I find it quite ironic that the email with this prompt originally landed in my inbox on November 13th. A couple of hours later, Paris was attacked. Explosions and shooting at several locations took lives of about 130 people, many more were injured and hospitalized. For the next week, Paris and terrorism became the main theme in the media, as well as a topic of private conversations in the western world. Pain, fear, anger and hatred were the experience of many.
I found myself shocked and crying during the next few days, because these days, this year I feel France as my country, I associate myself with France. I found myself hungrily devouring the articles on the events, explanations, interpretations, consequences… I found myself reading discussions in the comments, which were so quickly losing all the points and turning into senseless arguments, containing too much offense and too little respect for each other. People were arrogantly confident in their own opinions, totally insensitive, and absolutely closed to a possibility of multiple personal truths.
I was asking myself the question “why?”, from “why could that happen at all?”, from the motives of people to perform such horrible acts, to the reasoning behind the national responses, to the reactions of private people. By an accident, I stumbled upon a report of interviews with prisoned fighters. While the world was blindly confident that the terror was caused by hate and performed in the name of a religion, and saw the only solution in the annihilation of the perceived enemy… the individuals from the other side were, in fact, scared, terrified, and doing the only thing they perceived possible to protect themselves, as well as protect and provide for their families and loved ones.
Of course, they were already prisoners, and there is a possibility that they were not saying the whole truth… But giving them a benefit of the doubt, I realized how the methods for coping with the situation and responding which were in the process of planning and preparation at the level of the nations could be not a solution but perpetuation of the crisis. And at that level, I heard absolutely no public attempts for understanding the other side. The direction was about the same as in the comments on the Internet, even if in a more politically correct and slightly more tolerant fashion. “The attackers should be punished”. The aggression was to be answered with aggression. The hate has just produced more hate, and nobody at the level of governments (judging by the media) said even a word about this becoming a vicious circle. Nobody (or so it really looks like) has seriously considered how their words and actions could be seen from the other side. By the innocent civilians who live in the war zones, or the neighboring countries. By the people who are fleeing those war zones in search of a better life.
Again, listening to the media without a possibility of a doubt produces a picture of the world in crisis. And one of the reasons which I see in the foundation that there are still too many people believing in solid dichotomies of black or white, right or wrong ideas and opinions. There is still too much discomfort in allowing gray areas and multiple truths, in staying in the unknown and uncertain. There is still too little weight in the ideas for human equality and human rights and not enough depth in their application.
The prompt takes foundation in the idea that frustrations can point towards the impact you want to make. The truth is, I am not seeing any particular importance of anger. I am not sure in its practical use. Another question and suggestion which I used to find helpful earlier, but now see more like a possibly entertaining theoretical food-for-thought type thing, is “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” These days, I am seeing differently how life works.
Or maybe I am fooling myself…
OK, right. Such questions in themselves might serve as a starter for the thought engine when it is clogged and can’t work properly. They can guide us towards an exploration of our brain contents.
But the purpose, the end target is not to become angry, frustrated, afraid or scared of something. The point is not in gathering dozens of ideas of possible projects. The real benefit of the process of such exploration is this: as we get through the heaps of garbage in our minds and talk about things and thoughts that are causing those unpleasant feelings, we might stop holding onto them as fiercely as usual, and they will pass.
The whole point of the exercise is to move towards clarity. And as we get clear, this is where the real adventure begins.
Because it is in the clarity of mind where inspiration can appear. It is in this space where we look at our life and see the obvious things which we could have managed to overlook for so long. For example, our passions. We can see the activities to which we have always been attracted and tried to engage as much as we could. We can see the causes which we have always cared for and tried to contribute when we could. Maybe we can even realize the thoughts, ideas, mental patterns that have been preventing us from doing what we really want to do.
And in the space of one insight, we simply know what to do.
And again, this activity may have nothing in common with anything that have been causing your anger, frustration or fear. In fact, these feelings were caused by those thoughts that had been stopping you, and if you decide to attribute them to some external circumstances and decide to do something about those circumstances, you are going the wrong way.
The truth of life is that no external circumstances can cause us to feel something. Our thoughts about those circumstances do.
We are simply too used to certain ways of thinking and judgements that we don’t notice the thought. When a certain thing that “always” causes one feeling causes a different feeling, we either filter it out, or label as an exception and rationalize, make up reasons why this time was not like the others. We seem to be living in the world of stereotypes and prejudgements, but we do it by habit, not by design.
What I am trying to say is that these days I see a more direct way to get to a clear mind than searching for thoughts that could make me frustrated or angry or fearful, and filling up my mind with them. We can simply stop spinning our mind as aggressively as we do on the day-to-day basis.
And then we can tell the world how much love we have in us for it.