the greatest of our sins in secret.
We have burned ourselves with our desire and greed,
We come to You in awe
because You taught us to call
and You lit the lamp of supplication in this darkness.
–Rumi (Daquqi’s prayer, Mathnawi III:2212-2224)
Try these: In Napa and San Francisco yesterday, mentally ill and substance-uglied people attacked police and begged to be shot and killed. Officers were in both cases able to negotiate and take the “perps” into custody peacefully. (No pictures available that I could find)
Upping the ante on the same subject: In Britain, police on everyday duty carry no firearms. Same in Ireland, New Zealand, Iceland, and Norway.
But here in the sovereign land of holy amendment number two, it’s been a dark week. As a nation we’re wandering around in a stew of anger, death, and retribution, and grief. There are moments of silence, cries of anguish, calls for love and calls for vengeance. And death follows death follows killing, every one beginning with a finger pulling a trigger. Or maybe it starts with the idea that it’s a good idea to have a trigger handy for whenever you might have a beef with a neighbor or a cop or a stranger. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” says NRA mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre. Well, apparently, Philando Castile was one of those good guys with a gun, exercising his god-given 2nd amendment rights by securing a permit to carry a pistol for protection. A lot of protection it bought him. Probably got him killed. That and a dose of excess melanin. Oh, and the old broken tail light story. Almost as pervasive as the “you fit the description of . . .” story.
On the other hand, or on the same hand, really, five–count ’em FIVE–Dallas police officers are dead, each and every one of them leaving a huge space
in the lives of their families. Because some one thought the only good cop (especially if white) was a dead cop and was able to get hold of a long gun to express his hate, just as some thought in times past (or maybe still) that the only good Indian was a dead Indian, or that (in present times, even) the only good nigger was a dead one or in present times as well the only good Muslim (or Mexican) is a dead one or the only good (suspected, even) terrorist (read “Muslim”) is dead one (preferably subsequent to some luscious torture). It’s all a matter of labeling someone an “other,” then shooting ’em up, blowing ’em up because if you don’t they’ll do it unto you and you’re a naive fool to inhabit any other reality. And yet, what reality have we created. Not one where we are safer. Quite the opposite. We’re caught in that place that Matthew Arnold described so eloquently. A world which
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
But what if we dared to take that other direction? Could we navigate our way out of this darkness into a room lighted with Rumi’s “lamp of supplication,” a space filled with love and tolerance? What if we just laid down our 300 million guns? Oh, no!. Give up our sword and shield? I say yes. All we’re doing now is shooting blindly into the dark space of an endless cave, laying out corpse after corpse without making ourselves safer in the least. The only way out of the situation is contained in Dostoyevsky’s description of it:
What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.
How about it?