Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cho Seung-Hui and Compassion....

I'd planned on writing this post later today. Julie has requested discussion on justice and forgiveness. It sounds like an interesting project. Her site has some of the most interesting debates in the comment forum I've ever seen!

I'd scratched a few notes together last night and this morning. While making the blog rounds earlier, I found a post that speaks to all the basics needed in any discussion of justice, forgiveness and compassion. It is located here. I can add nothing. I will let that post speak for me, although I don't have the writer's permission to do so yet. I can only expand on it, become a branch, using anecdote to show how we might get past the need for justice and forgiveness to finally find compassion.

In my own transformation, the greatest hurdle has been to achieve detachment from the need to equalize the scales, to make wrong things right and to have that ego-created sense of balance. Instant karma. That has been my ultimate spiritual challenge.

Letting go of that was ~ and still is ~ a struggle at times.

Yet in thinking it over in light of both my family news and the Virginia Tech shootings, I realize fully that it is not my place to exact justice or offer forgiveness. It's simply not my right to do so. I get that.

Who am I to judge another?

During the day yesterday, there were many reports about the Virginia Tech shooter, his background and his struggles. He was obviously a tormented human being. The red flags flew at full mast for a very long time before he walked into Norris Hall and opened fire.

Even given the havoc he wreaked on the community, I believe it is necessary to find compassion for him. His struggle was the struggle of many, although perhaps not to the same extreme degree. Human beings need community. We were created that way. In finding ourselves ostracized and rejected, especially without explanation, our minds take us to strange places. I posted about this last week. Some might become more inward, self-soothing with booze, drugs, promiscuity or fantasy. Others lash out, only finding relief in bringing harm to others, those they perceive as their oppressors. He didn't "snap". This decompensation has been escalating for a long, long time.

Cho Seung-Hui is the ultimate example of someone who tried to balance the scales on his own, to exact judgement and, yes, justice on his community.

It is easy to demonize and dismiss him. He did a terrible, devastating thing. If we dare to look at his humanity, we see our own reflection in his eyes. We see ourselves as a failed community. We see ourselves as a failed culture. We see ourselves as flawed individuals. Do we see in that reflection our own complicity?

So how do we find that compassion? I wish I had a packaged answer. I'm not the Dalai Lama but just one more struggling woman in the mass of humanity that surrounds me. I take comfort and wisdom from the Southeast Asian culture I have embraced. I have no ultimate wisdom, no superior understanding.

I know that when I go to that very quiet and still place within myself and allow it, I can feel it. The compassion. When I shed tears for the 32 murdered students, I can shed a tear for Cho Seung-Hui at the same time. The tears blend together and water the seed of compassion that lives in my silence.




kaliroz said...

Beautifully said.

I feel the same way, really. And wrote a bit about it yesterday.

jen said...

Beautifully said. Yesterday and the relentless analysis of Cho brought forth deep feelings of compassion from me. For the victims and yes, for him. That is different than justice or forgiveness, yes? And doesn't nullify them either.

And how easy is it to feel that way when my child is still alive.

Well said. And thank you very much.

thailandchani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
slouching mom said...

I know I said this already at jen's site, but I don't think forgiveness necessarily must incorporate superiority. It can, but it does not always.

Semantics? Maybe.

thailandchani said...

SM, it could be. I will definitely think about that. It has that "feel" to me, more than any rational reasoning.

Forgiveness is an outgrowth of judgement.. and I'm not sure how one can put oneself in a position of being The Judge and not have it be superiority.

Dunno. As I said, I will definitely think about it though.


thailandchani said...

Kaliroz, I went by to see your post. Very well said. As soon as we lose the ability to be compassionate, that is when we've lost our humanity.


Thanks, Jen. Thanks for allowing me to bounce off your post that way. I would have been saying the same thing in different words so it just seemed easier to piggyback them.

The concept of justice is one that baffles me in many ways. I know civilized societies need some benchmark of acceptable behavior and consequences for violating those shared values. I get that part.

What I don't get is the arbitrariness of it.

Forgiveness, as you said, has that slight air of superiority.

And.. you will not change your fundamental views, even if (God forbid this [palms together]) anything happened to your child. You are who you are. You would process it with the tools you have learned. Don't believe anyone who would tell you differently.




heartinsanfrancisco said...

I read your post and I also read Jen's. I am always mindful of the Dalai Lama's remark that compassion is his religion, and I aspire to be like him.

Yet finding that compassion in my own center is sometimes hard to do.

I also feel that forgiveness is sometimes a bit high horsey, ie. judgmental. And in this instance, who am I to forgive anyone when MY children were not his victims? My heart bleeds for those who were, and their families.

Punishment, to me, serves more as a way to prevent the perpetrator of deeds that harm and kill others from doing so again. In terms of their own soul's good, it probably does more harm than good and confirms them in their notions that nobody gives a damn.

But in such instances, society is forced to choose between the good of one individual and that of the larger population.

It sounds as if Cho's punishment was his own life, long before this happened. It seems that somebody should have followed up on their beliefs that he was a young man in deep trouble, but sadly, in the day to dayness of their own lives and responsibilities, he fell through cracks.

Anyway, hindsight is always 20-20. Who is to say that he could have been helped? It would be good if someone had tried, however.

Compassion is the only way to get through our own lives, and if we can muster that, we will at least not add to the huge mass of bad energy that abounds. With enough of us practicing it as our religion, we might actually begin to make a difference.

Julie Pippert said...

Because...oh Chani you hit the nail on the head. We MUST shed a tear for him too. It is the thing which humanizes us all, and as you put it, find compassion through the reflection. It is not the sum total of that which he did, but that who he was. Just as his victims are not the sum total of their deaths, but instead of the collection of all that they were in life. KWIM?

We must mourn not just the action, loss, and tragedy, but also the fact that *it was able to happen.*

Then we must find the love and empowerment and step up, close the cracks, one little bit at a time.

Julie Pippert said...

P.S. YIKES! Left this out:

You roundtablers are blowing my mind big time. THANK YOU! I really needed more POVs, more discussion to help settle some thoughts rattling around my head and heart (both of which I appear to use to think sometimes LOL). And if this paragraph looks familiar it is because I think I will c&p it w/in each of my comments because by gum it is universally true.

meno said...

chani, i missed a day of reading as i was gone, but i have read your last 3 posts. I want to say i am sorry about your father, and i am angry with him as well for the total lack of compassion with his suicide. A selfish act.

That we can still feel compassion and sadness is what makes us human.

Gwen said...

Chani, nicely done. What I find interesting is that it's much easier for me to feel compassion for Cho than it is for someone like David Koresh. I wonder why that is. Is it because Waco happened when I was younger and more judgmental and therefore my memory of it contains harder edges? Or are there perpetrators of terrible violence whose own personal demons are naturally more compelling? I feel no compassion for Hitler, for example. Where does that leave me?

Mary-LUE said...

I think that forgiveness, like anything, can be abused, and thus, no longer be what it is intended to be. I'm sure there are people who feel superior when they use the words, "I forgive you." But I think, true, genuine forgiveness is not anything other than the laying down of your grudge/complaint against someone who had done something that has wronged you. (Granted, some people take offense at things that they should not.)

As I was reading your post and the comments, though, the family members of the Amish girls who were killed came to my mind. A forgiveness which embraced compassion was evident in these amazing people. Within days, they had approached the widow to communicate their forgiveness of her husband to her. I was so wowed by that.

I think, as I shared in my post on this subject, that we are not able, as humans individually and as a society, to perfectly mete out justice. We will always make mistakes. Some of us will intentionally subvert justice. But I reach out to my God, who sees all (like that Bette Midler song, From a Distance) and who will put all wrongs right. I believe it will happen. I can believe in justice with a capital J and forgiveness with a capital F because I believe that. I do not trust humankind with those ideals.

(I have no problem with compassion being shown for Cho Seung-Hui. Somewhere along the line, things went very wrong for him. But as I said in my comment over at Jen's place, we all have choices to make and a responsibility to make them. We will all fail at that. All. But I do not believe we are absolved of the responsibility for trying. This of course, does not take into account his possibly having issues with mental illness. I don't know if he did or not, but he was definitely hurting in some way. I believe it is possible to have compassion without diminishing the wrongness of his actions.)

Thank you for allowing me to have this lengthy comment on your post. These justice posts have got my juices flowing. There is definitely a lot of good, I think, to having these "discussions."

Snoskred said...

I agree with you about the demonizing. People want to do that whenever this kind of thing happens. In fact an excellent book I read by Gavin De Becker called The Gift Of Fear goes into this topic in depth. The main reason the demonizing and the name calling (monster, psycho) is done is because we truly do not want to admit to ourselves that anyone could do this. ANYONE.

What is even worse on this occasion is that the news networks have latched on to the fact that Cho was depressed - now doesn't that make us all want to admit that on occasion we have been depressed? It merely adds to the stigma of depression. He did not do this because he was depressed. I have been depressed and I did not walk into a school and shoot 32 people. If depression was the criteria for doing something like this, nobody would be left alive on the planet.

We all have within us the ability to pick up on little things that taken by themselves do not mean much but our brain adds them up, and then gives us messages. A lot of us squash that "intuition" and choose not to listen. That's a lot of what the gift of fear is about and it remains one of the most useful books I have ever read.

Cho was a normal human being, just like the rest of us. We have to be able to accept that. What he did was very wrong. We have to accept that. There were warning signs. People don't just snap and go out and shoot people, though the media would like us to think so. Many of the warning signs we don't know, because we haven't been educated on them. We need to teach our kids what the warning signs are and we need to teach ourselves too!

kim said...

We create Frankenstein's monster. I know that this offers no comfort to the victims families, but it has provided opportunity with my oldest son.

"He didn't "snap". This decompensation has been escalating for a long, long time."

And it was built one comment or dismissal at a time.

QT said...

Chani - another great post. And I don't know if I agree with you fully on the forgiveness thing - I think forgiveness and compassion can go hand in hand.

Alice said...

Chani - Thank you so much for sharing this! I was feeling that same drained feeling not too long ago. And you are not as alone as you may think in your point of view (I, for one, agree). I am thinking of this quote from the Buddha: Through our reactions we create delusions. Without reactions the world becomes clear. Forgiveness is a judgment - it is a reaction. True sorrow is acceptance of the pain without judgment. After all the vitriol I have heard about this over the last few days, thanks so much for bringing this back to something I can focus on - compassion.

atypical said...

I feel, from your comments on forgiveness that, for you, the picture that comes to mind when the word is mentioned is more along the lines of, say, a superior looking priest of a high church looking down his nose and proclaiming, "I absolve you," in tones which obviously imply superiority (not that this is the only form it would take - just a representation of the feel that word has for you). I may be totally off base on that. Looking at it from that angle, though, I can really understand developing a distaste for the concept.

For me, the image that comes to mind when I think of forgiveness is that of Jesus saying to those about to stone the woman caught in adultery, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." I feel that it is precisely beacuse of my ability to understand my own frailty and feel compassion for the hurts and humanity of the offending party - the magnifying glass which is pointed then at my own shortcomings - this is what gives me the ability to forgive.

I do believe in certain inherent rights and wrongs, but it is my own position of frailty, not superiority that allows me to "feel" forgiveness.

Gosh I am explaining what I mean very poorly.

Thank you for this post.

t (another of Julie's RTers)

Aliki2006 said...

Excellent post, Chani. Compassion is tricky--sorry to paraphrase someone else, but Desmond Tutu wrote that retributive justice gives us nothing. Forgiveness and compassion are necessary for the future and for hope.

Anonymous said...

Funny. In the non-stop coverage of the shootings, I heard the words "understanding" "compassion" and "forgivenss" about zero times. The closest that anyone came to these concepts was a Buddhist from the university who said something at the remembrance ceremony that sounded like "let us push the darkness back with the light of love."

Cho Seung Hui was mentally ill. He was diagnosed with autism when he was eight years old. While he attended university, the system identified him as having severe emotional/mental problems and promtly let him slip away. He was given a follow up appointment that he did not keep and that was the end of the story.

Couldn't mandatory therapy and the blessed intervention of medication have helped him?

So the world weeps for the victims, but for Seung Hui, there little else but hatred. I read today that his grandfather, who still lives in South Korea, called him a "son of a bitch."

I say, let me push back the darkness that exists in my soul with the light of love and compassion. For the dead, for those left behind, and for the young man that the world failed.

Thanks for listening.