Tuesday, December 18, 2012

There is Work to be Done

Children being led past their dead friends, told to keep their eyes closed
 I woke up this morning with the Sandy Hook massacre on my mind, and ideas about how I can help push sensible gun laws through our political system. Opening my e-mail is a little more annoying than usual these days, with marketers in a frenzy to sell me cigars and mail-order cookies. But my stern mood was modified when my inbox led me to Smiling Mind, and I sat with the 5-minute body scan.

I have been impatient with the advice coming from ministers and Buddhist teachers that we all sit deeply with this grief, because I'm not hearing people say, "Now get to work."  To my mind came something I once read said by Zen Teacher Bernie Glassman.  He and his students were meditating every morning in the overgrown schoolyard of an abandoned school.  He said, as I recall, Meditation is a luxury; I could do it all day.  But there is work to be done.  So they just meditated for 20 or 30 minutes.  Then he and his students began cutting back the weeds that were shielding dealers selling drugs to children. 

This is the moment when something can happen in America that can prevent these tragedies.  Here is a link to an article with the headline "Gun Backlash Begins."  As well it might.  It is our job to remember, to insist that the backlash goes on.

I went to Michael's craft store today and bought black grosgrain ribbon and tiny safety pins.  I am making a black ribbon to wear until - I am not sure.  I am not putting it aside to celebrate.  I intend to wear it on my red-and-green plaid Christmas shirt at least until the turn of the year.  Then I'll think about it.  I'm very awkward with hand sewing, so I don't know how many more I'll make, but I'd like to have some to give away if somebody wants one. 

The poet William Blake - another madman, by the way - wrote this phrase:  "Joy and woe are woven fine."  One of Roshi Glassman's main teachings is Bearing Witness to the suffering in life. This is why he leads retreats at Auschwitz.  We need to keep remembering those 20 children and six adults who were murdered by an unhappy young man with his mother's guns, guns she had taught him to use.  We need to think about how far and wide the tragedy of these deaths spreads, how many lives are irrevocably stained by it.

I would be interested in hearing from some of you who don't live in America, how you see this, whether you see America as a violent nation.  May we be free from danger.


  1. I am sad for America as a place where people feel that they have to be able to protect themselves with violence and the threat of violence... that they can't trust that they can be safe and free without such things.

  2. Hi Jeanne. I don't like to generalize about people, but yes, there has certainly been a lot of press about Americans vehemently defending their right to carry assault weapons. In Canada the authorities are pretty fussy about how we store, transport and display firearms but although not so 'in one's face', we still politely insist on our right to transport handguns suitably locked in approved containers separately from their ammunition. Which is not to say people here can't break the law and go on a rampage. An outright vigourously enforced total ban on all firearms would be wonderful, but as you say, there is much work to be done.

  3. Jeanne, in Canada we do indeed see America as a violent nation. Up here we absolutely can not understand why the OBVIOUS answer of gun control does not become the ultimate answer. It's maddening. We are disgusted when people say stupid things like how the teachers should have had guns; that, instead of less guns being the answer, MORE guns will solve the problem.

    If someone I know goes completely crazy (which is facile, but bear with me), there are no guns in my house. I have no idea where they sell guns, and if they do sell guns somewhere around here, they are for hunting, and said crazy person would not be able to get one. Maybe he/she would have to take my cast-iron fry pan with them to wreak havoc.

    It sickens me, and I so appreciate your post, because as always, you cut intelligently through the crap.

  4. I as with Karen, agree. I am also Canadian. I have no clue where one would get a gun. I know of 2 people who have hunting rifles. One person is up north, and another whom is in another province. We just don't even contemplate them here, which makes what you folks are dealing with completely out of our mindset. I have a friend American born and raised who has lived in Canada now 20 years. Her response was to arm the principal (?) So even after all that time her core value was the same. I just don't get it.It is mind boggling.