How to react? This is difficult because it is raw so I apologise in advance, particularly to those directly affected, if it feels presumptuous to be discussing this and putting forward a view on how to react (I am presumptuous, I have been since birth so I hope I will be forgiven). I have been thinking about this and talking to others about it since Friday night. First for me is compassion for those who have been hurt or shocked by this. How could it be otherwise? My heart goes out to those who have been so shocked and to those who have lost loved ones. I can understand that they will be feeling shocked, hurt, angry, distraught. I am with them, who would not understand such feelings? It needs a lot of love and a lot of compassion for those hurt.
Then my heart says, how do we stop anyone hurting each other like this again? Our natural reaction is to try to prevent being so hurt again. Here, I think reflection is important – as Einstein said, “we cannot solve the problems of today at the level of thinking that created them”. So something must change.
The I-Ching likes reflection and sees it like being on the top of a mountain – that is being an example that others can see from afar and also getting a wider view. It calls it Contemplation (Hexagram 20) and the first line says:
Six at the beginning means: Boy like contemplation. For an inferior man, no blame. For a superior man, humiliation. This means contemplation from a distance, without comprehension. A man of influence is at hand, but his influence is not understood by the common people. This matters little in the case of the masses, for they benefit by the actions of the ruling sage whether they understand them or not. But for a superior man it is a disgrace. He must not content himself with a shallow, thoughtless view of prevailing forces; he must contemplate them as a connected whole and try to understand them.
We can all identify with having acted in a child like, impulsive way (boy like contemplation) and then had the wiser side of ourselves regret it (For a superior man, humiliation). So how do we contemplate things as a connected whole?
Well, here is my attempt at this. If we are all connected as one whole, then we cannot separate ourselves; it is all us. Looked through this lens the Paris attacks take on a different meaning. I think it might be that Life is provoking us to be more conscious about how we are all connected. Paris in the last few days has been experiencing what it is like on a daily basis to be in the Middle East. I think we in the West, through the immigration and the bombings are having to come to terms with the fact that we cannot separate and isolate ourselves from our actions in the Middle East. If we bomb other people and kill them, then they are going to want to do the same to us.
In the hexagram Conflict (Hexagram 6) the I-Ching says:
Nine at the top means:
Even if by chance a leather belt is bestowed on one,
By the end of a morning
It will have been snatched away three times.
Here we have someone who has carried a conflict to the bitter end and has triumphed. He is granted a decoration, but his happiness does not last. He is attacked again and again, and the result is conflict without end.
Violence does not solve violence, it causes more pain and hurt which creates more anger and desire to hurt and so on.
So what can we do? None of us would choose such situations and yet, we can all look back on our lives and see that the experiences we would never have chosen somehow changed us. It takes huge emotional courage, but to choose not to respond by hurting others but instead to turn the challenge to change back on ourselves we can transform the situation so that it creates a greater consciousness and allows us to evolve as humanity. This is very hard work but it seems to be the only way to transform rather than perpetuate the problem. It requires a lot of compassion for those hurt. If we do not react with more violence we create the possibility for the end of conflict.
This is difficult to do because it requires us to challenge ourselves and see our contribution to the situation and to take responsibility for that. The fifth line of the Hexagram Contemplation says:
Nine in the fifth place means:
Contemplation of my life.
The superior man is without blame.
A man in an authoritative position to whom others look up must always be ready for self-examination. The right sort of self-examination, however, consists not in idle brooding over oneself but in examining the effects one produces. Only when these effects are good, and when one’s influence on others is good, will the contemplation of one’s own life bring the satisfaction of knowing oneself to be free of mistakes.
I wonder what those killed would like their legacy to be? I cannot say because I am not them but I think if I was killed by someone, I would not like my legacy to be more violence and killing. I would feel my death had served a purpose if it led to greater awareness and a reduction of violence.
If someone is angry with us and we respond with anger and hurt, they continue to be angry and justify their anger. However, if we don’t respond with anger, they lose the fuel they need to justify their anger, it means they cannot blame us and they have to reflect. I think it is the same with countries. As long as we are bombing and killing people in the Middle-East if fuels the belief that we are the problem. If we stop and act peacefully then in the end, the problem is thrown back on the country and it creates the conditions over time for the country to change itself. This requires patience but in the end it is a lasting change.
If these events provoke us to greater consciousness, to recognise that we are all the same and to take responsibility for our part then that would be a remarkable reaction.
The top line of the Hexagram Contemplation says:
Nine at the top means:
Contemplation of his life.
The superior man is without blame.
While the preceding line represents a man who contemplates himself, here in the highest place everything that is personal, related to the ego, is excluded. The picture is that of a sage who stands outside the affairs of the world. Liberated from his ego, he contemplates the laws of life and so realizes that knowing how to become free of blame is the highest good.
I think most of us can now see the impact of the way we reacted to the 9/11 bombings by invading Iraq and Afghanistan, we have taken many years to reflect and collectively we are beginning to take responsibility for our “boy like” reaction. The same is true of the migrant crisis with our initial refusal to accept or have compassion for the migrants. No-one wanted the little boy to drown but it woke up our hearts and changed our approach. Can Paris wake up our hearts to the suffering violence causes? I hear more to suggest we might respond differently this time I hope it will not take more pain to wake us up.