Violence has been with us and part of us since the dawn of our creation. It is expressed in our ways of being territorial, the instinct toward domination, and our thirst for vengeance. It is rooted in separation, division, scarcity; the makings of enemies. Our ways of being violent and our reasons for it have changed and increased in complexity, just as our culture and all that it creates and carries has as well.
We live in and amongst systems and structures of dominance that are organized around concepts of goodness and promises of salvation, and we for the most part adhere to these messages and elevate them. We are indoctrinated by family, school, religion, government. We invest in and build our sense of self around what we are taught is appropriate, favorable, well behaved. We learn that to defy these codes and criteria is met by punishment, pain, rejection. We fail to see how these systems themselves are violent and how they initiate us into violence as well.
Therefore, in our conditioned quest to be “good” we make violence an aspect of “the other”. To be “the other” is to be an out-lier, a deviant, a cast off. This allows many of us to live in a willful delusion that we are not violent. Not me, not us, only them. We dehumanize the “othered” in our culture; bad eggs, lost causes, depraved, evil. We make a world of them versus us. This othering is, itself, a form of violence.
I was one of them. I am one of them. These days I can easily pass for one of you, but there is no you, no them, there is only us.
We cannot escape our violence.
I am violent and so are you.
Violence is a spectrum and you are on it. Where you are on it does not prove much of anything about your character or reveal an inherent quality of goodness in you.
Under the right conditions we are all capable of any amount of violence that humans are capable of, that is our nature.
If we want to transform the violence that is rampant in our society we need to get real about it. As long as we continue to point our fingers at everyone else and wrap ourselves in a cloak of imagined purity, there will be no end to this.
Until we sit fully in the pain, grief, and accountability we all share for what we have created here together there will be no transformation.
We rationalize most of our violence by justifying it as deserved punishment. We love vengeance, we embrace it.
Someone says something or does something we don’t like, we call them stupid, we question their intelligence or worthiness, we beat them up with words or with silence, or in the right conditions we actually beat them up.
We go to war.
We kill people. Or someone does it for us.
We send people to prison by the millions in this country. We are deeply punitive in our belief systems and our actions with and among each other. Punishment is a form of violence whether it is justifiable or not, and on its own it is not transformative or redemptive.
I always come back to the questions, “What do I want? What do I hope to create?”
We must ask ourselves hard questions and brace ourselves to do the deep and uncomfortable work that is sure to be required, if it is a culture that is healing its violence that we wish to foster and grow.
We will all have to start with ourselves, our families, under our own roofs and in our own hearts and minds. That is the only way.
Coming to an awakened awareness, “I am violent.”
That is the beginning.
I sit and look out the window.
I am preoccupied with what to say here. Willing some words to rise to the surface of my mind.
I went to the doctor today, she talked to me about menopause.
I feel so young, not quite grown.
I wanted to catch that word and throw it away.
I want to grab back time.
There is so much of it I did not use to the fullest. I get scared or can’t see it all, can’t always see myself.
Regret and resentment grow there.
It was not always my fault. Sometimes it is though.
I think that as I sit at this keyboard looking out a window lost for words.
Grief is not just for the dead.
Many things have been lost along the way.
Parts and pieces of a life still being lived.
But sometimes in that feeling of not knowing what to do now or next, that can feel so wasteful, something happens.
I look out the window struggling with all this, panic rising at the time rushing away, the word menopause, no words of my own, my kids grown, getting old, all the things left undone…
In the very moment that my heart breaks, two dazzling bluebirds land on the bare winter tree just outside.
Perfect and beautiful.
The sunrise today told me a story, sang me a song.
It used peach hued clouds, opening to a buttercup yellow and robins egg sky, to tell me about rebirth, make a melody about peace.
I heard the wise sky as my cheeks flushed with cold and the ice crackled under my feet.
I thought about all the trouble and pain, the violence happening today in this world.
That sky said, yes, that is so, and I am also real.
I want in this life to not withdraw or withhold.
I want to get close to all of it. Skin on skin.
I want to know the smooth parts and the rough, the blemishes, the scars, the wrinkles, the hollow, the full.
I want to put my ear against the bare chest of life and hear the deep drum of its heart.
I want to ride the waves of its breath.
I want to know all the ways it laughs.
And all the ways it cries.
I want to know its movement and its stillness.
I want to wrap my arms around it and tell it I love it over and over again.
I do not have a word for where I am internally.
I am grateful. I have so much. I am lucky and blessed beyond measure.
I try to be the best person I can be.
I do this in opposition to parts of me that are not “good”.
There is an emptiness. There is deep sadness. There is rage.
If I am aiming for truth here, it is true that it takes a great amount of will and strength for me to stay upstanding.
To remain upright.
That empty has gravity. It has force.
If a galaxy lives in me, it is my black hole.
My kids do not know the depth of that hole. They have glimpsed it in moments of utter fatigue from keeping it closed.
That is my one great success.
The way I have stood between my empty and them.
The rain is full force today, driving, as though it carries deep intention. I consider rain as sentient, as people once did, and some still do believe. A purposeful rain. I think it is true.
I know it is transforming the river from half frozen to fully thawed.
I imagine her flowing, dancing, fierce, uncompromising.
The rain pours into her and she receives it and everything becomes what it is meant to be in this moment, in these conditions.
How to live like that?
To be frozen and still when it is called for, to move with full throttle, no holds barred power when it is time.
How to know?
We have been numbed and extracted from instinct I think.
How to get back our wild?
Deep in my body I know it is still alive, my wildness.
I go out to the same few acres of woods and down to the same point along a river nearly every day now.
This is worlds apart from the last five years of expat living and exotic travel.
We can be lured into thinking that all the most wonderful, mysterious, astounding, and beautiful things are in far away places.
And they are.
But they are also here, wherever here is for you, me, or anyone.
To continue to experience awe and delight, in what to us in our everyday experience becomes mundane and dull, is a skill.
Perhaps it is not what surrounds us that has dulled, but our vision, our way of seeing or not seeing what is there.
Perhaps we have lost some capacity to wonder.
I went out today and greeted the trees. They are bare and mostly clothed in brown. But each day I am captivated by how the light is landing on them, the moss, fungus, shades and textures of bark, their uniqueness, their scars.
If I look with eyes of wonder, awake to mystery, eyes that are tuned to discover the rich depth of each day, I know what joy in life is. Joy in life is not shallow, nor is it hidden. It is revealed when we soften to know it.
I waited too long to write today.
It is 6:30 pm.
I have cooked and fed my family.
Dogs fed and walked.
I hit the wall now.
I do not sleep well at night.
That is when anxiety strikes. Shaking me awake at 2 or 3 am. Sends me tossing and turning on waves of vague untouchable worry.
I sometimes get conscious enough to apply breathing technique and mantra.
Other times the grip of anxiety blocks all reason, the only thing kept asleep under its tightly wrapped night sweat blanket.
This is the way anxiety often manifests for me, but not only, and not always. There are many other ways for many other people.
To all of us who live with experiences of anxiety, we deserve to take good care of ourselves in whatever way we need to. We do not have to explain or defend our needs.
We may need meds, naps, therapy, nature, exercise, couch time, routines, rituals, hot bathes, cold showers, ice cream at midnight, or any other thing. There are so many among us who can’t claim, are unsupported, or do not have access to what would soothe or alleviate.
I wish to make a village of us. So at the very least we no longer feel alone.
I take photos.
It is an art.
It is a medicine.
I take photos of things that evoke or touch something in me.
I see something of myself in the light or shadow, the forms, the shapes, the deep felt sense that goes beyond all that.
Something elemental, beyond form is perceived. Things of heart, bone, cell, and soul.
I take photos of the world and in them I am seeing, knowing, offering myself.
That is what I give, what I receive.