How different would our world be—how different would our day-to-day interactions be—if instead of seeing and remembering things in the negative, we viewed things through a positive light?
What if instead of “never forgetting,” we “always remembered.”
What if instead of never forgetting terrible losses, we always remembered the greatness of those whose lives were lost. And we celebrated progress.
What if instead of never forgetting tragedy, we always remembered to meet people wherever they are. And we celebrated our differences.
What if instead of never forgetting senseless acts of violence, we always remembered to wish every being—even ones who hurt us—freedom from suffering.
What if instead of never forgetting fear, we always remembered to act with courageousness. Compassion. Consideration.
What if instead of never forgetting hurt, we always remembered loving kindness.
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering, May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.
I tried to apply this to my own life, in a very tiny way, this week. While driving down MLK Boulevard, which is once again turning into a true boulevard, someone parked on the side of the road opened his car door and knocked off my side mirror. The driver claimed I was in the wrong. While I doubt this to be the case, I’m not sure. But I was furious. I wanted to run him over in my little safe box of steel. I was happy I hadn’t been cycling in that very spot ,as I likely would have been “doored,” which would have certainly resulted in two broken elbows and a world of pain.
What if instead of being angry at this person for acting without intention—and never forgetting the wrong I felt he caused—I always remembered that he has his own world of pain and suffering. That maybe he suffers from senseless acts of violence or pain, and that opening his car door into someone driving by was the last thing he wanted to happen on a Thursday afternoon.
I was furious that he didn’t offer to make good. He said that he was going to just drive off—and that I was in the wrong. “I have a witness!” he said, arms spread wide, pointing to his passenger. “So do I!” I said, pointing to Charles, in the passenger seat. I didn’t call the cops or file a police report. I drove off, as I wanted to enjoy dinner with my family. I was mostly hurt that someone might act that way—senselessly, without any consideration for a fellow human being.
Why is it that we must alienate the other? Why is that the hardest thing to do? How many lifetimes will it take for me to be able to not react, to not judge, to not want to curse and run someone over, or get even against someone who took advantage of me? How long will it take me to not spew hate, but instead to always remember to wish for that man to find happiness and freedom from suffering?
Today, on the memorial of one of the great American tragedies of my life so far, I hope that message rings more clearly.
How long will it take until we can treat each other with loving kindness and compassion, even when others hurt us or go against our beliefs?
How long will it take until we can treat each other with the dignity and respect that we’re all worthy of?
How long will it take for us to not just never forget, but ALWAYS REMEMBER that we’re dealing with humans? Even if their actions go against every fiber of our being.
Remember, we’re dealing with humans.
I’ve thought a lot about this, especially in light of this summer’s events that sparked the “Nooga Strong” sentiments. My small example of finding forgiveness and compassion for someone who hit my car by no means compares to the greatness of the lives lost in acts of violence.
Not everyone shares in my sense of optimism, I know, and some may find it disrespectful. But my hope is that yes, we can honor the lives of those we lost. We can also have conversations that lead to meaningful progress. In my heart of hearts, I hope we can learn to love and grow and change to reduce the impact we have on one another. To stop judging. To start conversations. To see that our enemies have their very own struggles, their very own pain and suffering.
I hope we always remember to act in ways that liberate every human being, every living thing from suffering. To allow them to find happiness, no matter who they are, where they’re from, or what their intentions may be.
“Compassion and love are not mere luxuries.
As a source both of inner and external peace,
they are fundamental to the continued survival of our species.”
—His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama