine love. Interview with Elder Pavlos of Sinai
When we really say "Yes" to love, it changes us. Love means the letting go of our fear, resentment, self-pity, judgment of self and others, and demands on others to please us. Love is infinitely more powerful than hatred and brings a release of vital and creative energy that wasn't there before. What had previously not been possible, with love, becomes so. This is obvious in the life of Gandhi.
Gandhi is revered, seen here in money-changing office in Dharmasala
It was through the power of love that Gandhi brought British Imperialism to its knees. (David R. Hawkins, Power vs. Force). He never treated the British people as his "enemy"; he saw the oppressive systems of imperialism and caste as the "enemy."
When all violence subsides in the human heart, the state which remains is love. It is not something we have to acquire; it is always present, and needs only to be uncovered. This is our real nature, not merely to love one person here, another there, but to be love itself. (Gandhi, in Easwaren, Gandhi the Man, 53).
Likewise, in another time and place, Nelson Mandela showed what is possible when love replaces hate in a violent political environment that offered no hope for resolution. A whole country was transformed into something that had never before been imagined: the co-creation of a new democracy by black and white leaders, with the establishment of a "truth and reconciliation" process to heal through past decades of racial hatred.
Mandela underwent a profound inner transformation during his 27 years in prison, detailed in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. Having once been a tribal fighter, he emerged with a unifying humanistic vision that saw both the oppressed and the oppressor as prisoners of hatred.
"The oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred" - Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
Like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela saw the "enemy" as a system of hatred, not the people who ran it. He was committed to a win-win resolution for the whole of S. Africa, refusing all options that offered temporary partisan or personal advantage.
Love has the power of vision for a unifying solution, because love knows the inviolability of interdependence and works for the whole.
The groundbreaking book by Dr. David R. Hawkins, Power vs. Force, not only discusses the work of Gandhi, Mandela, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and other "great souls." The book demonstrates that Love is the most transformative energy field in every dimension of life - work, business, education, the arts, politics, creativity, sports, and home life.
"Love changed the world each time it replaced non-love." David R. Hawkins, Power vs. Force
Hawkins (1927-2012) was a world-renowned psychiatrist and clinical scientist. After several unexpected experiences of the "Infinite Presence" and "All-Encompassing Love," his life was totally altered. This transformed consciousness led to the founding of the path of Devotional Nonduality.
Dr. David R. Hawkins, 2012
Photo credit: F. Grace/ Veritas Publishing
When I interviewed him, he emphasized the power of Love in everyday life.
A place to start is to love that you are, that you exist, and to be grateful for your existence. We bring more love into our lives simply by consciously focusing on its presence as a motivator in everyday life. For example, the love involved in making the family dinner, in cleaning the kitty boxes, in going to work to pay the bills.
Ordinary endeavors, done out of love, carry great power. A dinner made with love makes a difference for the family. It makes a difference in how one experiences life. The Olympiad who runs out of love for his country has a more positive experience than the one who runs to win for himself. Love as a motivator has great power to it.
During the war - I was in the Navy on a mine sweeper - we did things out of love for our shipmates that we wouldn't have done otherwise. That is love as a bond of unity. It is fraternal love. There is also maternal love, which is the willingness of the mother to sacrifice for her child. Lovingness as a way of being expresses itself in all of these ways. Interview with Dr. David R. Hawkins
Dr. David and Susan Hawkins, with family dog, Kelsey
Photo credit: F. Grace/ Veritas Publishing
When asked, What is Love?, he spoke of it as an ever-present energy field, not as an emotion.
Love is an energy field that is available everywhere all the time. People think of love primarily as affection, as in "Honey" and "Sweetheart." They tend to think of being "in love" and romantic love. In reality, romance is a minor portion of one's life experience. Yes, a big love affair at age 18 is overwhelming! But most of life involves other expressions of love: love of family, love of friends, love of pets, love of home, love of possessions, love of health, love of ideals, love of values, love of country, love of purpose, etc. In everyday life, most of our friends and activities are all occurring in the field of love, but it isn't romantic love. There is actually an invisible, all encompassing energy field of Love that surrounds everyone and everything. Interview with Dr. David R. Hawkins
I am aware of all of this as I stand in front of the terrorists' townhome. Each of us stands at the doorstep of an "enemy" and faces the same decision that I have been facing with Farook and Malik. Perhaps it is an "enemy" in our family or at work or in larger society. For some, the "enemy" we need to have compassion for is a part of ourselves we have always despised and rejected.
When I interviewed Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo at the DGL Nunnery which she founded in India, she highlighted the Buddhist teaching that compassion starts with oneself.
"Befriend yourself. Until you love yourself, you cannot love others! It doesn't work to look to somebody else, hoping they will love us and make us feel complete. That's not love. That's attachment. The only way to feel complete is to open up to yourself, with appreciation and encouragement and compassion for yourself." Interview with Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo
The temple at the Nunnery is the first of its kind - resplendent with depictions of the Divine Feminine and female arhats. The visuals are a vivid mirror to the nuns of women's divine nature. Sacred art is a way that love, through Beauty, dissolves self-hatred.
Green Tara in the Temple of DGL Nunnery, India
For Palmo, the problem of hatred and violence has to be addressed "from the inside" of us. Our thoughts "pollute" the world far more than our household trash. The "light" of awareness from a single individual who has done the inner work makes a big difference the world at large.
The reason the world is in such a horrible state today is not the world's fault! It's the fault of the beings that inhabit the world - and not the lions and the tigers, but the humans! The world is run by people with polluted minds. We have a very polluted planet, and it all starts with the mind.
We are projecting so much thought pollution, which is far worse than the other pollution everyone is concerned about. If we could see it, we would see that this planet is in very bad shape because of the amount of violence, hate, greed, and envy. It is emanating not only from the individuals but also from movies, television, and newspapers. So any Light that shines into darkness is bound to be very radiant because of how dark it is.
It's like weeding the garden. You water good plants and you pull out the weeds. That way, gradually, the mind begins to un-pollute. Then one's speech will reflect one's thoughts, and one's actions will flow from there -- with more skill, more clarity, and based on a good heart instead of a polluted heart. It's obvious. People always try to change things on the outside. They don't understand that it has to start from the inside. Interview with Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo
Each moment, if we are conscious to it, brings the opportunity to be aware of ourselves and to "weed our garden" of envy, futility, hatred, and greed. To choose love and affirm life. To encourage rather than criticize. To befriend rather than isolate. To augment the positive rather than look for faults.
The choice is ours. Do we hold onto bitterness, revenge, and judgment? Or do we see with eyes of compassion so that something new can be born into human consciousness?
Growing a Global Heart
Recently, I spoke with the co-founders of Growing a Global Heart, Dedan Gills and Belvie Rooks. Their vision was birthed on the doorstep of "the enemy." When they traveled to Ghana and visited the "slave dungeons," they had no idea this would be a turning point in their life. This is what they told us at a presentation at the University of Redlands, highlighted in this video.
Belvie Rooks and Dedan Gills
Photo credit: Larry Rose
They are lifelong activists for civil rights, joining Martin Luther King, Jr., in the struggle to end segregation. Sitting in the slave dungeons in Africa, they wept a sorrow that had no name. This is "where it all started." Indeed, their ancestors "had no name" - erased from history. The horrific journey to America began in these dungeons. For hundreds of years, African men, women and children were kidnapped, thrown into the dungeons, then pushed through the "Door of No Return" onto ships to the American and other continents where they were enslaved in a brutal slavery system.
Belvie Rooks at the "Door of No Return" - Ghana, Africa
Photo credit: Dedan Gills
The cruelty was too much to comprehend. She heard the screams of the young girls raped. He had heard the cries of the infants torn from their mother's breast.
In the depth of despair, he asked her, "What would healing look like?" This is the kind of question that love makes possible. Love affirms a step forward. It opens the door to something new. Love activates the creative potential that is in all of us.
The answer that came to her was a line from a poem by her friend Alice Walker: "When they torture your mother, plant a tree...." This inspiration led to the founding of Growing a Global Heart, a "vision that inspires the ceremonial planting of millions of memorial trees to honor the forgotten souls of our past: the victims of urban violence, the Underground Railroad, and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Route in West Africa."
Belvie and Dedan told me: "Trees breathe for the whole" and are a "symbol of unconditional love." Trees give to everyone, regardless of race. This was a vision of social healing that included everyone, even the environment itself. "Healing the wounds of the past -- in the present -- while creating a sustainable future."
Tree-Planting Ceremony in Oakland, with United Roots and Trees-4-Life
Photo credit: Steve Uzzell and Suzanne Lambert
Belvie and Dedan have done ceremonial plantings of trees around the world. It is an act of solidarity with the whole of humankind and the planet itself. Love transcends "us" vs. them." It is interconnecting and holistic.
Belvie remembers the day that compassion was born in her heart for a white racist. She visited the Confederate Cemetery in Selma, Alabama. Confederates had died to keep her ancestors enslaved. History views them as her "arch enemy." She was shocked to see that many of the soldiers were teenagers. She placed a flower on the grave of a 17-year-old Confederate soldier, in recognition of "the innocence of the child."
The "wisdom of the soil" does not discriminate. It receives the deceased from both sides of the battlefield.
Photo credit: Steve Uzzell and Suzanne Lambert
One day, a friend called Dedan and was very upset at photographs of lynching posted on a website. When he looked at one of the photographs, he saw a crowd of white people, including children, standing in their Sunday best, watching as a black man was lynched. How could they do this?! Immediately he identified with the black man. But the more he stared at the white people, he realized he could kill them. And that he might have done the same thing if he had been raised as they were.
No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same. Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, Man's Search for Meaning.
Humility prevents judgment of any kind.
The Shadow of Hatred - Again
Terrorism has had a traumatizing effect. Our roads were blocked off, helicopters circled for days, and we were told to stay indoors and be vigilant. And even now that the immediate aftermath has passed, the underlying unease doesn't go away overnight. Movie theaters and restaurants and religious services are emptier than usual. A siren goes by, and we look at each other with dread: "Did it happen again?" "Are you okay?" is the greeting, and "Stay safe" is the good-bye.
The times demand discernment, which is characteristic of wisdom and not predicated on judgmentalism. It sees the truth, free and clear of moral platitudes, ideology, emotions such as anger and revenge, political influences, stereotypes, fears, and wishful thinking. It calls a spade a spade, even while it holds out the hope for a heart. It neither vilifies nor mollifies. Discernment and wisdom are the complement to compassion. With compassion, we understand that the human mind is vulnerable to propaganda and desperation.
The most important "surveillance" to be done is on our own individual psyche.
As Carl Jung noted at the rise of the Nazi slaughter, we are our own worst enemies. The primary danger to humanity is our own unconscious shadow. The projection of this repressed shadow onto an "outer enemy" is the foundation of all hatred, fear, and violence.
According to Jung, we have a "personal shadow" and a "collective shadow." The personal shadow is comprised of all that is unwanted and rejected in ourselves, all the parts of our personality that we repressed in order to fit in with family, school, peers, work, culture, religion. When we are not aware, these despised elements are projected onto those around us and we are prone to dislike them or even vilify them.
The collective shadow of hatred is much more forceful - "archetypal" - and contains transpersonal energies of intense negativity constellated in the Western psyche by symbols such as "the snake," concepts such as "the devil," and totalitarian figures such as Hitler who purposefully manipulate collective fear and hatred for their own megalomaniac ends. Puritanical religious beliefs constellate a negative collective shadow of hatred for "sin" and "sinners." The execution of "witches" and Quakers in the early Puritan colonies is an example, as is the genocide of Native Americans. Jung said the collective shadow "is best understood as a principle like evil." We ignore it to our peril, which is what occurred with Hitler's Nazism in Jung's own time.
It is the colossal shadow thrown by man, of which our age had to have such a devastating experience. It is no easy matter to fit this shadow into our cosmos. The view that we can simply turn our back on evil and in this way eschew it, belongs to the long list of antiquated naiveties. This is sheer ostrich policy and does not affect the reality of evil in the slightest. C.G. Jung, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, 322.
Therefore, Jung said, the most important individual political act is to face our own "dark side."
Hatred lurks in the shadows of the unconscious psyche. As much as we limit access to guns, as many troops as we send over to stop the terrorists, we still have the responsibility to face and dispel the hatred in our own consciousness. It is human consciousness that pulls the trigger, not the weapon.
When we own our shadow, we withdraw the projection of it onto others. This depth work takes many years. It requires dedication to a verified spiritual path and/or work with a Jungian analyst or comparable guidance. Few people are willing to work on themselves in this way, for the shadow comprises all that we reject and dread seeing in ourselves. It's easier to hate Bush, hate Obama, hate Trump, hate ISIS, hate the Christians, hate the Muslims, hate the gays, hate our boss, hate our father, hate America, etc.
The self-righteousness of judgementalism feeds a feeling of superiority. Judgment makes us feel "better than." If we are "anti" something, then we are superior to them in our own mind. Most people would rather project their shadow onto others in judgment, pointing the finger, and calling for revenge and redress. They get offended at the suggestion that perhaps their perception is distorted.
The key is compassion. Compassion is what unlocks the door to true awareness of self and others. It is compassion for the rejected parts of the human being and for the fact that, as children, we are all innocent.
We cannot help that we are "programmed" with beliefs and attitudes that are harmful to ourselves and others. Only when we become conscious of what's in our closet can we decide what to get rid of and what to keep. When we accept what's in the darkness of our own shadow, we are not afraid to see it in others.
Love remains hopeful but avoids wishful thinking.
Wishful thinking and credulity vis-a-vis a collective shadow energy can have devastating consequences, as we see from the mistake of Prime Minister Chamberlain with Adolf Hitler.
Chamberlain took Hitler at his word that he was interested in a peace agreement. He was taken in. Hitler promised that, if given certain territories, he would not invade others. They signed the Munich Agreement in 1938, and Chamberlain returned to Britain proudly lauding "the peace for our time." Within a year, as bombs rained down on the U.K., he was seen as a fool for having believed in the integrity of a totalitarian Hitler. Hitler had never intended to honor the agreement and probably scoffed at Chamberlain's wishful thinking.
We live in a climate of oversensitivity and "being offended," which cuts us off from our instinct. A neighbor to the shooters in Redlands noticed the arrival of frequent packages and had an inkling that something was suspicious, but she didn't want to say anything out of fear of being called a "bigot." Our fear of being seen as a bigot leaves us vulnerable to being killed by one.
Political correctness is expressing its shadow side of intolerance when it cuts us off from our instincts and makes us afraid of raising a reasonable concern. Learning the "right" (politically correct) vocabulary is one thing. Having our heart truly open to "the other" is a wholly different level of human understanding. Wisdom looks for the essence underneath outer claims, declarations, pronouncements and protestations. Not all those who claim to be an ally are such.
Photo credit: Christopher Michel 2012
His Holiness the Dalai Lama offers an example of such instinctual wisdom. As the young leader of the Tibetan people, he was invited by Chairman Mao to China to view the industrial "progress." Mao said this new economic edge would "help" Tibet move into the future. His Holiness was very impressed by Mao's social vision and way of speaking. But, in one critical moment, he saw through the façade of harmony and goodwill and "progress" to the real intention. Mao leaned over and said with disdain, "of course religion is poison." The Dalai Lama was stunned and disappointed. He said his whole face became piercingly hot - a body instinctual response to threat. He realized that Maoism was no friend to Tibet, despite many claims.
Discernment is the capacity to see things as they really are, not as we'd like them to be. True peace comes as a result of truth. If the truth of a genuine threat to our safety is not acknowledged, chaos ensues. The collective psyche knows when it's being lied to and mollified. Such denial opens the door to a pendulum swing to militancy.
The Power of Love - Again
The world I inhabit looks different to me than it did last week. This shooting has altered something. Even though I have taught a college course called "Religion and Hate," I find it hard to face the terrorist atrocities head-on. I want to look away, find comfort in denial, saying, "Oh it isn't that bad. We are invincible." It's normal to want to minimize a threat. Who wants to live in fear? The challenge is to face the threat realistically but also avoid acting out of fear.
Such brutality and oppression seem foreign to us, even though our own soil has seen the Puritans' public execution of dissenters, the enslavement of Africans, the decimation of Native Americans. These horrific acts of violence are in the collective shadow of our own country, and we do well not to forget them.
Mass Grave at Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, S.D.
They remind us of what Americans are capable of when we project a negative shadow onto an "enemy." I used to think, "It'll never happen here." But that's not true. It HAS "happened here." Over and over again. And now Islamic extremism is discovered to be on our soil.
In the current climate of divisive rhetoric and "taking sides," large-scale and ideologically driven proposals might be polarizing rather than resolving. The readers need to know that, whatever political avenue they choose, there is also great power in works of love.
Small acts of love may seem insignificant, but they are not. It may seem unimportant to forgive someone who slights us at work, but it is not. "Do small things with great love," said Mother Teresa.
Tomb of Mother Teresa, Calcutta, India
Because of the interconnectedness of all of life, everything we do, think, and hold in our hearts radiates out to the whole.
We don't have to be a newscaster or presidential candidate or CEO or movie star or author to influence the course of world events. Each of us has an equal part in what becomes of the world. The ego glamorizes certain positions as "important" and "influential," but Love sees the absolute equality of everyone's contribution.
In our daily interactions, we can be more present with those we love. Listen to our friend with an open heart. Bear witness to the suffering we see - without numbing or turning away. Care for our pets and family members. Be awake to the love that we have all around us in the form of trees, family, neighbors, friends, animals, air, water, gravity.
Look for ways to augment beauty around us. It can happen in the simplest ways. When Nelson Mandela was in prison, he planted tomato seeds in a trash can. Over time, he a had tomato vine full of tomatoes and he gave them to the prison guards and their families.
As lovers of life, we nurture life wherever we find it. "Love is a way of being in the world," my teacher would always say. "Even the tree knows when Love walks by."
Photo credit: Steve Uzzell and Suzanne Lambert
The Choice - Again
If we have the inner discipline to steer clear of fear and see our current difficulties as an opportunity for wisdom and compassion, this will place our global situation on a different plane of meaning and possibility.
Even war, if it is one's inevitable circumstance, can be held from a noble standpoint of valor, which is a quality of love. Sadly, war has characterized most of human history and there is no immediate end in sight. At best, it is viewed as an inevitable, temporary "lesser evil" in the fight against forces such as slavery, terrorism, and Nazism. For certain people whose destiny it is to be warriors, there is the spiritual opportunity to approach the circumstance with an inner choice to do one's duty out of love. The soldiers or law enforcement officers who approach their duty with a sense of valor, love for country, and love for others is of a different caliber than the one who hates the enemy and exploits others.
This kind of valorous service was seen last week in the San Bernardino shooting, when one of the officers from the sheriff's department, Jorge Lozano, told the terrified people he was escorting to safety, "I'll take a bullet before you do, that's for damn sure." The video-recording went viral on the internet. He told reporters afterwards, "I meant what I said. I don't feel like a hero whatsoever. That's our job: to put ourselves in the line of danger to protect the community" (Richard Winton and Matt Stevens, L.A. Times, Dec. 8, 2015).
Sometimes circumstances bring a "forced compromise" with a pacifistic ideal, and this can be painful and disappointing. But in such cases, we are responsible for our own inner approach. Our heartfelt intention is what matters, such that even war, when inevitable as a "lesser evil" in the "real world of politics," can be held "as an opportunity for worldwide mutual compassion and forgiveness, which is the real road to Peace." (Hawkins, Truth vs. Falsehood, 325). Love does not ever laud war or suffering for its own sake, but, when forced to face war and suffering, it does so with courage.
This kind of courage is epitomized by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, the Jewish psychiatrist whose memoir of concentration camp life, Man's Search for Meaning, testifies to the greatness of the human spirit when under the most degrading, torturous conditions.
Alexander Vesely and Mary Cimiluca of Noetic Films, Inc.
Speaking about Viktor Frankl at a class at University of Redlands
I interviewed Viktor Frankl's grandson, Alexander Vesely, when he came to the University of Redlands to screen his documentary film, Viktor&I. A member of the film audience asked, "Why did Frankl say to pursue suffering?"
Vesely said, "My grandfather never lauded suffering as something that one should pursue. He said that 'IF' your destiny includes suffering, then it is incumbent on you to extract every bit of meaning out of it that you can. To transform a tragedy into an inner triumph."
In Sufi tradition, we find the teaching, "Wheresoever you turn, there is the face of God." Therefore, one welcomes all that life brings, judging it neither good nor bad.
LLewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Sufi teacher
Photo credit: Golden Sufi Center
When I interviewed Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Sufi teacher in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order and founder of the Golden Sufi Center, he affirmed the beauty of our "real nature," that we are "made through love."
Spiritual love, by its very nature, is unconditional. If it's not unconditional, then it's not love because love is free, without condition, given as a gift. It is very powerful, and it changes you. Completely. It reveals who you really are. Rûmî says, "You return to the root of the root of your real self." Human beings are incredibly beautiful. It is what we cover ourselves with that hides this from ourselves. Sufism is a process of unveiling through love. You unveil to discover the real nature of the human being, and all human beings are incredibly beautiful because we are made through love, made in the image of God. The tragedy, of course, is that we can't see it. Interview with Lllewellyn Vaughan-Lee.
I asked him, "Where is love in the suffering of the world? How can there be light when there is so much darkness?"
So I would say first to value the experience that you have. Don't judge it. Shakespeare said, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." And the Sufis say, "Everything is sweet, if you taste it with care." Sufi training is not to judge the experience but to say, "Everything comes from God." It is how to live with the experience that life gives you. For example, suffering can contract you. It can draw you back into ego, into resentment, into bitterness. Or it can open you--make you aware of a deeper dimension of love. Love is not about what you want; it is about what love wants. Interview with Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
"Love is not about what you want; it is about what love wants." A tall order indeed. In the wake of this tragedy in my neighborhood, I stand in front of the townhome of the terrorists, Malik and Farook, and choose to see them as part of the human family. I try to understand the path to hatred that landed them and their rampage "in my backyard."
I choose to take off my rose-colored glasses and acknowledge that organized terrorism poses a threat to the life-affirming truth expressed in our founding: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
I choose not to be swept up in emotionally reactive political debates and, instead, to envision and pray for the emergence of a humanistic and realistic approach.
I choose to support the local efforts in my own community that promote genuine dialogue and loving kindness.
I choose to infuse my service as a educator with love, compassion, and meaning, and to continue to create spaces for intergenerational learning so that we stand in the present together with the idealism of youth and the wisdom of age.
I choose to continue the difficult inner work of probing my own darkness so that there is a transformation of the negativities of anger, fear, judgment, apathy, arrogance, insecurity. This inner work is a matter of "national security." Without it, I may be caught unawares by an invasion of militancy, complacency, denial, or futility.
I choose to accept that I cannot change other people. The only world we can ever truly change is our own inner world. But, paradoxically, by changing ourselves, we change the world. This is because the oneness of life is inviolable. "Every hair is counted," and no act or thought goes unnoticed.
I choose to love my life even though I do not always understand why it is the way it is.
I choose to nurture beauty, creativity, and love in all of their expressions around me.
I choose to share my experience because it is no accident that a shocking hatred has occurred right in my own town as I write a book on The Power of Love.
I choose to take on the responsibility of holding the tension of these powerful opposites of "the power of Love" and "the shadow of hatred," even though I cannot foresee where this step is taking me.
I choose to affirm the teaching I have heard, that the presence of a small group of people devoted to Love outweighs the negativity of hatred, fear, apathy, greed, and pride operating in the world at large.
I choose to believe that the path of Love serves all of humanity by the dedication to transcend every illusion of separateness.
Much like the rising of the sea level lifts all ships, so the radiance of unconditional love within a human heart lifts all of life.