Last night there was a terrorist attack in the centre of London. So far seven innocent people have died, and three attackers were shot dead. This follows a suicide bomb at a concert in Manchester less than two weeks ago, and a similar attack involving a car and a knife on Westminster bridge in March. And there have been a myriad of such attacks and bombs in other countries over the last few months.
These are unexpected, traumatic incidents that cause appalling damage to everyone involved, and horrify the vast majority of people who witness them, either on the scene or from the wider distance. But even when such events are not taking place, on a more personal level, and a lesser scale, people do damage to each other. All of us have will been hurt by people we love and trust to some degree, at some time in our lives, with varying effects.
It’s easy to become, and remain, hurt, angry, bitter, about all of these kinds of things. There is a saying ‘Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me’. But after years of hanging on to past pain and rage, eventually I found I don’t agree. In the times we live in, with evil and trauma all round, I believe I have to make a choice. There is a benefit in being careful, wary even, taking sensible precautions – listening to our intuition, learning from the past. But there comes a point where that tips over into rage, and hatred, bitterness and cynicism. Where, if I go down that path, I lose my belief in love, and my joy in life and my ability to trust, and see the best in people. Where I start wanting to hurt other people who have hurt me or my loved ones or even, as last night, murder people I don’t know. And then I’m just perpetuating the cycle.
I wish with all my heart that no-one ever felt the need to cause needless pain and damage to others. (Needless because dentists and surgeons and doctors sometimes cause pain – and sometimes emotional healing is painful. I don’t regard that kind of pain as unnecessary). But even though they sometimes do, I will try with every part of me not to want revenge. To accept the hurt and anger that comes immediately after incidents like this, but to let it ebb away. To do what I can to stop other such incidents happening, if I can in any way, but somehow to prevent myself from becoming bitter and cynical and angry. To hold onto my belief in love, and loving kindness.
I know sometimes I will fail – but that’s what I aspire to. And if my naivety and trusting nature means that sometimes the evil in the world hurts me, I think that’s a price I have to pay. Because if I go down the path of anger and revenge, I lose my ability to help, and heal, and maybe to make the world just the tiniest bit of a better place. And in the end, if I can boil all of my spiritual beliefs down to one single tenet, that’s why I think I’m here, to do what I can to make the world a better place.
By the way, this post has the title Imagine for two reasons. Firstly, Imagine, by John Lennon, has a vision of a world where there is peace and love, where ‘the world will live as one’, a dream worth holding onto in times like these. Imagine is also a song associated with a yearly event that I and some of my friends observe, called the Celebration of Love. We have been celebrating this day for over twenty years, and gradually more and more people have started joining in. In hard times I find it helps to hold on to the thought of this day. Anyone who holds similar beliefs about love and the importance of love in the world is welcome to join in – you can find out more about the Celebration of Love here.