The ability that all of us humans carry to inflict hurt and pain on one another leaves me indignant sometimes, and at others, I just feel like rolling my eyes as I lament, "Get over it! We're all abusers." The fact of the matter is that we are abusers. We all long to be known and feel threatened when we are not. We put ourselves out there in relationship with our humans and if our needs are not met, or our insecurities feel unmatched, or our vulnerabilities dominated then we protect ourselves by throwing down our attacker. Sometimes we do it on purpose, like middle school girls jockeying for the proverbial top rung on the social networking ladder. Other times, and probably more commonly, we hurt the people we love without realizing it.
An overly aggressive word to our spouse in a heated argument,
the inability to accept a friend's dysfunctional state,
or belittling the person whose stereotypes and assumptions do not match our own.
Yet, it's all on a spectrum isn't it? Some people hurt more than others, and others seem to never hurt at all. However, I'm talking about those of us who live supposedly "normal" lives as we walk around with our issues and struggle with how best to give and receive love inspite of them, but also giving and receiving pain in the meantime because of them.
This makes me sad. It leaves me feeling cynical and violated. I feel naive and foolish for thinking that love is a mystery that conquers all fears. Doesn't true love trump the desire to hurt, even when we might feel over-exposed?
Buddhism has four central tenants--the Noble Truths as they have come to be called:
1. Suffering comes up in everyone's life.
2. This suffering is caused by craving.
3. We can stop suffering by stopping craving.
4. To stop craving, follow Buddha's path (basically and in a Christian lens, follow the Golden Rule and seek spiritual experiences through meditation).
Christianity claims that God is love and perfect love casts out fear.
And God is a relational God, isn't that what the Trinity is about? Paul Knitter writes that the most "fundamental, deepest truth Christians can speak of God is that God is the source and power of relationships." In God we live, move, and have our being. We exist through relationships that center on knowing, loving, and giving since that's how God exists. It's about community. Where is God in our readiness to abuse?
I abstractly believe Paul when he wrote that there is one God above all things, through all things, and in all things. God promises never to leave or forsake God's created people. So in loving our friends, we are engaging in the work of God and living God's life (another point Knitter makes).
And yet we still crave and consequently suffer as well. Cravings so deep that Buddha says we are willing to suffer as we hope for their fulfillment. Or we're even willing to cause others to suffer.
The duality that ensues from this has let me down. Perhaps we should thank modernity for the duality. I like that Buddha teaches that instead of some Transcendent Other, or as Paul Tillich said a "Ground of Being," God can be viewed as the "Ground of Interbeing" (ala Knitter). In other words, God needs us as much as we need God.
Before you label me a heretic, hang with me. I'm trying to make room for evil, I think. Abuse is evil. People intentionally or unintentionally hurting other people seems evil.
Tracing back to Buddha, he says that wisdom comes when we are awakened to the reality that everything is interrelated. But you can not achieve this enlightened, wise perspective without compassion. We are all interconnected with one another; we cannot see both sides of the coin and pick just one and claim enlightenment. Either we care about our neighbor as much as our self, and vice versa, or we are not wise. Again, it's essentially the Golden Rule.
Knitter explains that "One's self becomes one's self-power. One's self-power becomes an expression of Other Power, as a wave is the expression of the Ocean...There is no individual self that can be neatly identified and that acts by itself. There is just interconnection, InterBeing, InterBeings. Lyotard, much later, said that no man is an island. Thomas Merton titled one his genius works this.
So, we are a confluence of good and evil in this sense. No one is 100% abuser or 100% abusee. No on is all perpetrator or all victim.
And as a Christian, I want to say through the teachings of Jesus and by the power of the Spirit we are able to experience a sense of groundedness that yields inner peace, as well as a sense of connectedness/InterBeing that produces compassion for others. When we are living our insecurities, fears, and therefore hurts, and we malign other beings with whom we are innerconnected, we are not at peace with ourselves and lacking wisdom. We are living out of our selfish cravings and therefore suffering with a lack of peace. In this sense, we are abusers.
The ways in which we live are the ways in which we meet the Creator God, or fail to meet the Creator God.
So that, the more I give and love and create and celebrate with and for other people whom I both love and do not even know, I more fully experience the utter mysterious presence of God at work in the world and in all people. It's not through the abuse that God is most manifest, but in the healing and wholeness that can still come in the aftermath of such destruction.
And in this way, God needs us. God needs us to respond abuses on a personal and global level so that God can be made manifest in the wake of evil!
(Sorry if this post makes no sense at all. I'm in process here...)