Friday morning I woke up and clicked on FB before heading out to walk Ashok. My friend Gretchen had posted this:
I closed Facebook. I knew immediately some shooter had opened fire in some public place. I just didn’t know how many people were killed or whether it was a restaurant, bar, movie theater or church. I did not want to see what was posted on FB. I went to Twitter and put in the hashtag #lafayette. It was the top trending post. I’m not going to rehash the story. If you haven’t heard, you can read about it. Ironically, with my Twitter feed having more of an international and national audience, I saw a very different reaction than what I usually see on my Facebook page.
At first I got mad and wanted to blame somebody, our culture, angry white men, our obsession with guns, the Middle East, whatever. I wanted to find someone or something to blame. I wanted to find, hang on to and scream about the solution. A still voice inside me told me that blame was not the answer, and there really is no solution. We live in a gun culture here in this country, and this is a side effect of that culture. I’m sure people wake up in the Middle East and want a solution that will stop the violence, but it’s where they happened to be born, and it’s the way it is. The solution is so far away and so complicated that there will likely never be a resolution. I began to feel the comforting wave of acceptance wash over me.
I went for a walk Friday evening, and about 10 bicyclists were riding toward me. They were laughing and happy. They were having so much fun it made me smile. “We are alive,” my brain said to me. “Yes, we are,” my heart answered back. I’ve had this blog half-written for a few days. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to post it. I hate writing about the news, and I particularly hate writing about anything that could be perceived as political. But, this morning I asked God to help me decide what to write about, and my meditation book offered up a reading about fear. I took that as a nudge.
You can read Melody Beattie’s wisdom here from The Language of Letting Go.
We live in a scary place here on earth. There’s lots going on that I don’t like and that makes me afraid. I count my lucky stars that somehow I won the earth lottery and was born in this country rather than Afghanistan or some other place where it’s a war zone every day. In my quest for comfort about the mass shootings in this country, I found none. NPR had a podcast that pointed out eerily that mass killings (not just shootings) happen every two weeks in this country. 70% of the time, the weapon is a gun. We only hear about the public, really random ones in the media. The vast majority are committed by family members. 96% of the killers are male. So, the public shootings we read about and react to are only the tip of a very large iceberg. There is a website that is tracking them, and click here for the facts. Mass killings happen with a lot of frequency, but I’m more at risk at a family gathering than I am at a movie theater. This is our culture. This is the way it is …. until it’s not that way anymore.
In my reading this morning, the woman and her son capsized on a jet ski. She was afraid of drowning. Her son pointed out that they had on life jackets, and jet skis are meant to be easily uprighted and boarded from the water. She almost drowned at one time in her life, and she guesses that’s why the water scares her. But, a still voice inside of her reminded her that she didn’t drown the last time. She survived. She would probably survive this time, too. My fears are much like that. I ruminate on what can happen. Instead of realizing that most people don’t get killed in mass killings in this country, I ruminate on the incidents that do happen. And, ironically, one of the most dangerous activities in this country is driving a car, and I don’t give that a second thought. My mind latches onto fear in an indiscriminate way.
The reality is life can be snuffed out at any minute. I can be sitting here on my sofa and an asteroid fly through the roof. More likely, I’ll head out to get light bulbs from Target and get creamed by an 18-wheeler or a texting teenager on the interstate. I have to remember that I am cloaked in the protection of God, and, if I should die, death is just another transition. Supposedly it’s even better on the other side. What is there to fear? Right now, I have 24 hours set before me. I can enjoy what’s set before me … or I can be afraid to walk about the planet. “To be or not to be. That is the question,” said Hamlet. I have the choice to live or die … figuratively or literally. What’s it going to be?