Straw Flowers

Straw Flowers
"Straw Flowers" by L. Folk

Friday, March 30, 2012

Brutality and the Network of God


I have trouble watching nature shows. While I love to learn about the animals and their ecosystems, watch with awe the subtle and not so subtle maneuverings of majestic landscapes found here on this relatively small planet hurdling itself through space, I cringe at the brutality of nature.
The camera follows a male polar bear swimming for hundreds of miles to find an ice patch or an island where he can hunt. Exhausted, he hurls himself up onto the sand where there are walruses. The walruses sense his arrival and huddle together. He goes at them with claws extended, tearing at their leather-gray skin, trying to bite their necks. They retaliate with their tusks, mar him and he is noticeably wounded with streaks of blood on his creamy white fur. I don't know whether I am rooting for the walruses or the polar bear. I have the thought of maybe one of the walruses sacrificing himself to the polar bear so that he could eat. But the polar bear is too exhausted from his swimming to effectively kill and the last we see of him, he is settling himself down into the sand to die.
There is this internal figuring going on inside me regarding the brutality of this world. It hums underneath my daily thoughts. I am looking for clear evidence of God; because if there is a God, the brutality would be somehow eradicated. I check boxes in my head, yes, there is a God because of this. No, there is not a God because of this. I think a lot of people do this, use logic and reasoning to find God.
In the evenings I listen to “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook. One of the shows this week covered the Travon Martin case. Ashbrook played the 911 tapes. “Sensitive listeners beware,” he advised. You could hear the anguish in Martin's howling before he was killed. Here was a boy with nothing in his pockets but a cell phone and Skittles; he was hunted down by a man whose killer instinct was suddenly activated. I was affected. A check went into the “no” category.
Carl Sagan talks about the reptilian brain in his book The Dragons of Eden. This is the part of our brain that dictates aggression. Scientifically we can account for brutality because of it. When a murder like Martin's occurs, we can say it was due to the reptilian brain gone haywire. It's the same for the polar bear, only the reptilian brain is justified here due to the survival of the fittest.
What would Emerson and Thoreau say about the reptilian brain? For some reason, the wolf stalking and killing a fawn has gone unnoticed by the transcendentalists and I wonder why.
Yahweh, the Hebrew patriarchal god would be fine with it. He demanded blood, sacrificial lambs, etc. When I was a child, someone bought an illustrated Bible for my brother and me. I loved to look at the colorful renditions of the biblical stories and remember one in particular, the story of Abraham and Isaac, where Abraham takes his son Isaac up into the mountains to sacrifice him to Yahweh. Just as Abraham lays the knife over Isaac's throat to prove his love and allegiance to his god, a ram shows up in the thicket and Yahweh tells Abraham to sacrifice it instead.
The Buddhists would say, why must there be any sacrifice at all?
In two weeks, Easter will be upon us; this is right about the time I will be giving birth. So there is the brutality of the crucifixion and the brutality of the birthing process looming. When I think of the crucifixion, I often think of Gibson's film “The Passion of the Christ”. It was a barbarous film of Christ's death, and I found myself sobbing uncontrollably at the end of the movie. But I wasn't sorry I watched it; my sobbing was more catharsis and I felt as if my spirit had gone that barbaric road with Christ and had every right in celebrating as the illuminated, resurrected Christ took his first step out of the tomb. Brutality was a necessary part of the journey.
I can only hope I will feel the same after the birthing process.
And with that, I think of Tom Robbin's Skinny Legs and All where he parallels the conflict and killings in the Middle East to the contractions of labor. Robbins believes there will be a time when the contractions/conflicts will end and there will be a new nation, peaceful and unified.
What would the Buddhists say about brutality? They would say it is a part of the spirituality of reincarnation. Brutality is a part of the process and the only way to find peace with it is to see beyond it. Yes, the wolf does kill the soft, delicate, helpless lamb, but in the devouring, the lamb becomes part of the wolf life-force and in this way, no longer lives in fear of it. It has crossed over from the feared to the fearless. It has ascended in the hierarchy. Christ, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed at the hands of men and this too was a transformation, from mortal to god. It too was an “ascension” in hierarchy.
Therefore we must view brutality not as an end, but as a means particular to transformations. 
I'm still stumped with regard to the Trayvon Martin case however. Where's the transformation there? We've seen killings like these all of our lives. Is this a contraction as well, prepping us for a new awareness? Was this awareness the dream of Martin Luther King Junior? That dream is obviously still being realized; it has not been brought to fruition as Martin's and many other murders imply. Or was this case not one solely of racial tension, but one of hubris, as well? It was through hubris that Zimmerman believed he could handle this issue himself. Enter Greek tragedians and Shakespeare and the brutality brought upon by the flaws of humankind. We are indeed hopelessly flawed and sometimes brutality is the result of that flaw, to fall victim to our chemical and biological make up, that reptilian brain, without taking a breath, a moment to question our actions.
I have to believe, however, for humans with “fully” evolved neocortexes (the part of the brain that cultivates nurturing, love, awareness, intelligence) there is a way around brutality and its various forms (murder, addiction, suicide, etc.) and that is through compassion and meditation.
Unfortunately the garden I cultivated through meditation seems to have shriveled up and died since I've become pregnant. I seem to be too uncomfortable to sit still. But there's always that spark of hope, everyday that I could get it back. Maybe if I can dig at its soil and plant something, I won't be so concerned with brutality and my logical search for the higher power. I would know it's not something one finds in the world, but in the recesses of the spirit. And that spirit acknowledges and responds to other spirits and therein lies the network of God. And that God looks not through a telescopic lens when he views the world.
He sees everything.

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