“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
My heart is heavy. How is it that we as human beings can create beauty and yet also have the desire and capacity to destroy it? How can we hurt other people? Why is the human community separated to such a degree that so many of us feel so isolated? So alone?
I believe that what happened in Orlando could not have happened if the shooter had had a sense of community. If he had felt supported and embraced by other human beings. The destruction and horror he committed is not just a political issue, but also a human issue. An issue of isolation and mental illness, of unsuccessful denial of who he truly was. In a world where it is easier to get a gun than it is to connect with other fellow human beings, what is the solution? Where are we heading? When does it stop?
I am horrified and despaired by the killings in Orlando. My heart goes out to all who have been affected — which is all of us. Even if we do not personally know someone related to one of the victims, we have all been altered by this event. Because we are all human beings. Because love is love. Because we are a tribe, no matter our sexual orientation, religion, gender, ethnicity, creed. The only creed that does matter is if we are committed to supporting and embracing ourselves and our community.
When I say community, I mean both our immediate community and our vast human community. Instead of always being plugged in to our phones, we should look up and look people in the eye. The person making our latte in the morning. Our significant others. Our neighbor. Instead of avoiding tragedies around the world because we feel helpless, we should make an effort where we can: at home.
Even if we are not actively spreading hate, we allow it to grow when we ignore others, when we narrow our vision, when we cultivate ignorance. Hate grows in empty, dark, lonely places. In places devoid of human connection and curiosity. In narrow alleys of the mind where the light of understanding does not shine. Lack of understanding, lack of empathy, lack of compassion — these are the voids where hate grows, where we are rendered unrecognizable, where we lose our humanity.
We lose our humanity when we divide humanity into sections dependent on the categories I mentioned earlier: sexual orientation, religion, etc. If someone or something is different from us, why not seek to understand them? Why are we so afraid of what we do not know? The solution to this not knowing is to discover the actuality, the truth. To love ourselves for who and what we are so we can love one another with more intensity and understanding than we thought possible. If we deny ourselves, how can we accept others?
Last night I was lucky to be a part of a beautiful experience that helped to fortify my faith in humanity and the power of community. I went to my friend’s yoga class, where she announced that the theme of class was love; we would set our intention to send love to Orlando. I was surrounded by my immediate community as we honored and dedicated our practice to the LGBTQ community, to our vast human community.
I was moved as we lied in savasana and the music washed over me, as I thought of the victims of the shooting and the assumed mental state of the shooter. I thought of how alone he must have felt, how he felt he couldn’t be who he truly was. I thought of so many beautiful people out on an ordinary evening of dancing and, in an instant, their lives were irrevocably changed. How to find meaning out of such a senseless, violent event?
I am once again brought to tears as I write these words, as I struggle to remember that there is love and light that dwells within each of us. I struggle to understand why our country, our world, is so rife with violence, with lonely, mentally ill individuals who feel they have no other outlet or option than to kill other human beings. I struggle to keep the faith in our global tribe, but I know that that is what I must do.
Our global tribe needs us to not only keep the faith, but to endeavor to nurture, embody, embrace, and cultivate the love and the light that dwells within. To recognize or encourage it in those who surround us. To celebrate our differences while maintaining the truth: we are all the same. We all want to connect, to love, to be ourselves and feel accepted. We cannot continue down this path of separation and isolation, of plugging in and tuning out, of turning our backs on what is hard, of numbing ourselves.
I don’t know about you, but I am done with numbing myself. I took the first step when I gave up drinking over a year ago. Now I feel and see so much more, so much that it can be overwhelming. But I would rather be overwhelmed, I would rather feel it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly, than feel isolated or alone, than to avoid the messy and beautiful parts of being alive. So how do we honor those who we lost in Orlando, to those who are no longer alive? By living with purpose, truth, honesty, curiosity. By driving out the darkness. By embracing our true selves and the true selves of those in our communities.
I felt the light and love last night of my community. I do not know the survivors or the victims in Orlando; I did not even know many of the people in yoga class. But knowing and understanding aren’t the same thing, are they? We may not know each other personally, but what does that matter? Shine the light within and without. Fill up the void. Embrace one another. Embrace yourself.
I wish you a wild, free life.