This has been a rough week of terrorism for the U.S.A., in a single week we have witnessed the bombing of the Boston Marathon, and the mailing of ricin laden letters to President Obama and Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. This week was also the 18th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing (04/19/1995).
Those directly effected by the Boston bombing showed tremendous heroism by rushing to the aid of those injured immediately following the attack, and some runners even continued running to the nearest hospital to donate blood… after already running a marathon! The city of Boston as a whole, also seemed to show tremendous resolve and unity during the manhunt for the perpetrators.
However, almost immediately after the news broke about the bombings many people who were not directly effected by the acts seemed to be in a rush to pin the blame on someone. Were the acts done by radical Muslims? Right-wing fundamentalists? North Koreans? Everyone seemed to be in a rush to pin blame on “them”. There seemed to be an intense need to exonerate one’s own group (“us”), as well as justify deep seeded mistrust of “them”. Once it was discovered that foreign born, presumably Muslim, young men had perpetrated the bombing (Perhaps if we add in enough identifiers, each of us can distance ourselves from “them”), I watched on several social network sites, as many people almost gleefully celebrated the exoneration of their group, while armchair quarterbacking appropriate responses and protections.
While it is unknown at this time what exactly triggered the Tsarnaev brothers to commit their act, I can guarantee you at the root of it was division (a classic “us vs. them” conflict). Perhaps they didn’t feel that they fit in to American society, so the entire community composed “them”, perhaps they felt persecuted or marginalized because of their faith or ethnicity, perhaps it was an extension of the Chechnya -Russian conflict. Somewhere, there was an us vs. them mentality at the root. There always is, because regardless of what “group” a terrorist comes from, the us vs. them mentality is the fertile soil that allows the seeds of extremism (darkness) to take root and grow. The division (whether perceived or actual) is necessary for terrorism, because in order to conduct an act of terrorism, you must view your victims as sub-human, or at least deserving of carnage and death, which is not what G*d wants for us, nor is it what human nature dictates. Also, after an act of terrorism, the us vs. them mentality causes friction that prevents true healing.
This is my fifteenth post in a series, where each Monday (if possible) I will post about a point of reflection or insight that I will use to reflect and meditate on during the week. In order to make it a bit more focused and interesting, I will attempt to do this with topics beginning with letters from A to Z. I have often found that having a specific topic to reflect and/or meditate on during the week really lends itself to interesting insights and growth, because you not only have several days to reflect and meditate on the topic, but you have several days to put any lessons and insights that you discover to work in your every day life. For those that follow me on Twitter (@JasonLivingNow) I will try to write updates as the weekly topics come up during meditations, moments of reflection, or just during everyday life. To view the current and previous entries in this series, please visit the: Reflections and Insights A Through Z section.
O= Opening Yourself Up To New Experiences: It is easy and comfortable to get into a routine in our lives. We take the same way to work, we see and talk to the same people every day, watch the same TV shows, read the same genre of literature, order the same items from the same restaurants, etc. While routines aren’t inherently bad, if we aren’t careful our routines can become a rut that cuts us off from the rich experiences that life has to offer.
Our comfortable routines can also prevent us from progressing down our path of personal and spiritual development. I personally have found that situations which have caused me to get out of my comfort zone the most, have actually led to powerful insights and drastic changes in my perceptions. I think that this is the case because just as a stone or wood needs friction to polish it to its true beauty, when we get out of our comfort zone, we can encounter the friction that we need to uncover our true potential, and enjoy life to the fullest.
I have found that the following 7 tips have been especially helpful in getting myself out of my comfort zone in order to experience new facets of life, and open myself up to new experiences:
1) Talk to someone new, or have a meaningful conversation with someone that you may have only interacted with only casually before. You may be surprised at the level of camaraderie and insights that can be obtained from unexpected people, or in relationships that you have never devoted much time to before.
2) Give someone whom you may have an unfavorable opinion of a new chance. I have found that some of my best and most lasting and meaningful friendships have been with people whom I didn’t have a great first impression of.
3) Try reading or watching a news source that is on the other end of your normal political persuasion. By looking at the opposing perspective, you may reveal blind spots in your own ideology and belief system that you never knew existed before. It is also important to view other sides in order to not fall victim to “confirmation bias“, where you merely expose yourself to ideas and viewpoints that already fall in-line with your own, because in essence you will begin to view the world with a pair of blinders on.
Like most people, it is hard for me to grasp the scope of the acts that Anders Behring Breivik recently committed in Norway. Sometimes I just can’t fathom how someone can carry out acts of violence in the name of religion, no matter how insane/delusional they are. Without in any way discounting the scope of his acts, the grief of the families, or his guilt, there are lessons that can be learned from his, and other terrorists, actions.
From what has been released, it appears that Mr. Breivik was an extreme Christian fundamentalist that was part of a subtle undercurrent of like minded individuals who believe Europe is being taken over by Islam, and that the implementation of Sharia Law is imminent. Mr. Breivik, and other like minded individuals feel that they must act out in violence in order to “save” the “Christendom” of Europe from this invading Islamic force. Unfortunately, there is a similar undercurrent present in other world countries, especially the United States. Fortunately, for now most people confine their fears of “other religions” and “other people” to private conversations, or internet forums. However, I fear that this undercurrent is gaining momentum, and more problems may be on the horizon. Read more…