Rev. Austin Miles, a chaplain in Northern California is a writer and historian. He is the author of Santa's Surprising Origins, a story that received worldwide circulation and resulted in him being cast in the 2004 Hallmark Christmas Movie titled, Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus. He played the mall Santa who magically received the gift of sign language.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Society • A Take-Away From The Boston Bombing

Rev. Austin Miles introduces Don Huntington, a gifted writer and speaker (represented by Helen Trautman of Results Unlimited in Pittsburgh,PA). The publisher of 110% Magazine in Northern California, he is able to articulate what many of us cannot do regarding the horrific act in Boston and the people who did it. His take on it should give us all pause to think. 

A Take-Away From the Boston Bombing
By Dr. Don Huntington                                          

Following the Columbine massacre, the celebrated author, Anne Lamott, described a touching exchange with her young son, Sam:

  “Were the Columbine boys on drugs?” Sam asked hopefully.
  “Nope, not as far as we know.”
    Silence. “I guess they just weren’t any good at feeling bad.”

And then Lamott made an accurate assessment of the exchange. “That’s probably the smartest thing anyone has said so far.”

The television broadcasts of the horrors unfolding in Boston awakened a sick sense of déjà vu for all of us who remember 9/11. We all hoped this sort of thing would never happen again, even though most of us were pretty certain that it would. The terrors were awakened by two brothers who, apparently, had fostered feelings of hatred and rage against American policies towards Muslims in the Mideast. They obviously had no way of controlling or managing their negative feelings; their sense of outrage finally overflowed in frightful acts of carnage, mayhem, and death.

Perhaps nearly all the horrible things that people in this world do to each other — from the drive-by shootings in a ghetto neighborhood to any of the acts of terrorism and war that are going on across so many regions of this bloody planet — stem from the single failure that many people just aren’t “any good at feeling bad.”

The challenge of coping with bad feelings is universal; terrible things have happened to all of us. Public schools, for example, seem often to be hothouse environments for the growth of bad feelings. Most of them (all that I and my children have known) are seething cauldrons of animosity, resentment, malice, scorn, and loathing. School age children are brilliantly effective in making each other’s lives miserable. Clothing style, name, race, religion, height, weight, posture, speech, habits, interests, classroom deportment, parents’ occupations…. Each of these things (and a thousand others) becomes the focus for laughter, derision, contempt, and scorn. Immature people carry the horrible fruit of these behaviors into their subsequent lives.

When people behave stupidly towards me, or gossip about me, or put me down, or fail to treat me with consideration, I feel awful. How else could I feel? None of us are free from the temptation to strike back at those who make us feel bad. A few decades ago the phrase, “Only The Shadow knows the evil that lies in the heart of man,” was going through our culture. As we grow older, however, all reflective people also begin to acknowledge the evil that lies at least in our own hearts. Joseph Baretti once made the humorous but biting observation, “I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am.”

Terrorist acts, like the Boston Marathon bombings, fill our hearts with feelings of grief and anger. We naturally feel bad for the innocent lives that were lost and others who were shattered by the event. One troubling manifestation of the problem I am speaking about, however, is the misplaced feelings of hatred and loathing that terrorist acts often unleash in the minds and hearts of people who are not prepared to manage their negative feelings. 

Trying to mask the dark parts of our emotional nature with a peaceful façade leads to illness of the soul. We force the bad things back into the recesses of our consciences until the pressure exerted by the deceit builds to the point that it threatens to erupt in some destructive action. Violence then becomes the logical and seemingly necessary result of our inability to “be good at feeling bad.” Even Gandhi, the prophet of non-violence, made the surprising admission, “It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.”

I disagree with Gandhi’s conclusion. Releasing the violence or caving in to the lusts in my heart may provide some sense of psychological relief, but the original problem is now replaced by the new difficulty of trying to cope with the damage I did to myself and to other people by this release. I imagine that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect who survived the Boston bombings, derived some sense of satisfaction from striking back at the society who, in his opinion, had committed crimes against his people, but doing so has effectively destroyed his life. His brother, of course, is dead.

Following Gandhi’s principle is no way to find relief. Better to “keep the lid on” my passions. Better a façade of control with a possibility of some future eruption than a present sure reality of harmful release.

The best thing, of course, is to find a grace that will wash away the evil that lies in my heart — a cleansing light that will shine into the shadowy parts of my soul and exterminate the nighttime weeds and heal the noxious tumors that have been lurking and growing there. I’m grateful that I have found the Universe to be filled to overflowing with such a light that every day shines into the darkest corners of my heart and causes the dark night-time things hidden there to whither and blow away. All that is required of me is to throw open the windows of my heart and, as the singers in the Hair musical advised, “Let the Sunshine In.”

The result of successfully doing that is that people can make us fear them, they can make us feel miserable, but there is nothing they can do to make us stop loving them. Such love isn’t an emotion, but rather it is a commitment from our heart to them. My attitude is making me more effective at putting up with evil people without hating them or striking back…. Which, of course, is just how I hope people will respond to me when I am the one behaving in some evil way.

Each of us can open our hearts to the light of Heaven and become good for ourselves, good for each other, and good for heaven’s sake. In that way we avoid contributing to the negative energies that surround us. At the most personal level we actually become part of the solution that this weary world is looking for. 

To receive a free audio download of Dr. Don reading the first chapter of his book How To Put Your Whole Self In, go to http://www.howtoputyourwholeselfin.com.

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