As a woman I am aware of the fact that I am a possible target of violation just because I am a woman, that one in three women will be perpetrated and violated in her lifetime, that a dear friend of mine was violently killed when alone on a walk in a beautiful place. As a woman who has watched the French Film Irreversible I have in my mind an image of violation so deeply etched and horrifying that I guard my surroundings with great care and lock my doors at night. Yet, as a human, I know that women are not the only victims of violation incurred by the hand of perpetrators lost in a shadow of deep darkness. According to statistics 1 in 33 men have experienced attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, and 15% of sexual assault rape victims are under the age of 12. No one is outside of this circle of potential violation no matter what the number in his or her statistic bracket is. The desire to keep myself safe is coupled with a commitment to being aware and sensitive in my surroundings. The upside of this awareness is that I have managed to be on the winning side of the statistical line, the downside to this awareness is that it grows a suspicious nature in me and a tendency to label people without facts and true information.
It is human nature to choose behaviors that enable our survival; suspicion is a behavior characteristic that sustains life. Like all things in this universe, suspicion has its place and can be a skillfully used tool for protection. However, there is another edge to its sharp sword. Suspicion builds walls of separation, judgment, and distrust.
As I contemplate what it is inside a human that drives them to behaviors that dwell so deeply in the darkness they are often and easily referred to as evil, I come to the same answer as I do when I contemplate what it is inside humans that drives actions of great compassion and generosity. The answer for me is always the desire to love and be loved without condition.
How? How could anyone who wishes to be loved violate and perpetrate? How could anyone commit acts that are so dark in themselves they near the label evil, and essentially are in some form taking a life? How is it possible that there are times when these already heinous violations cross into great ugliness of human disfigurement, and murder, how? How could that have anything to do with love?
We learn from one another. We learn from those to whom we look for guidance. If it is our great misfortune to grow up in a household where attention is shown through violation and abuse, than in a very misguided environment we learn to feel love there. If there is never any positive attention given to us, in our desire to know love we are taught through the examples of others, how to take it. Sometimes the taking of what we want is disguised in tactful manipulation like rewards for good behavior, and other times it is blatantly taken in a power play of dominance and force.
This kind of misguided seeking of love is not limited to sexual and physical violation upon one human from another, but can be witnessed in all aspects of human relationship across all spectrums of society. Power is taken from children when they are taught to conform to a systematic set of learning skills and a systematic understanding of relating to the manifest world they are just getting to know. Power is taken from adults when governments that inefficiently serve big money needs claim reforms and policies are for the people of their nation states, and tax them to enact these new policies. Power is taken from our elderly when we hide them away in nursing homes and the care of outsourced providers because they don’t fit the image of what is revered in a youth loving culture, their wisdom from life experience locked away with them. Power is taken from each of us every time we are excessively imprinted with advertising, commentary, opinions, and the news. Power is taken with weapons and acts of war, walls that separate east and west, treaties that define suspicions and resolutions that support the more powerfully invested. Power is taken from us every time we allow ourselves to be suspicious of another persons desire to be unconditionally loved.
Not to be misunderstood, there are those who are so misguided, who have been in the well of the darkness for so long, that in only knowing that kind of behavior they can be considered dangerous. I don’t really recommend it, but if you watch Irreversible you too will have an image of what the conditioning of abuse can do to a person, it is nearly irreversible.
However, the truth is we all have darkness in us. Think of your own darkest transgression and ask yourself honestly if you arrived there in a desire to be more loved, thinking that by doing that deed you would get approval somewhere somehow. Therefore, these transgressions begin as innocent falls. I know that in my personal story this is true. I also know that I am fortunate, that no matter how dark I have been in my life I have had ever more bright and beautiful guidance and teaching to guide me to the true power of love, a power which never has to be forceful and never has to take. The truest fact of the power of love is that it is present without condition, for everything, all the time, everywhere. Just as love is always present, so is darkness, and darkness is not evil, it is just an absence of the light. When the light is shined into our own darkness and we view it with compassion we find the power of love in self-forgiveness, and from there we have the potential to follow the light and the power of love into great self-actualization and wise love of self and others.
As Terry Pratchett said in the novel Good Omens “People couldn’t become truly holy, unless they also had the opportunity to be definitively wicked.”
My point in this pondering is that in being suspicious and turning our backs in fear on those misguided souls we are digging the hole deeper. This does not mean that to truly be in the power of love we must invite every dangerous looking and feeling person home with us for dinner, rather, we are invited to see them through the same filter of compassion and empathy we see ourselves and in the process hold safe boundaries. It is from this view that we can than perhaps find the room to forgive them their innocent desire to be loved which led them down the road of misguided education and dark disparaging action.
In April of 2012 I had the great honor of attending a Dharma Talk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He spoke extensively on the subject of suspicion and love. His teaching offered that when we arrest ourselves from our nature of suspicion of others we see all that we have in common, and there is so much. In this, we are love. To love then with boundaries that enable us as individuals to not only survive but also thrive without creating any hardship, hurt, or violation of any other living being, is the practice he referred to as Wise Love.
The practice of Wise Love requires incredible effort, and is worth every ounce of it. Rewards include, more self love and forgiveness, the deep understanding of our shared human experience, relationships that provide expansiveness of perspective, and an inner satisfaction that is hard to explain in words.
Rumi said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
I do not condone violent, abusive, forceful power taking perpetration. I also do not condone the suspiciousness that leaves no room for humans to change and be redeemed. In the end we are all just wayward souls trying to find our way to the light.
In my perspective Love is our truest nature, as is the darkness through which its light shines, and redemption is the song we each have the right to sing in this journey of beauty and grace.
In Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving,