How are we to go forward after mass shootings such as the recent horror in Pittsburgh? We live in a world in which one hate-filled human being can become a terror cell afflicting us all with a growing cancer of fear and despair. What are we to do?
When my reasoning mind cannot make sense of the world, I search for metaphors that can help me see in a new way. Here is the metaphor that inspired me and my family to create the garden in the picture above: Each of us can become a compassion cell in humanity’s immune system response to terror cells. I designed the “compassion cell garden” to symbolize the oneness of all human beings. Since the time of the picture, a pond has replaced the middle garden and a fountain bubbles up at its center. The fountain at the center represents how the miracle of life comes to us all: it flows into us unbidden, a mysterious gift of conscious awareness we each receive from moment to moment, breath to breath, heartbeat to heartbeat, joy to joy, and sorrow to sorrow. To some, the central fountain might represent the Source of Life, God, or a fountain of universal compassion. The sixteen gardens that surround the center garden represent various peoples and religions of the world, each with its own unique character but all united in a harmonious design. The pathways that extend out beyond the outer gardens suggest that the compassion we cultivate at the center of our lives can shine out far beyond the limits of our finite attempts at love.
When the human body works as planned, the presence of a pathogen or mutant cell mobilizes millions of healing cells to surround and eliminate the threat. Likewise, by living as compassion cells with an abiding sense of the oneness of all human beings, faiths, races, and nations we can do our part in helping humanity’s immune system create a climate in which terror cells (whether individuals or groups) do not have the “blood supply” of racism, nationalism, and religious intolerance on which they thrive.
In his book Living in a Mindful Universe, neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, MD states that the most important thing he learned during his transformative near-death experience is that human consciousness is not produced by the brain; rather, he now believes the brain acts as a filter for a Consciousness that pervades the universe and underlies the entire physical realm. This great Consciousness, with which he feels he had an encounter while in a coma with meningitis, flows through all human beings and is the basis of our oneness. Alexander concludes that any religious idea or spiritual belief that does not recognize the inherent unity of all human beings is erroneous and potentially dangerous. Perceptions that one group or faith is superior to others can become distorted into the “All Jews must die!” kind of thinking used to justify mass murder.
So here is my call to all individuals, couples, families, churches, and religions: become compassion cells! Cultivate and shine out compassion for all human beings! Be on the lookout for your own distorted thinking that can focus you on fear or self-interest and move you away from awareness of our essential oneness. Make your inner life, your family life, and your spiritual community vital parts of humanity’s immune system response to terror cells.