The irony of me writing a post is that I have had trouble finding the words to describe my thoughts and feelings around this week’s tragedies. The same day, Wednesday, that there was a fatal shooting just a few blocks down from my house, Flight PS752 from Iran to Ukraine crashed. I don’t know how many of you have been following the news and stories surrounding the crash, but it is terrible, tragic and absolutely heartbreaking.
I am not one of the victim’s friends or family members, so I can only imagine the grief and heaviness those directly affected must be feeling over these events. A handful of the victims on Flight PS752 were students and academics here in Ottawa, and 63 in total were Canadians. Though I am not one to focus solely on nationality, as I think we are all connected across the globe. When one human suffers all of humanity suffers. Yet, there is something about feeling the nearness of people affected in your hometown and country.
I am not writing to put any of my opinions or views out there, but as a way for me to process it. Perhaps you too are in need of some form of outlet or space for things like this. I have been sick to my stomach for days over the news of these events, and have been asking myself, “How do I respond? Can I respond? Is there anything I can or ought to do?”
I have learnt over the years that when I get that sick feeling in my stomach, my body is saying something to me. She is trying to get my attention in some way or another. So, I have tried to lean into that a bit this week and listen to what that might be.
If you have read any of my writing before, you will know I am a huge advocate and believer in Contemplation and Mindfulness as a vital part of life; especially if we hope to live full, meaningful, present and actively engaged lives. And so, those themes have trickled into my thoughts here.
I think we are called to respond to events like this in some form. I do think it is probably wise to not just consume copious amounts of news, and yet also not to turn a blind eye to it either. I think sometimes we fear hearing about tragedy so much that we pretend it is not existing at all. We fear how it will impact us, how it will impact our future and ultimately reinforces this belief that maybe the world isn’t a safe place after all. Like most things in life, there are two sides to the same coin, but I believe in a third way to engage with things like this. I suppose I believe in a third way for most things.
What if we didn’t turn away from the troublesomeness of this weeks events, or perhaps your own more personal “news”? What if we didn’t let it just bounce off of us and let everyone else deal with it or feel it? What if we decided to sit with it. What if we let our thoughts and emotions surface, our questions and fears bubble up? Perhaps you are thinking, “Yeah, well what do I do with all that though? Where do I put it?” This is where I think having a spiritual practice, a sacred space and community is crucial. We need spaces and practices that allow the subtle voice that whispers tales of a safe world, a kind world, a world where there is healing and forgiveness where there is shalom. Aren’t we desperate for that?
These things are too big for us. And yet, I do think they beckon us to recognize the interconnectedness among all of us. They call to us from the ashes and tears of our fellow brothers and sisters, to see our our oneness, and our togetherness amidst joy and tragedy. I think it is through letting these things affect us, letting them seep into our bones that we are invited into transformation. We are invited into greater capacities for empathy, hospitality, generosity, hope and kindness — ultimately, love.
I am not saying that we use events like this as a means to transform ourselves. Never do I wish these things to happen, ever. But I do think this is a call for us to wake up. To wake up to what is bigger than ourselves, to wake up to needs and grief of one another. I do believe, ultimately, that we are called to one another.
Dare I say that I think this inner transformation is part of the answer to most of our issues on both a personal and global scale? Yes, I do. And so, I invite you too to make space for moments like this. Of reflection, meditation, prayer, lament, a meal around a table with those you love, attend vigils, engage in conversation — however it looks to you. I think we are being called to and I believe it is on behalf of all human dignity and love that we must listen and respond.