Why can't I sleep?
It's Friday night just before it becomes Saturday morning. I had a great week: I passed all of my tests while I was at school down in Florida, now I am at a good friend's home trying to go to sleep so I can play a round of golf in the morning.
So, why can't I sleep? I'm preoccupied with the thought of someone in my neighborhood being beaten. It's bad enough that it is a good friend of a good friend of mine – But this is my neighborhood, the people who committed the violence didn't need to act as they did, regardless of what was said to them. All it was was said. The action of making them leave was, justified or not, a moment. Here and gone, life goes on.
It was not a life-threatening crisis, it was at most a temporary infringement on their liberties. Yet now a man fights for his life, one that will never be the same, in hospital. Now people who are aware of what has happened in our community are faced with fear and questions, particularly questions of justice and accountability. Who will stand up for the people who just want to abide, who want to play fair? Who stands for the people who want to live together, not ruled by ego, demanding that everything be according to their way?
Even outside the window of the room where I'm staying there are neighbors in their own backyard for talking loudly enough for me to hear. Is this their right? Of course it is. Is it courteous of the people who are trying to sleep? No, especially at what would be considered a reasonable hour to sleep.
I feel within me the same rage I felt as a child, who only wish that everyone would get along — this feeling is as unfair and unreasonable as any act of violence already committed. The jokers (I use the term for emphasis) out on the back porch next door are doing their thing. I can tune them out. They are static, white noise, and of no consequence to me.
Still there are people who don't understand this, and by their egos insist that the world be shaped around them. These people are real threats, because they are unreasonable and unpredictable. If I let my mind consider them I can feel my body tense, I can feel my will desire to see them become dust. Such feelings scare the crap out of me, because I am one who has never acted on them, and I have no desire to do so. Still, there they are – those angry, violent feelings. I grieve for my friend.
I grieve for my friends friend. I'm in the room of my host's daughter. Over the head of the bed I noticed in the light of my computer screen that she has painted stars and one symbol: the symbol for peace. I do not want to think, "Oh, she is so naïve!"
I want to believe, "Oh, how strong she is! And how strong I am that my choice is to avoid violence." I would much rather spend my life pursuing things that cause others to grow and be happy and be healthy. But violence is a part of who we are as humans. In order for us to know courage at some point we have had to know fear. Sadly, the people who committed this violence acted out of fear: the fear of being removed, of being disempowered, perhaps even the fear of realizing that their actions — likely made to draw attention to themselves so that they didn't feel invisible — Make them less welcome, because they are selfish and try to convince everyone else of their illusion: that the universe revolves around them?
Shi zu's talk during training on Thursday reminded me of something I studied from the Mahatma Gandhi. I am paraphrasing, but Gandhi taught it is best to avoid violence, but be prepared for it if the violence must be encountered to stand for truth.
For me this is a hard lesson. I wish no one harm, but at the same time I am bitter and feel the stirrings of war.