I had just finished a book club discussion of Valarie Kaur’s See No Stranger, A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, when I learned the news of last week’s spa shooting rampage that killed eight people, six of them Asian women. And now, just before I publish this, I’m hearing news of another shooting spree in a grocery store in Boulder, Colo. By the time you read this, we will know all of the horrible details.
Once again, I feel a huge empty space in my heart that wants to fill itself with hatred for the shooters, and my head keeps asking, why, why, why?
As Kaur defined revolutionary love in her book, she introduced me to the concept of wonder. She says, “Wonder is where love begins, but the failure to wonder is the beginning of violence.” Embedded in this idea is the notion that if we stand for revolutionary love, not only must we wonder about the victims, but we also must wonder about the perpetrators. She shares a belief from her Sikh faith: You are a part of me I do not yet know, and a personal practice of silently saying sister, brother, sibling, aunt, uncle as she encounters people throughout her day.
I tried it with a photo of the Atlanta shooter. It didn’t work, and that didn’t surprise me. I agree with Kaur that we must first “tend our own wounds” before we can be in a place of wonder. We can do this by processing our rage in safe containers then asking ourselves what information this rage carries for us. For me, these containers are body movement, energy healing, time in nature, ritual, meditation and writing. There is no timeline for this.
As I’ve been processing my rage about hate and violence, I’ve noticed that it has gotten mixed up with a fair amount of anger and grief related to some of my own life experiences. That did surprise me. And while the practice has been uncomfortable, it has also been healing. I’ve leaned on something Kaur shared: “No one should be asked to feel empathy or compassion for their oppressors….we do not need to feel anything for our opponents at all in order to practice love….We just have to choose to wonder about them.”
So, without empathy or compassion, I wonder what the perpetrators may have suffered in their lives that would drive them to gun down innocent people. I wonder how we can still live in a culture that makes people who are not white special targets for hate. I wonder how humans can possess the capacity to harm each other the way we do.
I also wonder about the terror felt by people in the spas and in the store. How they and the families and friends of the dead will move forward in their lives. And the wondering goes on…
Today I was dancing, not with the intention of raging in a safe container, yet it happened anyway. And I got this message from my rage: Trust is an act of revolutionary love. People will do heinous things. We will be hurt in our lifetimes. We will grieve. We don’t have to accept hate and violence, but the only way to live in love rather than fear is to trust that there is somehow a greater plan, even when life seems unbearable. Although it can feel so vulnerable to trust, it is only by trusting that we can be fully open to the flow of love.
And allowing love to rule our actions is truly revolutionary.