Wednesday, December 05, 2007

38 Months

(Lucas and Uncle Rick at Thanksgiving)

Recently, we watched a movie called "Paris Je T'aime", which gathers a bunch of famous filmmakers to give their quick take the magical city in France. Some of the short films, all of which were around five minutes long, made a deeper impact on me than others, which is bound to happen given the diverse nature of humanity. It made for an interesting evening catching small glimpses into Paris.

One of the movies was called "Place des Victories" by the filmmaker Nobuhiro Sawa. Before I became a parent this film would have fluttered past with hardly a thought beyond bland but since I now live with a burgeoning three-year-old, I began to feel goosebumps crawling along my skin as the story unfolded. Basically, it's about a woman trying to deal with the death of her son and the emotional grief that consumes and cripples her life. It actually wasn't really a good movie and resorted to cheap cliches to convey resolution, but just the thought of being in her situation caused me to become emotionally invested in the story.

No parent should have to bury their child, right? That's the way the saying goes. It's against the natural rhythm of life for a parent to watch their children die. Yet, everyday children die for various reasons beyond our human control and many others die needlessly because of various circumstances. War, natural catastrophe, disease, curable disease, environmental contamination, simple neglect. Every day there are parents who suffer around the world because of the loss of a child, the ultimate fear of all who have held their own baby in their arms.

So what can we do? I look at Lucas every day and feel such a strong familial connection that I can't imagine life without him. In Buddhism, the basic tenet that is fundamentally entwined with all of life is the law of cause and effect, which is symbolized by the image of the lotus flower because it blossoms and seeds at the exact same moment. It's the idea that everything that occurs in life comes about because of a cause that was made in the infinite past, that everything we do makes an impact on our lives and the world at large, now and in the future. Where I am at this very moment is due to decisions that I made in the past or from decisions that were made for me before I was even capable of making decisions, and where I want to be tomorrow...well, that's the wonder of it all. I have the power to create the future that I want by making certain choices today and I have that same power when it comes to my children.

I've been thinking about a defining moment in my life when I was in the fifth grade. I was involved in my first real conflict that escalated into the realm of physical supremacy. Another boy my age and I were going to fight, a good old-fashioned school yard brawl. Up to that point in my life, I had never been in a real fight beyond the occasional disagreements that you have with close friends but it never actually crossed into the realm of put-your-dukes-up action. But, at that specific moment I felt the vitality of the action we were taking. It was a rite of passage cultural moment, I could feel it humming within my body with the heat in my blood. It was THE conflict moment of my youth. How would I respond?

I remember it all very clearly. I took the first shot. My arm moved away from my body in what seemed like slow-motion. My clenched fist rose up and touched his cheek, followed by the solid connection of bone on bone. A revulsion, a sick feeling of dismay rushed up through me at what I had done. Then I saw hatred flare up in his eyes, deep and dark, and his fist came toward me, much quicker than how I saw my own earlier punch, and knocked me right in the chin. My head rattled, causing my brain to buzz but that was it, I no longer had any fight left in me. Tears sprang up in my eyes and they weren't all due to the physical pain that was radiating up from my chin. The moment that my hand hit his face I understood how fundamentally wrong it is to hurt others. It resonated deep within me and I couldn't take this conflict further because I felt the utter desolation that it would bring. Then, I actually saw that desolation upon his face, pure seething anger that wanted to come at me and extinguish what I had wrought.

In that moment I experienced the profound unlimited energy of cause and effect. Those who support violence to solve disagreements cannot truly understand the impact it has on their own lives and the lives of their families and friends for generations to come because if they did, they would immediately feel the desolation that I felt on that day many years ago. Those who support violence reject their own humanity and succumb to the dark heart of the jungle. They eat their children.

When I was ten-years-old, I realized that I was incapable of physically hurting someone and since then I have not raised my fist toward another human being. It was a defining moment in my life but for the longest time I viewed it as cowardly. Now, when I look at Lucas, I see that it's crucial for me to value the humane and natural feelings of respect that came out of me in that moment. I hope that somehow my actions will make a positive difference in the lives of my children, that in some way they will be protected by the choices I make.

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