"Blossoms from the Thorns"
-At the Desert Retreat House-
I was at the gym yesterday as the "Breaking News" about Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 flooded the airwaves. Most of us pretty much stopped what we were doing and gathered around TV sets placed throughout the gym to watch the chilling story of that horrible tragedy - a passenger airplane with 298 people shot down by a "surface to air" missile.
We watched with horror as the grisly pictures of that crash-sight were broadcast on the news report- bodies scattered everywhere over a five mile radius, mangled pieces of the airplane fuselage, luggage, toys, a travel guide. I kept imagining those people on that plane, many of whom were children and families heading out to beach vacations at Bali resorts, and then in a "flash" it all came to an end.
As we watched the "Breaking News" story, an army general was being interviewed, warning that today's advanced weaponry makes it rather easy for terrorists to shoot down planes in mid-air. As the general droned on with his doomsday scenario, an older woman standing next to me said, "We were supposed to fly into Amsterdam next week to visit our son. I think we might have to cancel that trip."
I thought to myself, I wonder how many people all over the world are watching "Breaking News" and thinking of canceling trips? Or if they do get on a plane, how many will travel with a sense of constant, underlying fear, a "white-knuckled" grip on their seats, wondering if they might be the next victims of a mid-air attack?
I wonder how many people travel throughout their whole life like this - every moment of every day plagued by a gnawing underlying sense of fear? We live in a world that is immersed in an ocean of terror and events like the shooting down of yesterday's plane only make it worse.
Out of fear, people withdraw into guarded camps of isolation to protect themselves. They cancel vacation plans and get extra locks for their doors. Fear breeds a climate of distrust, and so fearful people are always "looking over their shoulder" and "waiting for the next shoe to drop." Fear dampens joy and snuffs out hope; it prevents us from living boldly and courageously.
I suppose there are plenty of reasons to be afraid, but as I see it, something like the shooting down of a passenger airline is an opportunity to rise above the grasp of fear rather than to be pulled further down into its debilitating grip.
In reflecting upon his many years of harsh imprisonment in a South Africa jail cell, Nelson Mandela once said:
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear,
but the triumph over it.
The Buddha teaches that undo attachment is a cause of suffering- I find great wisdom in this teaching. As I see it, I have very little control over what happens to me in my life. I could cancel a trip to Amsterdam and be hit by a car on the way to the store.
So I try not to cling to my life so much. I get up every day and commit myself to do my best to live in the "now," welcoming and embracing whatever comes my way. This helps me to live with joy and to embrace my life with courage even when an airliner is blown out of the sky.
If I was planning a vacation to Amsterdam, I sure wouldn't cancel the trip.
Courage triumphs over fear!