Last night I had the opportunity to attend a local theatre production of West Side Story, the now classic show that abounds with beautiful music, unforgettable lyrics, and rousing dancing. Having not seen the show in many years I had forgotten how much West Side Story is also a tragedy. It tells the story of a clash of cultures during a time of change, of two street gangs, one white and one Puerto Rican. It ends in the death of three young men and shattered lives for those who loved them. It is a story of anger, prejudice and violence that stem from a foundation of fear. It is the same story that undergirds the tragedies this week in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas. No longer an act of fiction, instead we bear witness to the all too real consequences of anger, prejudice and violence fueled by fear. It is indeed a tragedy.
How are we to respond? With more fear fueling more anger and more violence? Sadly, this is a choice some will make. In doing so, they will be part of the problem. I’d like to suggest there is another way to respond, a way to be part of the solution.
A Course in Miracles teaches that in every moment we each have a choice between fear and love. This is one of those moments.
In the face of this moment, I invite…I encourage… each of us individually and all of us collectively—to listen deeply to the wisdom of Albert Einstein when he said, “We cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.” This is what it means to be part of the solution.
So how are we to respond to these tragic events? How can we use this moment to see the world anew? It is natural to respond to the events of this week with sadness at the senseless loss of life and with compassion for those who lost their lives and those who love them. But let us not stop there. Let us go beyond sadness to understanding and compassion for all parties…for those brave men and women who daily risk their lives in the line of duty to protect our freedoms and also for the countless people of color who live in fear that these well intentioned officers of public safety can, and in the flash of an instant do, unpredictably visit death upon someone they love, in turn fueling further fear, anger, and yes, more violence.
On a political and social level we need to do all we can to eliminate racism, discrimination, and lack of opportunity. We need also collectively to say yes to the rule of law, to a society of civility and peace.
But this is only a beginning. What would it look like to respond with a truly different consciousness at the end of this tragic week than we held at the beginning? How can we let these events change us for the better, individually and collectively?
Let us first begin with compassion for all parties, the dead and those who love them, and also the fearful and oppressed who see in these events further evidence that their lives don’t matter.
Let our compassion lead to listening to each other with the intention to truly understand and respect each other, not just our own side.
Let us pray. In Dallas the Chief of Police and Mayor both described themselves as men of faith. We join them in prayer for prayer has power. Let us pray for healing, for understanding, for compassion and for peace.
Let us hold forgiveness in our hearts…forgiveness for both the officers who shot two young black men and for the angry young man who retaliated by in turn shooting police officers and civilians. For many it truly requires seeing the world anew to offer authentic forgiveness of this magnitude.
Most of all, let us respond with love, with love that pours from our hearts out to all, those who are like us as well as those who are different.
And let us respond with hope that through shifting our consciousness individually we can shift our shared consciousness, both here in America and throughout the world. This means each of us responding with a commitment to do our part, to be part of the solution to heal the very consciousness that gave rise to these senseless acts of violence and to manifest a new consciousness, to manifest love and forgiveness. I have had the opportunity to travel to many parts of the world. I am finding a growing number of people in every country and every culture choosing love and forgiveness. I invite you to join these countless others who in the face of fear courageously choose love. Together we can transform our consciousness and our world.