Of the at least 17 deadly mass shootings that occurred so far in 2019, the first 10 took place through May. At that point, even though there had been more such incidents in the first five months of 2019 than in the same period in 2018, the number of fatalities was exactly the same: 51 victims killed. Now, two months later and more than halfway through the year, the total number of victims has risen to 102 total victim fatalities.
Richard Rohr, noted American author, spiritual writer, and Franciscan friar, said that “The root of violence is the illusion of separation–from God, from Being itself, from being one with everyone and everything. When you don’t know how to consciously live out of your union with Love, you resort to violence, fighting people who are not like you. Contemplative practice, being with your True Self, being honest with who you are inside, talking to God, and listening for the answer, teaches you to not make so much of the differences, but to return to who you are beyond your nationality, skin color, gender, or other labels. It brings you back to your True Self, who you are in God.”
To create peaceful change, we have to start with ourselves – sweep in front of our own house, so to speak. We first have to get the “Who” right. And I don’t mean “Who” out there – I mean the “Who” reading this page right now. Gwendolyn Brooks, former Illinois poet laureate, used to ask her students when they were writing poetry: Who are you? And how do you feel about yourself? As Rohr says, most of us, particularly pragmatic Americans, lead with strategic questions–what, how, when. These are secondary questions. Before we act or react, we need to wait–wait for communion with all persons.
Rohr likes to say that everything belongs. That means everyone belongs. I am asking myself: who do I feel I am not like? Who do I automatically create separation from? Who do I dismiss because I am uncomfortable aligning myself with their ways of being? This cuts violence at its very roots. It keeps us from fear – which is the core of our problems. Fear of the other, and fear of ourselves and fear of what it means to truly love and be powerless.