Friday, August 19, 2016

Omran Daqneesh: My lesson in embracing samsara

From The Guardian August 19, 2016
Yesterday when I saw this photo I burst into tears. Then I collected myself, made breakfast for my two little girls, and went about my day, only periodically thinking about young Omran. One of the things I did think, when Omran's image would float into my consciousness, was that he could be my child. I have a girl only a year older than he, yet he has seen more horror in his five years than she is likely to see in five decades. As I thought about Omran I thought about how every move I make, the security and safety I and our children feel day to day, the ability we have to go to the store and buy things we want, to turn on the tap and have water to come out, to sleep at night without fear that bombs will rip our lives to shreds in a moment, all of these things are part of the same system that is currently making Omran Daqneesh's life, and the lives of millions of others, a living hell. This is not new. War is as old as humanity itself, and life does continue to improve for most people most of the time. I tell myself these things, and I believe they are true: That humanity is on a trajectory toward justice, that more people have better lives and more opportunities than in the past, that technology and spirit can come together to build better and more opportunities for everyone.

However, that doesn't undo the damage that we do every day by simply existing, those of us who live in countries not ravaged by war. Recently I finished reading the beautiful "Between the World and Me", by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In it he talks about slavery, and how for us looking back from the 21st century it is a piece of history, but for the slaves at the time, whose parents and grandparents had been slaves, and whose children and grandchildren were destined to be slaves, it is nothing but damnation. Just hell, unending. This is the truth of the misery we create; this is the responsibility we have to untangle and redirect our current systems of colonialism, resource extraction for profit, and white supremacy.

Am I suggesting then that we eschew these comforts and conveniences, drop our iPhones and laptops and cars and running water and go to Syria, or Palestine, or Appalachia, and start a new life of heroic humanitarianism? No, not at all. I firmly believe that the ocean needs every drop: That within the web of existence, each one of us holds a unique and important place, and that when we fulfill our dreams and desires within the context of what is, within the opportunities and places and contexts where we live day to day, that is when we are serving our highest purpose. We can help Omran and anyone who suffers from war by living in peace. Not only with our neighbors and co-workers, but with our spouses, significant others, and children. With the strangers who bump into us by accident, or almost run us over without looking. We can serve humanity by listening kindly, by letting that argument go, by keeping our unkind thoughts in our heads and turning toward discomfort. When we live in these ways, and at the same time work to fulfill our heart's desire within our specific context, we are helping undo the system that hurts so many people around the globe.

Omran Daqneesh may not be my actual child, but as far as being responsible for him and so many others, I feel that responsibility. I cannot travel to Syria to help him or anyone else. But I can remember him, and treat everyone I meet with the tenderness his photo incites in me. I can remember him, and do what I can from my place to lift his story, and the stories of so many others who are hurting. I can remember him, and go donate to an anti-war cause. I can remember him, and move toward discomfort in whatever way that fits, whether that means reaching out to people who repel me, letting go of a few creature comforts like that slightly bigger home or slightly nicer car, or making a family day of volunteering together in community instead of that trip to Wild Waves: Whatever way fits for us, when we move through the world with love and empathy, we help heal Omran's suffering.

No comments: