This week the country woke to news of violence.
Violence with guns. Violence with words. Violence with inconsiderate tweets, posts, comments and glances at fellow Humans on the street.
And the tender souls keep asking, confused and hurting and sad...
But why does this keep happening?
It's easy to point fingers at the institutions: There should be more gun control. Resources aren't distributed evenly, so people steal. 'They' should do something to fix this.
But 'They' don't know why people make the choices that they do any more than the rest of us, no matter how many pundits toss about theories and explanations. And if we're honest, 'They' have exhibited some of the same character traits of the individuals who carry out this violence.
So here's the question we should really be asking:
What hurts? What do they need?
Violence, whether physical, emotional, verbal, or more subtle in the form of life choices, emerges from pain and need.
Have we ever witnessed a situation that betrays this theory? Where a truly happy, healthy, well-cared for person exhibited violence?
In history we might point to more primal, base needs: aggression over food, or a mate. But generally today, our needs are deeper -- though in some cases, more primal needs that go unmet beget passive-aggressive behavior and reckless choices.
Case in point: The election campaign of Mr. Trump. His advertisements spoke so directly to the pain points of a large part of the country's population, promising to alleviate the suffering and need, that they voted for him despite their disagreement with some questionable aspects of his character and experience.
Their pain won, and made their choice.
Maybe it's physical. We all know the agony of trying to be a "normal person" while in some sort of pain, be it a headache or the flu. Our patience is limited, our attention span is short, and everything in the body says "JUST PAY ATTENTION TO ME".
And maybe we have no idea what our unmet needs really are, we just know they hurt.
With so much noise, literally as well as figuratively, in our everyday lives, is it any wonder that so many people forget how to hear what their own needs are saying? We confuse thirst for hunger. We confuse exhaustion for a lack of focus and name it ADHD. We medicate, caffienate, stimulate, and overall distract.
So our needs mutate. They speak louder, differently, in hopes that we might hear them.
If those needs are emotional (We have a need for true companionship. To feel valued and seen. To feel lovable. To feel part of a community.), they mutate in some pretty strange ways. Feeling a lack of community turns into seeking connection wherever we can, like in a hate group. The bonds of group mentality formed around a particularly firey topic are strongly unifying, even if they seem contradictory to other life values an individual may hold.
A feeling of disempowerment can turn into a fierce effort to wrest power away from those deemed to be "higher" on the totem pole by any means necessary.
A need to feel lovable might become an obsessive focus on changing ourselves to fit some "more perfect" mold of who we could be. Even self-improvement can become damaging.
So it becomes all the more important that we return to our mat, to the meditation cushion, that we can hear our needs and begin to address them.
Through devoting ourselves to refection and self-awareness, we can become more present to the deeply human needs at our core.
Belonging. Love. Safety.
We can become present to them, and we can see how they motivate our behavior -- and in some cases, in a twisted way, the behaviors of others.
We can cultivate compassion for the hurting people in our world, and instead of leveling the question of why the world is evil, we can wonder:
artwork: "Golden Tears" by Gustav Klimt.