An earthquake is always unexpected. When it hits, the world is shaking and everything around us seems to be crumbling and falling apart. It is truly terrifying.
When you seek the cause of such an event you have to look deeper; you have to look below the surface. And you learn that it was not something that came out of nowhere: It was born of an increasing build-up of tension underground.
Over 7,000 Nepalese lost their lives to their recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Countless more were injured, lost their homes, businesses, access to good drinking water, not to mention the deep fear and trauma that comes when the ground underneath your feet begins to shake. Naturally, the prayers, gifts, and compassion of our world community flowed – as they should – to our brothers and sisters in and around Kathmandu who have suffered this devastating event.
But what about the earthquake that hit Baltimore?
Like in Nepal, we experienced an event this past week that shook our community and our nation that was the result of underground tensions built up over decades. But there is something different about our response.
In Nepal, we know that this event is a part of the natural order. Indeed, we know, after years of developing ways to perceive things below the earth’s surface, that this underground tension is actually caused by one enormous moving ‘plate’ of earth ‘slamming’ (in geologic terms) into another continent. We also know that this powerful collision is also providing us an incomparable gift: the highest, most majestic mountain peaks on the planet. So when this disaster hits, our compassion overflows but there is no bitterness, no rage, no condemnation of the forces at work in the earth; we all knew it was coming, just not when.
In Baltimore, and in our cities where poor and predominantly black communities collide with the recently militarized police forces, our moral compass is challenged to find its orientation. Many struggle to know and discern the right response. Human community, human actions, are different than earth forces because we can change them. We feel there is something we can do to release the tensions, to prevent such disasters. In Baltimore we watched the collision and eruption of human forces and that presents us all with a whole different kind of challenge because every single one of us knows: we can do something about this. We know, this could have been prevented. We know: its up to us whether this ever happens again.
All around us, on a personal level, on a community level, on national levels, we have tension build-up, colliding continents and the possibility for devastating human-created earthquakes that can destroy and shake the very ground we stand on. Knowing all this, should our response really be any different than to the earthquakes caused by the forces at work in the earth? Is it really something different than prayer, compassion and giving that is needed?
Perhaps one other essential, mostly missing element: understanding.
We really do have to start where the scientists started. We need to repeat the all important step that the geologists have done with the earthquakes: to look deep below the surface to find the true causes of the disaster. We need to spend the same amount of time and energy developing the organs of spiritual discernment and understanding that we have given to the development of the instruments that can perceive the subtle changes, movements and tensions in the earth. Only then will we bring light to the fault lines that cut through our human communities, that cut through our relationships and through our very hearts. We need deep human understanding and compassion – the spiritual light that sees through the looting of the mall and the burning of a car into the pain and powerlessness at its root. And we need to bring these gifts of our interest, understanding and compassion to the police forces as well. We have to find the courage to understand one another, to put ourselves in each others shoes.
Naturally, we want someone else to fix things, some other authority to do what is needed. But the healing response to such disasters begins with the work I do my self. Every human being who wakes up to this fact participates in something new, rising up out such a collision of forces as we saw in Baltimore, something even more majestic than the Himalayas. In the future, we will look back at the these collisions as the force that awakened a new way of looking, a new way of being human together.