02 May 2013

People Kill People

This morning's first thought was:  Guns don't kill people; people kill people.

Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts
People kill people.

I am not thinking about death by gadget or tool. I am thinking about the slow, incremental dying we endure through the neglect and unkindness of "people" -- ourselves and others.

We know that we must eat to live and there is sufficient food among us to allow vast quantities of it to be thrown away every day...and yet, humans will die today for lack of food.

We know that loneliness crushes the human spirit and there are enough of us currently alive to ensure no one has to spend a day without human contact...and yet, somewhere, humans will slide down one more notch into despair, suffer for lack of touch, conversation, recognition by another person.

We know that none of us is perfect, that on any given day we ourselves may be more or less noble, more or less self-centered, more or less brilliant, productive, considerate, strange...and yet, today, a famous person or an "ordinary person" will be cast into the social spotlight to receive scathing, soul-searing criticism for some imperfect action or statement. A feeding frenzy will ensue, the public seemingly intent on "taking them down." There are no guidelines:  anything goes and the closing bell for what looks to me like the modern day equivalent of a public stoning will be the opening bell signaling a new target for attack.

"Forgiveness" (which for me encompasses 'generosity', 'compassion' and 'patience' among other virtues) and "critical thinking" (which includes 'curiosity', 'willingness' and 'imagination') are the essential missing ingredients in the society. Not entirely missing; just in chronic short supply.
Photo by:  Quiet Courage on FaceBook

And 'courage'. Not the kind that inspires us to run into a burning building but, rather, the kind that prompts us to consider that our opinion is an opinion and not the Last Word; and to risk our confidence in that opinion by considering someone else's. Though it is likely an unconscious orientation most of the time, people seem afraid that allowing space for another's perspective threatens their own; and so we take a stand and relentlessly attack anyone and anything that doesn't match our own platform.

People kill people.

Today, again, I'm thinking about how much of this violence happens without awareness. How much of it goes unchallenged in our social village. Yesterday a graphic appeared on my FaceBook wall proclaiming "People who judge you by your past don't belong in your present." [Note: I am now collecting this kind of stuff in a private FB vault, complete with personal commentary as I attempt to figure out precisely why the message, the urge to share it and the proliferation of such messages in social media trouble me.]

There is a hint of violence in this adage:  Ah ha! You are judging me by my past?  You are banished from my Now. There is a hint of baseless conceit in it, too:  So you're the kind of person who judges people by their past. Humph! Not me. I know better. See? I posted this adage on my Wall.

Courage. Critical thinking. Forgiveness. Courage and critical thinking to consider maybe everybody judges, self included; or maybe "judgment", on the basis of past actions or otherwise, is not a "bad" thing; or....  Forgiveness to allow that even if "judgment" is "bad" perhaps it was a mistake; or perhaps it's possible to continue engaging with the one who judged you, to transform the inclination to judge or to keep going, to stay in the boat (as though there is another option...), even in the face of irreparable imperfection.

Many inspirational FB objects allude to world peace, sometimes claiming to offer an irrefutable key to achieving it. "Harmony"...."compassion"..."foregiveness" are often parts of the key. The irony when the same person who posts the recipe for world peace, follows it with "People who judge you by your past don't belong in your present" is, well, just another example of the (currently) irreparable imperfection of human beings. It's the way "it" is for now.