I am pausing the continued release of the Reality Painting collection for a few days to share some personal reflections in response to the massacres at Tops grocery store in Buffalo and Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
My heart is heavy. My body feels like it has been draped in heavy chains; a knot draws tension to the center of my forehead; my limbs ache and swell as if they are carrying some invisible burden.
It would be easy enough to ignore these feelings, narrow in on my existing plans, and tumble forward with life. After all, “nothing” has happened to “me.” It is 4 am and I check on my children as they sleep in their beds – there they are, peaceful, just as they are supposed to be. Yet silently continuing forward carries with it an aura of betrayal – there is something I do not know, there are questions demanding to be asked, and pushing those questions to the outermost perimeter of my awareness seems counterproductive to the project of wisdom and compassion to which I have, supposedly, committed my life.
Here I am. In this story, this time, I seem to be cast as a witness. Over here, I am sitting on my sofa in my home, and nothing has happened to me. Over there, someone else is mourning the loss of their grandparent, their spouse, their child, to gun violence and white supremacy. Yet stepping into the mire of questions, I do not feel very far away from them. I feel further away from the men who did this – a gap that I’m not sure I have the courage to investigate at this moment.
Why would someone do this? How could someone murder a child and then another, and another, and another? What depths of despair and inhumanity, what feelings, what numbness, what complacency, have swirled together in our society to allow this story to manifest again, and again, and again? What leadership, what courage, what education, what systems of oppression must change? How can we possibly do it?
I don’t know.
There is some comfort in the vastness of time and space. Our hereness is temporary. Millions of years ago, none of us were here; millions of years from now, the very Earth will cease to exist; and even now, the light of the stars we see at night had their origin in a distant location, light years away. It is soothing to dip my toes into the story of our collective insignificance. It is a luxury to have the space, peace and security to be able to contemplate such things.
Then my daughter cries out – she’s had a nightmare. The vastness of the cosmos does not excuse me from bringing her a glass of water and crawling into her bed to comfort her. When a need cries out, it is appropriate to respond. There is a felt sense that it is the best part of my human nature that is called to respond, to turn toward the cries.
There are so many things we do not know, but that unknowing can keep us moving forward – to respond to the cries of suffering, in whatever ways are available to us. We vote, we protest, we weep, we speak. We pass legislation; we repeal amendments. To reclaim the heart of humanity, we must do everything we can. We must keep going.