It’s celebrated across the globe – bin Laden is dead! I watch my fellow Americans shouting with joy, texting the world and chanting at ball games. I can hear the song from the Wizard of Oz, “ding-dong the witch is dead, the wicked witch,” and tweets galore announcing the “good news.” I release a heavy sigh.
I don’t even know where to begin with my own thoughts and feelings. I remember standing at what is now Ground Zero watching the towers being built, and I remember watching them fall, taking 3,000 people down with them. Most of my memories around bin Laden are certainly not fond ones. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that anytime I have heard his name or seen it in print, it is always attached to violence. A sad and powerful legacy for any human being.
One of the guiding spiritual principles in my life is the practice of integrating into myself that which is outside me that I most detest, am afraid of, disagree with, and basically see as different or separate from myself. This includes experiences, ideals, religions, beliefs, values and most of all – people. I do this because I believe they are aspects of myself that are unlived and unloved. Clearly I enjoy a challenge!
This global reaction to bin Laden’s death shows me all the things I see as different from myself. Of course his life’s work and the continuing work of Al Qaeda angers me, stirs resentment, worry and sadness. Yet it is imperative that I become “friendly” with that which scares me, that which awakens my own inner terror. Storms are emerging in my own heart today, a tempest of confusion and conflict.
While I don’t feel “glad” he is dead, I can understand why others might. When I sit still long enough, I can feel why, for some, this is justice being served, and for others it might be labeled as revenge. I can immerse myself into the experience some are having of feeling relieved, and others are worried about retaliation and what the future holds. What a kaleidoscope of emotions and expressions being offered to us. Is it any wonder my insides are swirling?
This is the human condition. I don’t have to agree with anyone’s beliefs or convictions, but it is imperative I remain open. I cannot do anything to change those around me, certainly not the world at this moment, yet the most important thing I can do is take the events that have unfolded in the past 12 hours and discover what is mine to do – and right now it is to remain open.
This man, this stranger, this global criminal, adds awareness to my world, whether I like it or not, and shows me there are other ways to think and be and live beyond my own little corner of the world. Remaining open is not acquiescing or tacit agreement, it is the recognition that connecting with the global heart means connecting with those that we inherently disagree with or even despise and hate. And my path in life reminds me that being open is an acknowledgment of the gifts every stranger brings – those most like me and those seemingly so different. Some days it’s tough to be open – days like today.
At the moment I guess the overarching emotion inside me is sadness. Sadness over the events of 9/11, sadness that war continues in our world when, as divine creatures, we are capable of so much more, sadness that people can celebrate so joyously over the death of a human. And finally I imagine the sadness of his mother.
Evagrius of Ponticus, an early desert monastic, counseled young monastics: “First pray for the gift of tears, to soften by compunction the inherent hardness of your soul.” Weeping is a life-giving experience. Nowhere is it more obvious then for those of us immersed in the spring rains that bring life outside our windows each day. If we do not weep in our own lives, we shall never understand other human beings. Weeping washes clean those unloved portions of ourselves, allowing the possibility of life being born anew in us and as us.
Today is a call for us to shed some tears for the inhumane conditions around the world that keep us trapped: those who cannot find work, those who go hungry, the war-torn lands littered with the bodies of the innocent, those left stranded from natural disasters, for the women of the world who are trapped in religious silence and told it’s God’s will for them. There are some things in life not meant to be endured. And it is good, true and most beautiful for us to shed tears, it is a divine expression of our humanness.
The tears we shed today quell the flames that ignite hate, distrust and violence of tomorrow because what we cry about points to what we care about. So my work today is to discover what I care about when the storms of confusion and conflict are raging inside me. Today I remain open, sharing the gift of my tears, watering the seeds of humility, giving voice to the tenderness alive in me – teaching me how to live gently with my whole world. Deep within every struggle is the infinite potential of new life for us, of becoming reborn ourselves, so I ask you, what do you care about today?