January 23, 2017
It seems to me that life, much like Nature, has seasons. Some are warm and comfy, others harsher and less hospitable. They come and go in an invisible cycle, making them more elusive to a distracted eye.
The theme of the current season in my life, I’ve come to realize, is aggression.
Over the course of the past several months, almost no day goes by without exposing me to some degree of violence, whether verbal, non-verbal or physical. From terrible images of war and despair blurted out by the screens that constantly surround us (or should I say “have us surrounded”?) to instances of concrete aggression on myself or on loved ones, it feels like the world is an angry, hurtful place full of threats and hatred.
Facebook feeds turn into war zones over politics or religion. Irritated drivers honk and scream and perform dangerous maneuvers on overcrowded roads during rush hours. Violent crimes are committed blindly against strangers for no apparent reason. Hate and bigotry are the all-time stars on the news. Dishonest companies and people are on every corner, trying to steal money. Even some friends have burst into hurtful fits of anger for unknown reasons.
In the midst of all this, I find myself disoriented, destabilized, drained and confused.
Of course, the first reflex would be to try to respond to violence by fighting back. I’ve done it myself in the past, and certainly will not judge someone for reacting this way. But there’s a double problem with this.
First, you end up feeding violence. Aggression is an ever-expanding dichotomy of abuser and victim. If you are made a victim and decide to fight back, you automatically become an abuser.
Second, you are only hurting yourself. Look back into your past, at instances where you let yourself be taken over by anger, frustration and aggressivity. How did you feel, inside? How long did you remain in that state of stormy chaos? How many people did you have to hurt? And how many loved ones became part of the collateral damage of this blind rage?
For quite a while, I felt powerless in the face of aggression because I choose non-violence. I felt like I had no response to offer, no protection, no shelter.
But recently, I’ve taken another approach, and a more active one. I double-down on kindness. I respond to aggression by radiating more love, more openness and more positivity. I remind myself to smile in public places, even when there aren’t any obvious friendly faces. I make small gestures of random kindness. I invite another driver to pass in front of me at a crossroad. I hold the door for someone. I share my food.
I decide to break the cycle of violence by not repeating it. I choose to express my feelings of anger, fear, distress and anxiety instead of clamming up and going to dark places in my mind. I try to find beauty. I hold in my arms those I love most. I go out in Nature and breathe. I reciprocate the goodness offered by others.
So to you, my friend, my reader, I open up my arms and offer a warm hug. I give you a compliment on how nice you look or how well you’ve done. I share some delicious snack at the corner of a corridor. I leave a funny drawing on your keyboard. I send a little TXT message with smiley faces and hearts. I pat you on the shoulder. I flash a stealthy wink.
And for a minute, in the middle of the turmoil, I feel warm, safe and happy.