A Mass Shooting in my Neighborhood
Yes, the world is bat-shit crazy right now
A man walked through a shopping center spraying bullets with an AR-15-type rifle, then went into the local Safeway grocery store and killed two people before killing himself.
This was the first mass shooting in my home town of Bend, Oregon, and it was shocking. It wasn’t however, all that surprising, which arguably is the saddest thing of all. The same day the shooting happened here, there were at least seven other mass shootings in America. And here’s another make-your-head shake aspect of this; the Bend shooting doesn’t even count as a mass shooting on some of the main systems that track such events because they define mass shootings as more than four killed not including the shooter.
Our culture is ill and the world is bat-shit crazy right now. I think most of us feel it. There is a heaviness in society, and an angst about where things are headed.
Many of you may not know that for the past five years, I’ve been studying to become an ordained Unity Worldwide Ministries minister. This has involved approximately 40 classes, hundreds of papers and talks, three progress interviews a year, and thousands of dollars (I also had to have a professional psychological exam, which was the only piece I worried I may fail ). It has been an awesome journey of learning and expansion. Now, I’m in the final stretch, doing an internship and scheduled to be ordained next June.
About a year ago I was hired by my local congregation, Unity Spiritual Community of Central Oregon, to serve as a part-time Spiritual Leader (that’s an actual official “thing” in Unity – I didn’t just don the title). A couple of my primary roles include leading our social and environmental justice efforts and supporting the senior minister in delivering talks and classes to our community.
A concept I’ve found useful for navigating trying, unsettling times, is that of “spiritual poise”. We develop spiritual poise as we gain the maturity and inner skills to be able to stay stable, even peaceful, in the midst of the crap that at times swirls through our lives and our world. One of my main spiritual squeezes is A Course in Miracles, which has provided many tools and insights to help me move along on the spectrum of spiritual poise. Here are a couple that I often find useful:
· The first is the concept that the insane world humanity has created is not actually the real world. The Creative force, life itself, is always moving in the direction of extending more life. This is a deep concept that I plan to write more about later, but for now, when navigating painful challenges like mass shootings and ecological and human systems destabilized by global change, I find it very useful to continue to open to the notion that in the field of possibility there are myriad ways for a healthier world to come into being.
· The second nugget is much more direct; it’s all about taking charge of our thinking. When we find ourselves thinking about things that cause us angst or anger, simply saying “choose again” and shifting to a different thought can be life changing. Sometimes I have to choose again 300 times, but eventually my line of thought fully shifts.
As soon as I learned of the shooting, I called my senior minister to discuss how best to respond to the tragedy. We did the best we could to help our congregants find a more peaceful way through the trauma. Three of our senior ministers came together to do an Ask the Ministers session focused on the shooting. In case you’re interested, here is a link to their talk in which they share their own approaches to demonstrating spiritual poise (note, this is much longer, about 45 minutes, that a usual Sunday talk).
The main reason I shifted the primary emphasis of my work to ministry and consciousness-raising was that it has become evident that our political systems and powerful institutions are failing to do what is called for at this pivotal time. I’ll be very direct, we are in for a bumpy ride ahead as old systems and institutions crack and established norms no longer work. In such a challenging climate I see spiritual community, community of almost any kind really, becoming increasingly important.
I usually shopped once a week or so at the Safeway in which the shooting took place. It is sad seeing it taped off with fluttering yellow crime scene taping. I’m also a regular at the other Safeway nearby. To be really truthful, I was a little nervous going into a Safeway, as part of my mind conjured the idea of a copycat shooter, and it was in fact unsettling to see the store filled with armed security guards. I made the choice that I would not let fear block me from engaging with my community store.
The checker who was handling my purchase was a woman I had seen many, many times. I wasn’t sure if I should do so but I asked how she was doing given recent events. She glanced up at me then over at a little group of guards and said, “It’s getting better. I couldn’t come in the first couple of days but it’s getting easier now. Besides we have a whole lot of the customers from the other store and half the employees in here now.” I told her I really couldn’t imagine how it must be feeling but that I very much appreciated her being there. She stopped and looked directly into my eyes and said, “Thank you so much. That really helps.” On the way out, I made eye contact with one of the security guards and said, “It really sucks that you have to be here but I am grateful that you are.” He nodded, sighed, and said, “Thank you for saying that.”
The bat-shitness of our world is hard on everybody. One remedy is just being kind. Kindness toward and caring about the people we interact with is another aspect of community building.
And to close, I’ll share one of my favorite MLK quotes:
But I must honestly say there are some things in our nation and the world to which I am proud to be maladjusted and wish all men of goodwill would be maladjusted until the good society is realized.
Here is to each of us building poise as we do our part in realizing a better society.
Peace out. That’s all I got right now.
TRANSCEND with Cylvia Hayes is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
“The first is the concept that the insane world humanity has created is not actually the real world. The Creative force, life itself, is always moving in the direction of extending more life………………………………………………………………..in the field of possibility there are myriad ways for a healthier world to come into being.”
In other words, it’s going to take a miracle.
Or, as you alluded to repeatedly, an entire course of them. Especially when it comes “to taking charge of our thinking. When we find ourselves thinking about things that cause us angst or anger, simply saying “choose again” and shifting to a different thought can be life changing. Sometimes I have to choose again 300 times, but eventually my line of thought fully shifts.”
You said it perfectly “shifting to a different thought can be life changing.”
I submit that it can be cosmos changing.
Well done Cylvia.
Well said Cylvia!