The beloved City of Lights mourns. And the world mourns with her. As we watched the news last night, my family and I sat in silence. We had nothing to say to each other. Even, “Oh no!” seemed superfluous. In the aftermath of such an event, we expect anger to be the natural reaction. In fact, we expect retaliation in kind as a natural and just response.
Fortunately, my day began with a text from a dear friend. John is exceedingly wise, kind and beautiful. As we chatted, he poignantly stated, “I hope that we can all be still for a moment, reflect and pour our energy in the form of love towards France and her victims, rather than becoming immediately agitated and misdirect the same energy towards violent revenge. Yes action must, I think, be taken. But let us be still first.” His words felt like a soothing balm.
I was reminded of a prayer verse from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:
Lead me from the falsehood to truth.
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from death to immortality.
The falsehood here is the total entrapment in the ego and of the ‘us versus them’ paradigm. It is the result of ignorance that shows up as darkness. In this model fear of death is inevitable. Violence is the result of fear. Retaliation is fear’s reaction to violence. Darkness begets darkness.
Can we find stillness in this pain? While we mourn for the innocent victims of insanity, can we find compassion for the perpetrators? Think about it. How dark might be the hell for those living in hate merely in the hope for an imagined heaven? How depraved must one be to surrender to such perversion?
Stillness is the necessary prerequisite for illumination. When we remain still, we come to see that darkness is known by the light of awareness. Like the sun that doesn’t discriminate between the flowers and the weeds, the light of awareness allows everything to be known. Weeds are known only in comparison to the flowers – by the light of the sun. As long as we remain enchanted by the flowers and the weeds, we cannot turn our eyes toward the sun. We remain in falsehood, fearful of death.
In the illumination of stillness, we come to see that there is no ‘other’. There is only me, no matter which way I turn. This is a peculiar light. It breaks the heart open so that it bleeds love. The love colors everything I do. Actions and responses that arise from light are surprisingly radical and ‘out of the box’. In turning to the light, I move from death to immortality.
Does this mean the world needs to sit back and condone acts of hatred and violence? Of course not! It means that we allow the light to lead our actions and not our rage or grief. We can continue to fight darkness with darkness. Or we can discover the light that expels it instantly.
Paris has stood tall through the wars and revolts that have shaped her history. She will stand tall again. We can aid her return to light – by becoming still, as John sagaciously stated.
It starts here. It always has.
Image: Jean Jullien (see here for an interview with the artist whose symbol of peace for Paris is trending everywhere).