Our Separated Humanity

I found today extremely sad.  Yes, to the point of tears sad.  When I turned on the news this morning and heard of the shooting in Las Vegas and then saw some of the footage, I simply found myself in tears.  I was in disbelief, as if something like this just shouldn’t be happening.  And yet it was.  Again.  Not that I was the least bit surprised because I wasn’t.  Violence is the way of life here in Baltimore and other metropolitan areas but also around the globe, but for whatever reason it just struck me today, as if caught off guard.

I happened to catch a former FBI agent speaking on the broadcast, long before much was known about the shooter, other than the fact that he was a male, age 64.  My immediate thought was questioning how someone could reach that age and still harboring so much that he’s willing to take the lives of so many people so callously.  But the expert when on to speak about where he shot them from, the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, and the significance of the place of power, atop the people, paradoxically, though, magnifying the powerlessness.  I hadn’t thought of that as he tries to get into the mind of this guy.  More than 1200 feet separated himself from the crowd below, amplifying the casualty as bullets reigned down.

More times I can count I have written on this blog about the God problem we have, and I do still believe that to be true.  We find ourselves clinging to so many false gods that have taken the place of God, of mystery, that we find ourselves wandering aimlessly in a darkened world and country.  It’s all true if we could be aware enough in our lives to begin to see that we too are a part of the problem, not just the other that we have demonized.  Thinking about this guy, though, I began to think, as much as we have a God problem, possibly even more striking is the human problem that exists in this land.

There he was, some 32 floors off the ground and entirely separated from humanity below.  Unable to see the trauma being inflicted.  Unable to see the tears nor hear the screams that we’ve had to listen to repetitively through the media.  Now, granted, these are all signs of someone who was experiencing severe psychological problems in his life, seeming to be entirely separated from humanity.  However, the slow process of attaching ourselves to our gods has a similar impact on our own lives.

Think about it.  The more the demand for certainty in our lives and the attachment to the illusion of “being right”, the less capable we have become of empathizing and sympathizing with our fellow brothers and sisters and a whole lot less space for God.  It becomes entirely about having the winning argument, as I’m sure we will witness one again when it comes to the use of guns in our society, and less about the impact so much of what we are doing has upon humanity.  The problem is that we cling so tightly to our certainty that our own eyes become clouded from seeing the tears and pain of the other nor hearing the scream and cry for help as pain reigns down and is reigned down by my own inability to love and to walk this journey with the other.

I can never fully put myself in the place of another human being.  Their story is their story just as mine is mine.  I have suffered greatly in my own life, gradually learning to release the hold of certainty in my own life and through process, trust in faith, in the unseen, in the unknown, making space not only for God but for the other and their story and to hold it as treasure.  We have put ourselves in so many losing situations.  We cling to our symbols, to our institutions, our belongings, our own lives, as if that’s all that matters.  As if that’s all that matters and we can’t care about anything else.  We have a human problem and a God problem who ever so mightily is trying to break through our own lives and to free us from ourselves.  Ourselves.  We cling so tightly and before you know it, we too find ourselves separated from humanity, the humanity of the other and our own, unable to stand with, kneel beside, listen with love, see with care, all because of this distance we have put between ourselves, creating a tension, that, although painful, hopefully leads one day to a new day, a new beginning, a re-creation of our humanity.

It’s a sad day.  It’s been sad days, weeks, months, years, of being torn apart by so much that just doesn’t matter and yet we cling.  We cling to our ideology.  We cling to our certainty.  We cling to a flag.  We cling to a nation that was.  We cling to our guns.  We cling to our rights.  We cling.  It’s what we humans often do best, cling.  Somehow thinking we can’t live without any of it.  Somehow thinking that it’s eternal and never-changing.  We cling to our false gods that over time divide, leaving a gaping hole of pain in the soul of me, you, and a nation, that can only be filled with a God who’s love surpasses all and fulfills all, a God so often unseen and yet so present, gently opening our eyes and hearts to the other and their story.  A story you don’t know.  A story we mustn’t judge.  A story that is unfolding.  A story we must learn to care about in order to understand and in order to close the gap of our own humanity.  It’s the story of the Christ. 

It’s was an extremely sad day but a day in which we are once again invited to enter into the mystery of our own lives, feel the pain of the other, and together we learn to find true freedom from what binds and hurts our hearts and souls as a nation because in the end the story is the same.  It’s a sad day when we can no longer weep for all humanity who suffers because of our inability to put ourselves in their place beyond our symbols and institutions.  The more I am freed of my own gods of judgment, condemnation, and fear, I find myself trusting in all I can trust in, a God who doesn’t reign bullets nor insults down upon humanity but rather love, understanding, and forgiveness. 

Violence, again.

I turned the television off this evening. I couldn’t handle getting pulled into another senseless tragedy in this country surrounding violence, when someone out there feels the deep pain within themselves can only be “erased” through an act of violence on other human beings. Of course, as is often typical, it’s a man that harbors such anger, depression and hostility towards others, unable to confront his own pain and frail humanity while often living a split life virtually through a computer, believing there is somehow an absence of pain there; when in reality, it only compounds the pain all the more. When will we break free of the numbness that has consumed us, seeing lives not for what they are but as something and someone other than ourselves? Another moment when we feel helpless in the face of such tragedy and how often we do when it doesn’t impact us directly.

It’s hard not to have the past week or so as a backdrop when Pope Francis visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City, less than a week prior to the shooting in Oregon this day. Some of his very first words spoken publicly at the memorial were, “The water we see flowing towards that empty pit reminds us of all those lives which fell prey to those who think that destruction, tearing down, is the only way to settle conflicts. It is the silent cry of those who were victims of a mindset which knows only violence, hatred and revenge. A mindset which can only cause pain, suffering, destruction and tears.” Although he speaks of the utter destruction of human life taken on that day back in 2001, in how many other circumstances can they relate? Parents having to make sense of their sons and daughters who will never return home from school, from the streets, from serving in another country. Sons and Daughters, brothers and sisters, never having the opportunity to fulfill whatever it is they were studying and the dreams that had still lied dormant within their souls.

That empty pit, as Pope Francis spoke of, lies deep within all of us, tears running steadily on what seems and appears to be an open wound in our country and in the hearts and souls of so many. It’s hard to fully understand the plight of another and the internal struggle that ensues the human soul. We can get stuck in that mindset that somehow we can erase the pain from our lives and that of the country by eliminating what it is that we hate, undoubtably hate about ourselves and a God that seems to have all but abandoned. Yet, the path of conversion and the descent into the soul takes us on such a painful journey within ourselves where we can move to less reaction to the world while becoming more aware of our own hurt, knowing that deep within that pain is the place of great gift that we have to offer to the world. Yet, we avoid it, shun it, hate it, bury it, try to rid ourselves of it, unable to face what has hurt us the most, leaving us with never-ending violence in our lives, on our streets, in our classrooms, in our homes, and around the world.

It’s hard to understand the call for further violence in the world once you begin to understand and learn from it within yourself, seeking healing and reconciliation rather than blame or victimhood. As a matter of fact, all you can do is cry with the world, cry with the parents, their siblings, this country, when over and over again we quickly move into debate rather than as Pope Francis had continued last week, “to settle conflicts through dialogue.” We fight about guns and we fight about mental illness, all of which is an illness within itself, shattered egos, when we fail to see the larger vision of this humanity and the divine indwelling, and the lives that are being cheated, stolen, and destroyed, unable to lament our own brokenness and short-sightedness, unable to see the face of this merciful God. It’s hard to understand that all of it takes precedence over a human life, any human life, that has been wounded, that at this time needs to be held, loved, healed, understood, listened to rather than talking over and lost in the realm of policy, self-interests, political gain. Numbers; it’s all that we are to any of that, numbers, votes, dollar signs, whatever way you look at it, the dignity of the human life is lost in the scream of violence that has become second-nature in our lives and world. We find ourselves, over and over again, lost in that bottomless empty pit within ourselves trying to make sense of the tears, trying to understand the pain and hoping that one day there will be peace.

Violence, again. And all I can do is weep.