Thursday, May 31, 2012

Responding to a world of chaos

Posted by Amy Baranski

You may have heard the news by now that a murderer ran loose around the city shooting people and then himself (coward). Six are dead including the suspected shooter.
For those who have died.

Just last week there was the father, a victim of a senseless stray bullet who died near my neighborhood. I was at my friend's son's baseball game when it happened. Another mother who had come from the area and saw the commotion of the first response teams spread the news while we were cheering on the kids in the bleachers. Then there was the gang-related incident at the Space Needle during Folklife--the annual Memorial Day weekend celebration of folk music at the Seattle Center. A bystander was shot, non-lethally. The shooter is 'sorry' he hit the wrong guy. Three days ago a house got shot-up with 60 bullets in the south-end.

The shooting yesterday, of course, reminds me of the Capitol Hill Massacre that happened six years ago. I'll never forget that day because it started with my reporter friend Josh who called me at a very early hour asking if I was OK. I was half-amused by the concern in his voice; it seemed so random that he would be calling me to see if I was OK. It took me a moment to realize his seriousness and that something terrible had happened and I could have been there. I jumped off the phone and threw on some clothes and darted out the door to meet my friend, and boss, Matthew.That began one of our longest working days of the year. We worked at the, now closed, Capitol Hill Arts Center--the venue for the rave that murderer Kyle Huff attended. That was a day of phone calls--one after the other with lawyers, community organizers, politicians, and even Larry King's people.

Today, my husband spent a lot of time on the phone, because the murderer shot a woman in an apparent car-jacking in the parking lot adjacent to this office. My husband bicycles to work (which I love) but I have to not sweat times when he's late or hasn't called because he's in wall-to-wall meetings on any given day. Because if I do sweat it I'll go down this chain of anxieties that always lead to an imaginary scene with a shattered bicycle helmet and a dramatic scene in the Harborview emergency room. Not only am I selfishly happy that he wasn't at the office at the time of the shooting--because if he had driven it could have been his truck that was car-jacked, but I'm even happy he wasn't there so that that he didn't have to witness this senseless violence.

Seattle isn't the only place where a rash of gun violence has swept the area. There were the 40 shootings in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend. We're we supposed to be remembering the dead not creating more of them? Everything seems so upside down these days. Then I read these articles:
After taking in the uplifting headlines so many cliches filled my mind that it took some effort to think beyond them, to think about what is going on in our world. I really wanted to think about what we are all doing together in this world, and what we are all doing on earth as individuals. What guides us? How does our Id, Ego, and altruism commingle? What do they become together? Is it good?
Last night my husband and I stayed awake until 1:00 a.m. (a feat for us on a school night) talking about the meaning of our lives--the value of the work that we do and our aspirations. We talked big picture and strategically to try to make sense of the world around us and how we fit into it and how to live a "good" life and what a "good" life means to us. 

And that's sort of the point isn't it? To think. To talk. To share. And to do these things in a loving and intentional space. We can't just let a stream of cliches fill our minds and our hearts. We have to sort it out. We have to partner in someway with someone(s) to share our frustrations and to have our perspectives challenged. We have to use our anger and frustration, or our confusion and loss, to transform ourselves, our minds. Sometimes we just have to be together. Other times, we have to let go. We have to let go of what's expected of us and take a leap of faith because who should reign a court of expectations of our lives? Who has that power and why do we so often give it away?

Last week, up in Snohomish at a lovely mom-'n-pop bee-keeping supply store I chatted with the shop owner. He asked when we were expecting (because I'm really showing now). And he said this: 
"There's not many things you'll do in life, if any, that will have an impact 100 years from now. But raising a child will."
This filled me with a sense of hope, responsibility and pride. And I love the idea behind it--that raising up people (loving people) is so important to contribute to the good. But I also thought, what if I weren't having a child? What kind of impact would my life have 100 years from now? And I think this too is important to consider, because I may very well not have ever had a new person to raise. And I know many people who have chosen not to procreate or have not had children not out of any choice or reason. And those lives matter deeply--at least they do to me. But how do we frame the conversation so that we're asking how an individual can contribute to the good, and to the 100 year good? One thought that immediately came to mind (because I'm very committed to environmental sustainability) was if we all thought of the earth as our child--a living being as complex as one could imagine with interconnected systems of feeling, and life, and seemingly endless opportunity to cultivate, blossom, mature, and ultimately transform into a new cycle of life. If we held the same esteem for the earth as we did our own children can you imagine the kind of world we might live in? In my mind it's a paradise that makes me smile. The other idea that occurred to me was the importance of our thoughts and not only their content but their mode. We each have an amazing capacity for imagination, bliss, attachment, and detachment. And how we allow our thoughts to rule our life decisions has, in my opinion, a 100 year effect. Thoughts--both their scope and operation--are handed down to generations whether we intend for that or not.

And yet there are so many other ways to think about the world and our impact. I invite all of you to make some space for yourself or with a friend or a lover and have a conversation on what it all means. Don't just let the day roll on by like some banal Hallmark Cliche. If you don't have time to do then think or talk.



Matt said...

"Love makes the world go 'round,
or so I've been told,
and I guess I believe it.

And when we decide
to enlighten the wise,
the world will be happy again."

-Original lyrics by DREW KERIAKEDES, aka Shmootzi the Clod

Melissa Baumgart said...

matt, thanks so much for sharing those lyrics. touching.

Cassandra said...

Deep thoughts. A few people (mostly family members) have been really concerned with the recent shootings in Seattle since we're moving up there. They are afraid we'll become victims somehow. And I guess that's a valid concern, but I've been living in Arizona for the past 13 years. Our violent crime rate is much higher than Seattle's.

It's sad that people have to injure or kill others, especially when it's arbitrary or accidental. As an individual, I have no control over others' actions, only my own. All I can do is attempt to make my small corner of the world a better place by how I treat others and how I treat the environment.

Thanks for sharing your perspective and allowing me to share mine. :)


Bob Redmond said...

That post is one to re-read, thanks for putting it all so well Amy.