The Seven Stones Blog

“If only it were all so simple”

By Jen Cohen

“Little by little, we change the world we live in. Even the grand, earth-shaking events of history have their origins in individual thought.” Eknath Easwaran


“Ism” is a suffix that means “the adherence or following an ideology,” (online dictionary), making terrorism the ideology of terror or fear.

Fear and terror are powerful forces. They motivate so many of our actions and our inactions. Fear and terror led the Europeans to flee to this continent. Terror was used to wipe out the peoples already living on this continent. Terror was used to build a nation through slave labor and has us tighten the boarders so fewer and fewer can arrive. Now we fear or are terrified that we will be fired, get cancer, or become homeless. In some neighborhoods we might be shot; we might be profiled or targeted for driving if we are Black or Latino or Muslim; we might be raped or molested or our kids could be; we might not have enough college money or retirement savings. We fear we will never reach the American Dream. Intense, I know. It’s not always obvious, but instead lies bubbling just beneath the surface of our human lives.

GlobeVeinsIn a moment of self-care, during a Saturday morning dance class, I began to wonder if impeccable self-care, real presence, real relatedness could be the antidote to terrorism. If we take the premise that each person can be the change then could personal accountability for self-love and care be a response to a systematic approach to dominating power over groups of people, aka terrorism?

Consider these inquiries as access points:

  • How do I go about really making sure my inner terrorist does not get out into the world and spread terror or reign terror internally either?
  • What if, how I attend to my own pain – how I do or do not step over what is causing me harm, how I care for those I am in close proximity to – really deeply matters?
  • What if I really am your keeper and you mine?
  • What if my pain meant you reaching out to notice and address it? What if I did the same for you?

Boston’s events are on everyone’s mind right now. So many people who knew the younger of the two terrorists are asking themselves, “What did I miss?” “He seemed like such a great boy.” “He went to my child’s school (something true for my colleague here, Gina LaRoche).” “He was in my home, and I did not know.”

This inquiry into “what did I miss?” is so critical, so rich, so important, and if we can ask from a place of genuine curiosity we might begin to uncover the making of terrorism. 

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

― Aleksandr SolzhenitsynThe Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

There are only two things, I think, that separate me from those who actually act out any so-called evil:

  1. Self control. No small thing.
  2. The lucky circumstances of my birth: race, class, inner strength – given by the powers that be, all colluding to make it possible for me to withstand my own suffering without falling pray to the forces of inner terror. Also, no small thing.

So let us really look, really feel, really inquire together: can we awaken from the frozen tundra of fear and separation? Can we begin to do the difficult work of paying attention to what needs our care and then actually take impeccable care of ourselves and each other? If we do this, if we don’t step over or past the bleeding bodies and hearts, the hungry and abused, terrified within or without, I wonder what effect it might have on the terrorISM ?

2 thoughts on ““If only it were all so simple”

  1. Jen,

    Wow! This is incredibly deep and thought-provoking. Let me ponder it for a while and come up with a considered response.


  2. I wonder if the ideology of care, let’s call it kindredism or maybe humanism is the countervailing response to terrorism. Its not a tit for tat but a “we are brothers and sisters” mindset that somehow diffuses and melts the kind of rage and alienation behind destruction. The extent to which the brothers and sisters include everyone seems to be the challenge, that it include the poor and the angry and the sick. That it include all are demons inside and out. That capacity in everyone, to have a heart that big, a love that wide, and eyes that clear, I suppose is a matter of faith. But if it seems possible and there’s room enough for all kinds, why not?

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