Identification and Violence
by Barbara Reid
Ive been wondering how it is that humanity can keep on creating wars and other violence, not seeing that when we hurt the other, we hurt ourselves. Recently I recalled a presentation that I saw years ago. It described how we, as individuals, develop our sense of being part of something. It seems that at birth, a veil drops between us and our knowledge of oneness with all that is. Maybe our whole personal journey is about returning to that knowledge.
When we are very small, we discover that our fingers and toes belong to us, and we learn to identify with our own body. We also identify with our primary caretaker, and soon with our family. This kind of identification means that when a family member is hurt, I am hurt, and when a family member accomplishes something, I am proud.
As we grow, we come to identify with a clan, or larger group. This may be an extended family, a church, a neighborhood, or a team. We feel that we belong in that clan, and we feel protective of the other members. This experience of membership expands, perhaps to a geopolitical entity like a city, state, or nation, or perhaps to an entire religious or philosophical group.
The significant defining quality of identification is that at each stage, someone is "in" and someone is "out." Even in infancy, I discover that your fingers and toes are not mine; I do not feel them in the same way that I feel my own body. Later, if you are not in my circle of family and friends, I dont feel your hurt in the same way that I feel an injury to "one of my own." I perceive you as unlike me.
It is important that we expand our identification to the one spirit that is everywhere.
It is out of this limited identification that wars and violence are born. A Muslim is not like me. A German is not like me. A homosexual is not like me. A computer nerd is not like me. If others are not like me, I dont hurt when they are in pain. My heart remains closed to them, and that is the first step to perceiving them as my enemies or considering them subhuman.
Notice how our language confirms this separation. Observe what happens when, instead of "a Muslim," you say, "a person who practices Islam," or when you say, "an woman born in Germany," or "someone who forms the closest relationships with people of his own gender," or "an individual who enjoys and understands computers." A person, an individual, someone, a woman or a man or a child these are like you. Suddenly it becomes easier to imagine that some of their experiences and motives may be similar to yours, and that when their head is bumped, it hurts just like yours does.
It is important that we expand our identification, not only to all of humanity, not only to our planet and all that is present on or in it, but to the one spirit that is everywhere, filling all that can be perceived and all that is beyond perception. The illumination of the earth comes through each person becoming increasingly aware of this unity, and shining as a brighter light than before. How can we create for ourselves an ever-broader identity?
One way that we are kept in limited identification is through the mass media. By contrast, publications of spirit and hope are lifelines to all of us reaching for a greater identity. There are three that I read regularly, and youre reading one of them! Every issue of The New Times reminds me in myriad ways of that limitless oneness in which we all participate. It calls me back to my meditative practice, to compassion, to an appreciation of life that deeply affirms the power of light and love.
The second publication I rely on is Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures. This is a quarterly magazine, published right here in the Puget Sound area. Each issue has a theme, such as "an art and science of peace that is as powerful as the art and science of war," "how to create homes, gardens, communities and industries that are non-toxic," or "How could the powerful symbolic threshold of the new millennium be used to foster transformation?" Articles propose new perspectives on our culture and describe innovations that are working here and around the world. The publishing organizations self-defined mission is "fostering the evolution of a just, sustainable & compassionate future." Write to Yes!, P.O. Box 10818, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110, or visit <www.futurenet.org>.
Finally, every two months, I enjoy reading Timeline, a magazine that inspires and empowers. In the most recent edition, two essays invited me to examine the question, "What does it mean to be human?" In another article, Brian Swimme wrote, "The central spiritual task of our time is to establish an intimate relationship with the more than human world." Timeline is published by the Foundation for Global Community, 222 High Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301.
Mainstream television and newspapers give us pieces of many stories, but their selection of stories and their choice of angles are designed for a competitive marketplace. Whats sensational sells. That means that in order to get more readership or viewership than the next guy, many editors and producers feel compelled to put the most frightening spin on the stories, pick the most gruesome photos, and bring sex (minus its spiritual component) into every possible situation. To varying degrees, the same holds for films and video games.
In so saying, am I creating yet another separation? Am I implying Im not like a newspaper editor or a TV producer? No, I think all of us, at times, act from our own narrowly defined, short-term self-interest, to the detriment of the greater whole. Im pleased that there is now a congressional initiative to ask the entertainment media to be more responsible stewards of the public trust, specifically by reducing the violence portrayed. And to me, what it means to be human is to receive every such proposal as a possibility for myself. In what ways do I contribute to separation and violence? In what ways can I be a more responsible steward of the trust of those who turn to me? Im sure anyone who knows me can confirm that my work is far from done!
Television, newspapers, movies, video games, and the Internet can be used to keep us from seeing the world as one spirit and one community. Its hard to spend hours playing at attack and dominance on the small screen, or passively watching "the most wanted," "strangest," "shocking police videos" without becoming persuaded of separation. Its hard to read one dramatic, frightening story after another without feeling overwhelmed and powerless.
As the three examples Ive listed illustrate, the media can also be highways to understanding, compassion, and a wider identification. In those moments when we recognize the other as an aspect of ourselves, and the world as our community, we can expand our identification even beyond this world. With intention and focus, oneness happens.
Barbara Reid, channel for Ascended Master Djwhal Khul, is learning to identify with a truth even larger than Ballard. She and D. K. work with spiritual energy, emotion, and thought to help clients understand their soul purpose, meet personal guides, and manage the learnings contained in current experiences. In-person and telephone sessions; group classes; free sample newsletter. Phone (206) 783-4185.