This was not the idea I had in mind as a first article but events and circumstances got me around to thinking a lot about human nature and how we react in the face of violence and tragedy. And I suddenly felt a sense of urgency to write and share a few thoughts and inspiration.
The emotional rollercoaster following a tragedy
As some of you might have heard, on Tuesday March 22d 2016, two bombings occurred in the Brussels metro station and Brussels Airport. Since one of the bombs blew up just 500m from my home, it felt like it somehow hit close to my heart… It was a strange morning opening my window, hearing sirens go off, getting ready to go to classes then finding hundreds of travellers stranded at the train station just outside my place. And soon as the images from the news channels started to come out, fear began to sink in and I started to realize “we had been attacked”. I know on the large scale of things, two bombs killing about 30 people is not much at all but for us Belgians living in our little, comfortable and quiet Belgium, this was a big deal…
That day, one emotion held us all: Fear. I received texts, messages, worried phone calls from friends and family who all felt as scared, worried and powerless as I felt… That fear and anxiety stayed with me till the following Monday I finally received actual confirmation that all my friends and family were safe.
After the initial shock and confusion, other reactions started to arise from all over the net and Facebook feeds were filled with different stories and opinions about what had happened. From Fear arose anger, hatred, intolerance and even violence… “How could this have happened? Will it happen again? Who is responsible? Those people are monsters… We have to react, fight whoever is behind this! We have to protect our families and countries! “
For a few days, I felt stuck in this paradigm of fear. I could understand people’s feelings and reactions but I couldn’t help but question them. I realized more than my initial reaction of fear, I was filled with a strong feeling of compassion, sadness and confusion. I couldn’t blame the government, Islam nor even the bombers for what had happened because deep down I knew, fear itself was the cause of what had happened. I couldn’t help but think these bombers were not monsters, just misguided young people searching for value, truth, a sense of belonging and purpose in life. These are all natural and human aspirations. In fact, they are truly not much different from you and me. Yet fear is what drove them to religious extremism and fear is what drives religious extremism. Fear of being attacked, of losing basic freedoms, of not being safe, fear of the unknown western society… People who commit violent, hateful acts will always be driven by fear. And their violent acts create more fear and hatred. It becomes a vicious circle. Fear builds up hatred which leads to violence which creates more fear…
I felt trapped in this vicious circle. But how do we get out of this? Responding to fear with fear is such a natural human instinct yet it does not lead to anything good most of the time, and it doesn’t heal…
There is another response to tragedy… Something stronger, more beautiful and moving I’ve seen grow and blossom this past few days.
A story of resilience, Love and Hope
The first video I’d like to share with you illustrates how in the face of tragedy, some people will not accept defeat and respond by fear or hatred but act with the desire to transcend limitations and circumstances.
I’m sure you may believe people like Hugh Herr and Adrianne Haslet-Davis are simply extraordinary super humans… One comes to wonder, “what would I have done in their shoes? Of course I could’ve never done what they did… “
Their actions are what truly set these people apart, but when you analyse what drove them to act as they, you realize it is something so fundamental and so natural to the human experience. Nothing supernatural or unique. Something we all are capable of… Love.
Love for Climbing and surpassing oneself (one of the beautiful things this sport teaches you) is what drove Hugh Herr to go beyond his circumstances and grow and develop the way he did. Love for dancing and a strive for freedom and wholeness is what drove Adrianne to fight and recover and dance! Love is also what drove tens of thousands of people to bring flowers candles and write words of hope and call for peace at the Bourse in Brussels.
Action from a place of Love, is more powerful than any other emotion we may feel .
It is what transforms the world!
Love is what inspires and drives me to share beauty and wisdom with you. Yet fear is what stopped me for the past few months from creating this space of expression and actually start to write.
I’m writing to remind you that despite what we may feel inside, instead of reacting from a place of fear, we can always choose to act from a place of Love…