20 December 2014

Let There Be Peace on Earth...

My sister called the other day and mentioned the Sony leaks story. Since I don't follow "the news" closely, I knew next to nothing about it. A little research after our conversation uncovered an article laying out George Clooney's opinions on the story. I was impressed enough to leave a comment. Clooney raised the question "If we bow to foreign opinion on this, what's next?" I think it's a valid question.

This morning someone responded on the website to the comment I left, essentially saying that George Clooney is a sissy and an ass-kisser and no one pays him any mind. In addition, the Commenter believes any reasonable person facing a potential terrorist attack will do whatever it takes to prevent loss of life, including canceling a scheduled film opening.

What struck me was the high levels of fear and anger in the response. Waiving freedom of speech because someone might die (how many lives were sacrificed to secure freedom of speech?) and hurling personal insult at Clooney for holding his opinion.

I'm afraid and I'm angry. Now watch me turn into a really unattractive human being.

Thinking about fear and anger, I browsed the Web for images to include in a blog post and found this one

Compelling message despite the proofreader's oversight (though the imagery leaves much to be desired IMO).

There was another image

that also advanced my thinking. The bondage of fear and anger. Hearts and minds -- and ears -- imprisoned.

I started thinking about fear and anger in myself. This was possibly inspired by my last dream before waking. A dream in which I was driving fast on a mud-slicked mountain road and lost control of the car. The car veered to the right, smashing into the mountain wall and ricocheting across the road to the miles-deep canyon on the other side. I woke up as I screamed in the dream, realizing that I would not survive the crash. The dominant emotion was fear but there was anger, too:  it wasn't fair that my life was ending. Damn it! I want another chance...


One of my piano students is a middle-school-aged boy who I am fairly certain is gay -- but, of course, given the culture of this locale, he is not out to anyone, including himself. I feel for him. There is something sullen, depressed, locked-down, frightened and frustrated about the boy. I also suspect he is being raised in that old-school way, with discipline based in repeated corporal punishment and regular shaming. He is quietly suffering.

During yesterday's lesson, I came to an awareness of anger in me toward the boy. Not really surprising to find myself angry in the situation:  I have a long history of responding with anger toward those I view as willing victims. But how crazy to expect a pubescent boy in small town Mississippi to become, independent of everything he's been taught and everything he's seen modeled, a fierce warrior for freedom of expression and personal dignity.

Seeing and feeling the anger in myself, certain that it offered nothing constructive or beneficial to the student or the learning process or my own well-being, I made a conscious choice to lean toward the
compassion I also felt for him. I switched tasks from pushing through two measures of music he just couldn't seem to master to a review of concepts and symbols; using a deck of flashcards, I pulled those containing information I was either sure he knew or could figure out.

After a minute or two of facilitated Success, he became more animated. He even asked my advice about a Christmas gift for his mother. I felt honored by his trust and openness. The last 15 minutes of his lesson were the most beautiful we've spent together since his study began last month.

Fear and anger make it hard to listen        hard to find beautiful moments to share    New ideas and fervent dreams are suffocated.

My version of the nearly-universal wish for Peace on Earth is an increased capacity among all the Earth's peoples for self-reflection and diminished Fear and Anger among us.