"More fearful demons live in our imagination than ever lived on earth."
- Brad Brown
"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude."
- Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Well, they didn't pry it out of my cold, dead hands. But I have just gotten rid of my only remaining firearm.
Having grown up and lived in the South I've owned shotguns, .22 rifles and an assortment of handguns. But over the years, my collection had dwindled to one old revolver that I kept in the bottom of my T-shirt drawer, a place where it would be handy if danger arose. My ability to actually use the pistol in an emergency was doubtful, however, since my wife, Shonnie, had only agreed to keep it in the house if it was unloaded.
What, you might ask, motivated me to hand over the gun to local law enforcement authorities? I got rid of it in response to a well-timed question about my possession of it by Shonnie after we saw Michael Moore's movie "Bowling for Columbine.'' The question: "What are you afraid of, Bruce?"
You see, the central theme of Moore's documentary is the high level of fear that prevails in America - a fear that's fed by the media (If it bleeds, it leads), by our political leaders (Osama's going to get you if you don't watch out) and by our own minds (We've got to get them before they get us).
In times like these it's not difficult to get caught up in this anxiety and trepidation. And that's where I found myself until "Bowling for Columbine'' and Shonnie's question hit me with the force of a two-by-four upside the head. The truth that I realized in that moment: I have no need of the pistol because my fears have no foundation. I'm probably more likely to be killed talking on a cell phone while driving than by someone breaking into my home. Another case of FEAR - False Evidence Appearing Real.
When the government's color-coded terror alert system is raised a notch, we always have a choice: We can react by buying guns, installing security systems, supporting the expenditure of billions of additional dollars on armaments and cuddling up to our TVs. Or we can realize that not even the highest ranking or most brilliant official in the CIA, FBI or other agency can predict the future, and live our lives accordingly.
Near the end of "Bowling for Columbine" I got another proverbial whack on the head as I watched Charlton Heston shuffle off after an interview with Moore. I realized in that moment how angry I'd been at Heston, at Bush, at Cheney, at Daschle and all the rest and how fearful I'd been about the momentum that was building toward war. But when I was awakened, I saw that each of us is connected in some mysterious way, and that I am then linked with this aging man as well. I may not agree with much of what Heston stands for, but I can nonetheless feel deep compassion for him as a fellow human being.
In order to move toward a new cultural paradigm for our nation, one of greater compassion, justice and sustainability, it is essential that we cleanse ourselves of ill will, including the resentments we hold toward those who appear to be leading us in the wrong direction.
We must free ourselves from the downward spiral of fear so that we may see our vision for ourselves and our world more clearly. We must regularly connect with that inner part of ourselves - our heart, our soul, our intuition - that knows.
We must discern right action in confronting our challenges and make choices from the multitude of possibilities that exist rather than reacting and falling into old, automatic behaviors. We must liberate ourselves from the hope that the man on the white horse is coming to lead us to a better future. We are the ones who must do it - one heart and mind at a time - each beginning with ourselves.
Resources: "Bowling for Columbine," a documentary by Michael Moore. See clips and other information at www.bowlingforcolumbine.com .
The Forgiveness Web, www.forgivenessweb.com
Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All, Gerald G. Jampolsky
Contact Mulkey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2001 ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES