I’ve got to admit that this post is probably going to ramble a bit. I’ve had quite a bit of wine tonight, and I got out of bed to post because I feel like I have to say what’s going on in my head and heart before I forget it.
But I can’t really forget it, can I? The news is filled with it. The terrorist attacks in Brussels are everywhere right now, and Facebook is covered in the colors of the Belgian flag. But why wasn’t it covered in the Turkish flag over the last couple of weeks? Why was the coverage of the several terrorist attacks in Istanbul and Ankara so muted in the United States? Why are the lives and deaths of our Turkish brothers and sisters less important than the lives and deaths of our Belgian family? Is it perhaps because they are Muslim? Could we really value the lives of people in Belgium more because they are more “European” (read: white and Christian)?
I don’t think one bombing is more significant than the other simply because it occurred in a geographical location further west than the others. “[A]ny man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.” That’s John Donne, and he was right. He was, to me, more right than even he realized. Because it is not just that all men and women are equal, but that all men and women are part of my life. Their deaths, no matter where they occur or why, are important and have an effect on my life. Period. There isn’t any room for any other conclusion in my world. All the lives in the world that have lived, are living, or will live, are a part of me. And I am a part of them.
As Buddhist, I believe that I am one with the Universe. But that doesn’t just mean I feel like I am an important part of the Universe, or that I can reach the same enlightenment the Buddha himself achieved if I walk the path (although I can. . . it just might take a few more lifetimes). I AM the Universe. And the Universe is me. It is all of us. Within you and without you.
Now this is the really radical part, the part I’m still trying to wrap my own head around. The part the will probably piss off anyone who doesn’t feel the way I do. The part that will anger and confuse anyone who has not had the same epiphany I have had about the Universe. I am also those terrorists that bombed all those places. I am the bombs. I am the anger and hate that created them. I am the smoke and the shrapnel and the rubble and the blood on the ground. These are not parts of myself that I like or am proud of, but I must acknowledge them. I must acknowledge how my own anger and ego have contributed to a version of the world where this kind of violence is possible. If I am the Universe, then I am the parts of it that hurt me as well as the parts that heal me. I don’t get to cherry pick. I have to accept it all.
Thich Nhat Hanh said that we are trying to awaken from the illusion of our separateness (or something like that; I can’t find the exact quote right now). Of course, realizing all of this, our separation in this plane of existence, is an illusion doesn’t mean the illusion suddenly disappears. You still have to live life. Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. The illusion continues, and we still have to go on within it. We still have to eat and sleep. We still have to care for our loved ones and clean the house and do the laundry, and all that other stuff that piles up. (No, being one with the Universe will not get me out of completing my assignment for school this week.) But we must also realize that nothing is apart from us. Nothing that happens in the world happens to someone else. It ALWAYS happens to us.
And the Universe will continue without us after we have left this plane of existence. That, too is a difficult concept to swallow. But nothing is permanent and everything is transitory. The only thing we can do while we are here is to help ease the suffering of ourselves and others. Just one more quoted thought that I actually picked up from the Welcome to Night Vale podcast: Death is only the end if you think the story is about you. The story isn’t really about you. It’s the Universe. And, remember, you are the Universe. You are the brightest star in the furthest galaxy, as you are the tiniest grain of sand on the Earth, as you are everything and everyone in between. Don’t pretend otherwise.
I’m done rambling now. I need to get some sleep. My heart goes out to everyone, victim and terrorist alike.