I think we have a tendency to blame. Something goes wrong and we try to make sure it’s someone’s fault. There’s a shooting rampage and maybe it’s shooter’s mother’s fault for not loving the guy enough. There’s mental illness. There was drinking and violent video games. There was lax security. Yeah. I’s the security people’s fault. In the immediate overwhelm of flooding emotions, sadness, anger, fear, having someone to blame is a way to get out of all that hard stuff going on inside of us and put it on someone else. Almost like hating them is our responsibility. As if blame and hate fuels the change that we need to make.
There’s another tendency to believe that bad stuff should never happen and it can all be anticipated and therefore, avoided. I caught 5 minutes of a radio interview with a guy who worked with this D.C. shooter years ago in a restaurant. The interviewer asks, “Did you ever see this coming?”
I read a passage in The Ramayana yesterday. I finished the book last month and now I’m reading it to the girls at bedtime. The story is fantastic, there are clear good and evil characters and there are all of these magical things that go on, so it’s right up Hazel’s alley and Nora follows Hazel just about anywhere.
We are at the part of the story where one of the queen mums, Kaikeyi, has betrayed her whole family and kingdom by exiling the beloved Rama who is in line for the throne. He must live in the forest, wearing bark and dreads, for 14 years so that her son, Bharata, can be crowned king instead. Rama takes it in stride. He’s going to do what dharma demands, but everyone else is horrified, sad, frightened and very, very angry about this. They threaten and beg Kaikeyi to call it all off. She won’t relent. So then, all of the strong emotions that come with this tragedy are directed at her.
Her son, Bharata, doesn’t want the throne and can’t believe that he’s implicated in his mother’s evil scheme. He comes up with a plan to go to Rama in the forest and crown him king. He goes with quite an entourage. The royal family and court, the people of Ayodhya and lots of elephants march into the forest for the ceremony. Bharata stops along the way and visits with Bharadvaja who offers this counsel…
Bharadvaja laid a hand on Bharata’s arm. “The ways of fate are inscrutable, my son. Do not judge your mother so harshly. I can see far into time and I tell you there is a deep purpose behind Rama’s exile. The Devas, the rishis, all the hosts of heaven and the races of the earth will profit from it one day. And the clutch of evil shall be loosened for an age. Yet great suffering must go before any great deed, and your mother is only an unwitting instrument of destiny. The way ahead is long: don’t be hasty with your judgment.*
I don’t know about the girls, but reading this paragraph did something to me. It gave me this feeling of freedom and lightness and made me wonder…What if we didn’t have to hate the people who are bad and do mean stuff to us? What if we could see into the future, like Bharadvaja, and hold the possibility that the horrible thing that we are in the midst of may not be the whole story and we shouldn’t judge so harshly? What if there is something bigger at work and even if we can’t see it now, maybe we can sense that there is some plan unfolding?
Wow. See what I mean? Lighter. Hate is so heavy.
I think a really good example of not hating people who might deserve it is Nelson Mandela. I can just think about him and I start to cry. He said this:
As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.
Mr. Mandela spent 28 yeeeears in prison, and there were plenty of people during those apartheid years that he could have hated and blamed and tried to enact revenge upon once he was elected president. But he didn’t. He knew that hatred imprisons us and that there is a better way.
There are people and situations that make life really hard. When that stuff happens, what if we didn’t look for someone to blame and to hate? I’m not saying that there aren’t consequences to all of our actions and that people shouldn’t ever have to go to jail or whatever, but what if, at a really personal level, we could call up this feeling that maybe there is more to the story than we are able to see right at this moment and in the long road ahead, we might discover deep purpose? I think this might be the way to ease our suffering during difficult and uncertain times. Already, it is helping me.
*Menon, Ramesh. The Ramayana, a modern retelling of the great Indian Epic. Lincoln, Nebraska: Writer’s Club Press, 2001.