essay and painting by: Scott Mcleod (http://www.scottmcleodfinearts.com/)
As I watch life unfold around me I have witnessed many points that show me how easy it is to loose control of my emotions. As Buddhists these are challenging times. To put this chain of thought into context I am remembering: Tangshan earthquake, African drought, Armenian earthquake, North Korean famine, Mt. St. Helens, South Asian tsunami. These incidents took an immeasurable number of lives. I look at these things through what my wife calls jaded eyes. I reflect with a similar stoic reserve when I think back on Darfur, Sarajevo, and Tibet. People have been massacring each other for thousands of years. I am one of those folks that put my Buddhist practice to work on my psyche. I worked to directly affect the way I see death. We are all joined to that thing death, a being that we live with as a constant companion. It will not matter if it is friend or foe to you, when you and your companion walk that silent path into the stream of life.
So I have become very comfortable with death. As a practitioner of Zen, death does not get me overly emotional. I cry when someone close to me has died, I send prayers and loving thoughts when I see pain and suffering in the world, and I provide comfort and support when someone I know needs it. But as the Gulf Oil spill progresses and hundreds of thousands die I will not become depressed, or mad or negative in any way. I will not hate the oil company, the government, and those folks who oppose my views on the environment. (I am a staunch environmentalist) I will continue to send positive loving and compassionate thoughts to those who suffer. I will feel a reserved loss and a stoic impartiality to the loss of wetlands, livelihoods and people and animals. I see this loss as an event, one of many that occur every year. This is only one of the few that can gain more interest than Michael Jackson, or a political scandal. That is where my attention is focused. I work to help others move forward. I work to cultivate a positive understanding and respect of the world we live in.
I do not differentiate between famine and oil spills, I do not see a difference between death from an earthquake and death from a war. Dead is dead. It is part of life and it is unavoidable. Life is impermanent.
I discourage you from allowing yourself to harbor negative feelings, do not hold anger, hatred or blame; these are unhealthy and will only feed the cycle of ignorance. Focus on positive awareness and a future that values life and wellness more than natural resources. Work to change the awareness of the ignorant in a loving manner. I am using this issue to educate my children. I am attempting to be the change I want to see in the world.
Allow your sadness to feed the understanding that these things happen. And your reaction to them is the only part of them that you can control.