Meditations on the Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting

We grieve.

Of course we grieve. Only the very unconscious would not grieve the shooting at Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh.

We grieve the loss of life, and the impact of that loss on families, friends, communities, and all who have a sense of kinship with this community.

We grieve what we fear this murderous act might say about the state of the nation, the state of the world, and where we might be headed. We grieve that what it might say is that the tribal world view, a view of us-versus-them, that spawns not only anti-Semitism but every other -ism of its kind -- racism, sexism, and the rest -- is still widespread in our species.

We grieve our sense of helplessness, our apparent inability to stop the madness.

Yet, we are not helpless.

And, no, this is not yet another plea to get out and vote in the upcoming elections. Yes, do that, but this is essay is not about that.

Rather, this is a plea for self-examination.

Eleven people were murdered in Pittsburgh, and a nation grieves. But ask yourself this: Do I grieve those innocents who died yesterday in Yemen in the bloody war that rages there? I’d wager the number was a good bit higher than eleven. Have I given a comparable level of thought, prayer, and tears to the plight of the Rohingya, whose genocide continues, day after day, unabated? How about the thousands of children who died of starvation in the last 24 hours? Do you weep for them, too?

If your honest answer is “no”, then you can see the underlying issue and what you can do about your sense of helplessness.

The seamless fabric that is humanity’s lack of consciousness gives birth both to anti-Semitism and our indifference to the deaths by starvation of over 3 million children per year.

In our tear-stained rage about the madness of the murder of innocents at Tree of Life and the callousness of political leaders who make jokes about those murders, we can be inclined to find villains. We point at the anti-Semites, at the right-wing media, at the opportunistic politicians, at the NRA, and rightfully so. All are complicit.

If, however, our assignment of responsibility is only in that direction, we miss the opportunity to examine our own unconsciousness, which is not separate from the madness of the murderer. No, ours is not the same. However, it is not separate. Our indifference based on the lack of proximity of suffering in other lands or to other peoples is woven of the same threads of unconsciousness as the anti-Semitism of the murderer.

So, then, what to do about one’s own consciousness?

A friend of mine, Nance McGee, might say, “do your work, do your work, do your work.” In other words, admit to yourself your own lack of consciousness and, having done that, work every day to expand your capacity to love. Every day is an opportunity to expand the depth and breadth of your loving. There are thousands of ways to do that, all of which will be revealed by your own yearning for that expansion.

So, the first step for all of us is to confess to ourselves our own limitations of awareness, our own too-small circles of caring. The next step, then, is to feel our own yearning to love more fully and more broadly. Finally, we hold that yearning before our eyes every day, and set an intention to follow its guidance.

The Sufi poet Kabir said “the longing does all the work.” Let us lift up our longing before us and let it pull us into the Process of outrageous Love, a Love that expands our circles of caring and concern ever outward.

We are not helpless. We can consciously participate in the evolution of Love itself by evolving our own love, every day.