Yesterday I came across an account by Psychiatrist Dr. Emanuel Tanay, who in my opinion, correctly pointed out that there are very few people who are true fanatics. The vast majority of people of all faiths are peaceful, but it is the fanatics, he stated, that quite often rule. A German aristocrat during the Nazi rule, Dr. Tanay lost everything and ended up in a concentration camp. Although he passed away earlier this year, he did communicate an important message: don’t be ruled by fanatics.
Yesterday’s account got me thinking. Yes, there is immediate action that needs to be taken to manage the current atrocities that people are suffering, but we also need a long-term plan. A plan that our current education system is not executing. This plan not only needs to take into consideration intellect, but it needs to place a heavy focus on the heart. It’s not just about ‘out there’ and changing society, but rather the focus begins with each one of us taking a deep look within.
Reflection upon the recent events such as the Peshawar attacks, hostages in Sydney café and the Westgate mall attack made one thing very clear: that when a certain group of humanity suffers, we are all affected in some way. There are those of us who feel the pain that our fellow humans are suffering; the grief, the anger, the compassion, the empathy. Then there are the perpetrators who have masterminded and committed atrocities – they too have a personal view on the occurrence. And of course there are even those who are so engrossed in their own lives that the tragedy is but a faint whisper in the background of their daily activities.
Aside from witnessing the terrible event that has taken place, in actual fact, what we are also witnessing though our responses is our very own perception. We are witnessing first and foremost our own level of personal development. That’s right, I said, personal development. The perpetrators of this crime are an extreme example of what happens to one without adequate love and awareness education. They use their heads to fuel a very incorrect perception that they have developed. A perception that says that it is acceptable to kill others – even children.
We develop our personal perceptions very early on in life -and we build our life around these perceptions. We grow up, have children and knowingly or sometimes unknowingly pass these perceptions on to our children. We teach our children the way of life as we perceive it ourselves, based on our personal experiences. We teach them how to love and how to respect, (or may be not, depending on who we are). We teach them about boundaries and we attempt to discipline them appropriately. My point is that our children follow our guidance – positive or negative. The truth however, is that we can only take our children as far as we have been ourselves. I am not referring only to education here, but rather to the people that we are.
When terror strikes and when tragedies happen, we are called to re-examine our personal perceptions. Many people may feel helpless when they think about all that is not right in this world. Amongst all the terrible crimes, there is terror, torture and murder – and this dear friends, is the absence of love.
Love is an experience. It knows no boundaries, it knows no colour, creed or sex; it knows no religion. Love heals, it gives hope, it touches people’s hearts and it has the ability to transform humanity. Sometimes love needs to be tough. I believe that our natural natures are one of love, but we forget this if we not reminded as children. So important is this one factor, that if not realised, acknowledged and guided in the correct way, it will create obstacles, suffering and atrocities in adulthood.
Aside from dealing with the heart-wrenching aftermath of these attacks, perhaps the next step is to ask ourselves what role we are each personally playing in creating a better humanity, because the children of today will shape tomorrow’s future. Change is closer than we think. We are the change. We – that’s you and me, hold a responsibility towards the future. And change can be challenging. Change requires that we question our belief systems. Change requires that stand objectively and ask ourselves where we unite and where we divide in our personal actions. Change requires that we question how loving our actions really are, and what perceptions are we passing on to our children. We may not have complete control over what life brings us, but we do have control over how we choose to respond – we have a choice as to whether we choose the response of love or fear.
Yes, terror needs to be dealt with immediately, with the best options available at the time. But…each and every one of us has a responsibility to not only nurture our intellects, but also to nurture our hearts. To stand strong, to be positive role models, and to frequently question our beliefs and behaviours, in hope that love , either gentle or tough, will one day free us from darkness. Humanity doesn’t need material advancement as much as it needs love.