Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mending a Broken World

"Many as One"

The word "holiness" usually conjures up all sorts of images- a priest in a long white robe saying lots of prayers? A monk meditating in a temple garden? A great biblical hero enthroned in a stained glass window in a church? 

Actually for me, when I think of "holiness," priests saying prayers, and stained-glass images aren't what immediately come to mind.  

For me, "holiness" is another word for "wholeness."  

A holy person is a "whole person" - someone who is not cut off, but lives life as a relationship. A whole person does not hide within the walls of a self-important ego but is aware of the truth that we all belong to one another -we are all a web of relationship. And so, a holy/whole person values relationships, fosters relationships, and when relationships are ruptured, the holy person becomes a reconciler and a restorer. 

This morning I am thinking about holiness and wholeness because I am still reeling from a horrific event that occurred a few days ago here in California. The images still continue to haunt me even in my sleep. A few hours up the coast from me, there was another shooting in the public square in a college community near Santa Barbara. After stabbing his roommates to death, a young student barely out of his teens armed himself with three semi-automatic weapons and went on a drive by-shooting rampage on the streets of this upscale college town, randomly killing three fellow students who just happened to be in a local 7-11, and seriously wounding and maiming many others before he finally shot himself to death.

A news report I was listening to yesterday said that the shooter was "insane." He had been treated for serious mental health issues for many years. In fact, he had posted a wide variety of "U-tube" videos online before the shootings occurred, clearly demonstrating that he was indeed troubled, disturbed, "insane." 

As I reflect upon it, I have concluded that the shooter wasn't the only insane one here. As I see it everything about this entire incident was insane - it was all so broken and so unholy. 

Another news report yesterday featured an interview with the father of one of the girls who had been murdered. He was devastated at his loss - literally a "broken" man. I have a son in graduate school here in California. I just simply cannot even imagine what it would be like to learn that my son had been shot to death by a random "insane" shooter driving by on the streets. It would break me into pieces-drive me insane. 

I also think about how insane it is that we continue to value and protect and uphold gun use laws in this country, especially in light of all the insanity of the shootings over the past years. 

For the life of me I cannot fathom how that young man, who has been treated for mental illness all his life goes onto the social media and makes a series of very public statements in expressing his rage over and over again, can walk into a gun shop and with no difficulty whatsoever purchase three semi-automatic weapons. I think perhaps this is the most insane thing of all. 

So there has been a lot of insanity over the past few days out here - so much brokenness. It has been an unholy time. And so this is indeed a season for reconciliation and restoration.

There is a wonderful practice in the Jewish mystical tradition. It is called "Tikkun Olam"-the practice of "mending a broken world." According to this tradition, it is the duty and responsibility of every human being to do his or her part to repair any fracture, rupture or brokenness they encounter in everyday living. 

I will most likely be unable to personally help pick up the pieces of those many broken lives in that college town up north from me.  All I can do for them is cry along with them because we belong to each other.  And then I can look to my own life, pledge myself once again to live a life of holiness, and then do what I can in my everyday living to mend a broken world. 

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