With increasing frequency we read of our children killing children and doing it with about as much conscience as we experience when swatting a cockroach. To try to right the wrong we rail against the NRA, condemn the movie industry for its glut of violence, link Eminem with Beelzebub and suspend eight-year-olds from school for ten days for drawing a stick figure with a gun in his hand. The problem does not lie within the weapon, although the weapon makes the killing easier. The problem does not lie in the images on the silver screen, although they tend to deaden our emotional response much like the repetition of a surgical procedure steels the physician to the sight of blood. The problem lies within us, and Eminem is our child. We are now reaping the fruit of the seeds that we have sewn, and if we are to save our children we must pluck the beam from our own eye before pulling the mote from our enemy's.
When Copernicus flicked the earth from its central position in the solar system we began the slide down the slippery slope toward a loss of meaning in our lives. We went from being the center of the universe to a meaningless spec on the outer arm of a spiral galaxy that is one of over one hundred billion galaxies. We went from being special to believing we are nothing more than a cosmic coincidence. Although it was never his intention, Sir Isaac Newton fertilized Copernicus' seed with science, told us the universe was nothing more than a well oiled machine, and placed meaning and soul in a jar of formaldehyde.
Soul and meaning has nothing to do with putting on our Sunday-go-to-meetings and kneeling for an hour on a padded rail. Soul and meaning has everything to do with how we perceive ourselves in the world that contains us. Science has performed many a miracle, but it has also led us to believe that we can know the whole by examining its parts. In doing so it has so separated us from our environment and from each other that we have developed a cultural neurosis. In examining parts we have lost sight of our connectedness and when we lose sight of that we are willing to sacrifice animals for medical science, execute one of our own for killing one of our own, and try children as adults. When we no longer believe in meaning and soul ourselves, it is no big leap for our children to squeeze the trigger of a Smith and Wesson and launch a missile into the brain of a 15-year-old who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Why should a child think of the inherent value of life when all around him is the evidence that no one really cares.
The message is clear, and Darwin taught it to us and taught it well. We are the product of evolution, so the theory goes, and it is the survival of the fittest that passes on the "best" genes. We follow the lesson individually and as a culture. Our children see pictures of the disenfranchised every day on their TV screens. They see the withered bodies of starving Third World children and street bums living in boxes on cold city streets. The viewing often takes place while eating a thousand calorie meal and switching the channel so as not to disturb digestion. We watch the Irish kill each other over who has the right God, and shake our heads in wonder. How can they be so blind, we say, while our need for fossil fuels spews tons of pollutants into the atmosphere killing countless thousands every year. It is less direct, but it is killing nevertheless. When human life is pitted against a balance sheet and the balance sheet wins, we have lost touch with soul.
Our children turn everywhere and see nothing but victims. We feel so disconnected from the world out of which we came, that we have grown allergic to it. You have seen the commercials. "I am a dust mite, pollen and cat dander. He is a mold, fungus and dust bunny." From the moment our children can understand, they learn that they must defend themselves against the world that gave them birth. And when a child can no longer tolerate being disconnected and abused because he is different, he cracks and goes offensive. And so, unable to see our part in the play we blame everyone else. "Oh, how wonderful the world would be if only my neighbor would change," and we go on buying hundred dollar Nikes while children starve.
Change must first take place within the individual, and the world will change in response. The beautiful must bless the ugly, for without them they would not know of their beauty. Beauty is the gift of the ugly. The athlete must bless the klutz, the shapely must bless the obese, the strong must bless the weak, and the popular must bless the outcast. What do we teach our children? Observe their behavior and you will know. The beautiful scorn the ugly, the shapely mock the obese, and the popular shun the unpopular, and so we have in-groups and out-groups. But! Were it not for the out-group we would not know we were the in group and "oh so good".
When we exclude ourselves from the web of life and separate the world into parts we spawn juvenile killers. When our young see their grandparents having to choose between food and medicine we spawn juvenile killers. When our clothing manufacturers keep Third World workers in sweatshops and we wear their products without a thought, we breed juvenile killers. When oil companies ship their product in single-hulled tankers and their spills despoil the land and kill thousands of innocent creatures we grow juvenile killers. And when I believe that I am separate from those breeders of wounded souls then I conspire with them.
To heal our collective soul-wound I will teach my children that the world is one large soul and that when one part is injured the whole suffers. I will teach them that love is not to be dispensed with discrimination and that when it is held back the whole suffers. I will teach them there is a difference between behavior and spirit, and as we move to change behavior we should never lose sight of spirit, for spirit dwells in the good, the bad and the ugly.
It is only through the realization that we are all special, the good and the bad, and that killing is an abomination, no matter what form it takes or how it is described, that we can instill a conscience in all of our children. And so, I pledge to my children, who are also your children, that I will work mightily to pluck the beam from my own eye, and that I will treat my neighbor as myself, for in the deepest sense he is me. I pledge to meet the eye of all men, not just the "right" men, and in so doing let them know we are brothers. I pledge to teach them about heart, not the one that can just as easily pump in a jar of chemicals while attached to electrodes, but the one that opens wide and letís everyone in. Finally, I pledge to my children who have given their lives to random violence, that the meaning of their lives will not be lost. Their sacrifice shall be the new seed that will bring a return of meaning and soul to the world, where all life is valued not just the "right kind of life".