Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher. " - H.H. The Dalai Lama

I've been thinking about this quote a lot over the past few days.

Most will probably have heard about the tragedy in Knoxville this past Sunday.  If not, here is a link to one of many stories covering the events.  Now, it is probably safe to say that there are incidences of gun-related violence every day, but this one hits me a bit closer to home.  I attend and am very active in my local UU Church.  I have found a home there where I am free to explore and develop a personal theology while being in a caring and supportive community that cares about many of the same issues that I do.  

Yes, it is true that I am a Liberal.  I wear the term proudly.  Most of my friends are Liberals and the Church I attend supports many Liberal causes.  I have always valued discussion and discourse with those whose viewpoints differ from my own, but the level of discourse has been steadily declining and I believe that this decline is one of the many things that contributed to this tragedy.  

Discussions decline into defensiveness.  Defensiveness declines into shouting.  Shouting declines to silence.  Silence declines to anger.  Anger declines to irrational rage.  Rage...well, we can see where that leads.

In that light, I will not use this space to bring an indictment to any of the icons that one could blame.  In fact I won't even list them; we all probably have a long list of both individuals and institutions that we feel are responsible.  Instead I will offer these words which have been serving as a mantra of sorts for me in the past few days.



After my initial shock and rush of feelings, compassion was the strongest emotion I felt. Compassion for the victims, families, community, and even for the shooter.  I can't imagine the series of events and circumstances that would lead a human being to the conclusion that this was not only a rational act, but that it was the best course of action. 

I feel compassion for the community of Knoxville.  And, of course, for the congregates of TVUU. I hope with all my heart that you will be able to feel safe again.

I also hope that as we process, grieve, and discuss this horrible tragedy that we can remember tolerance.  If we allow our discourse, discussion, thinking, speaking and action to decline to the level of irrationality, we will loose much of what we as Liberals - religious and otherwise - strive for.

Suffering, I have learned, is a fact of life.  I am angry.  I'm sure many of my friends are angry. But it is not an anger that consumes me.  I see it, acknowledge it, allow it to pass over over me, and come back to my "baseline" of compassion and tolerance.  When a being allows anger and rage to replace compassion and love, the consequences become more and more unthinkable. 

Please, keep the city of Knoxville in your thoughts.

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