The extreme violence we are witnessing in our world over the past month is so deeply disturbing and carries unimaginable human suffering. Yesterday’s devastating school shooting in Texas, following the targeted mass shooting of a Black community in Buffalo, and an attack earlier in the month on a Taiwanese congregation in southern California, show us again the terror that individuals can cause. Our hearts go out to those communities and families who will live with the lasting impact of such deep loss and the echoes of violence that will reverberate.
Today, I am thinking too of the effects on us all of living in a time of continual news of human tragedy and suffering that is difficult to process, so challenging to live with and make sense of. How do we live in a world of such senseless violence and suffering? In this age, we are subject to learning of tragedy on a scale that we are not evolved to process and respond to. How do we stay responsibly aware of the world around us and yet protect our hearts and spirits, and those of our children, so as to live fully, with care and intention, with joy and awe at the goodness that also surrounds us? How do we play our necessary parts in building more peaceful and just communities?
Last night, after hearing the news about the elementary school shooting in Texas, I was thinking about the ways, emotional, rational and spiritual, that we process the unthinkable tragedies that we are experiencing all too often.
Our emotions vary so widely as individuals, capable of evoking empathy, identification, horror and fear in varying measures. Our emotions are so important for creating human connections and can also incapacitate and debilitate us. Our rationality seeks sense-making, a search for causes and solutions, questions about our own safety and sometimes perspective that allows us to separate ourselves to realize that we are not as immediately vulnerable as this tragedy can make us feel.
Our emotions and rationality have their important place, but they can also be where we stay when the deepest levels of our spiritual lives are what can ground us to live in a way that is most true and most necessary. Many of our spiritual traditions tell us that there is an inexhaustible groundwater of peace, strength, perspective, faith and hope that is always at the center of our beings. This core of who we are lies beneath our busy minds and strong emotions. The human condition is such that our connection to this inner light, as Friends call it, is a flickering one, but that light, “that of God”, is always available to us, always ready to complete us, make us whole, so as to fully bring our gifts to our families and communities.
At a time of troubled minds, and much to be troubled about, I encourage you to nurture this deeper connection. First, care for your mind and heart in how much of the disturbing news of the world you let into your life and that of your family. We need to live not only in the light of the news, but in the light of our loving relationships, of the natural world around us that nurtures us in so many ways, in the light of the abundant goodness that is also always happening, always flowing where it is needed. We can find a fuller version of humanity in including the arts and literature in our lives. And we can nurture our connection to our deeper selves in silence, meditation, collective worship and in the places where we see the inner light in others most clearly- in our young children, in our partners, in our aging relatives.
At this time, may we seek the peace within, always present, as the ground from which to live and respond. May we help others to do the same and accept the help of others in finding it ourselves. We are called to live abundantly and filled with hope and love as the fullest response to an imperfect world. We seek that life together every day for your children, for your family and for our faculty and staff in our Friends school community.
Today, we are taking care of the community. As appropriate by age group, we are creating opportunities for children to talk if they want to about what they are hearing, feeling and thinking with the support of teachers and our Student Support Teams and each division today also has Meeting in the Meetinghouse. We are creating space for deeper connection for the faculty and staff in the Meetinghouse after school. If your child or family is in need of support, please reach out to a teacher, advisor or division director. I am so grateful for the deep roots of this community and our care for each other.