Friday, July 20, 2012

Learning from the Wildfire

I was in Colorado Springs yesterday for a production. We had arrived early to the area and so we were trying to kill a little time before we had to be at our location. My producer pulled off the highway and made mention that he wanted to check out this ranch that was iconic for folks in the Springs and around other Colorado areas.

Colorado Springs is a city that sits below Pikes Peaks and its sister mountains. Normally these mountains are lush and green and beautiful, just the way they were created to be. But not today. They were black and burnt. The trees and wildflowers were dead.  And as we approached, instead of seeing a ranch we saw a vast open pit that once was a place of joy for so many. The ranch and the surrounding neighborhoods fell victim to the great fires of the summer heat.

It was eerie to see the haunted mountains and even worse the black ash remains of someone's life, home, property.

I woke this morning to the news of the shooting at the movie theater in Aurora Colorado. I fell so deeply broken and hurt when I read about the tragedy, much like I felt when I saw the aftermath of the wildfires in CO Springs. But what hurt the most was the reactions I listened to and read about. There was a lot of anger in the air. Fire begins with a spark and with enough wind and momentum it can spread very rapidly without a bit of warning. And it can lead to a mountain of destruction

I can't help but cry when I see and hear the judgements, the anger, and the hate being fueled in the midst of this all. I'm not trying to justify what this young man did, but I am curious of the spark the initiated the flame that spread like a wild fire to lead him to do such a thing. You see, I am feeling the conviction that we all have this potential inside of us to hurt others, to cause disaster, to become desperate, hateful. Some of us use verbal abuse, some of us physical abuse to ourselves or to others... But what pushes us to that point that we actually allow it to burn everything in our path?

The anger you feel and express is only fueling the spark created. And that spite is going to spread until your heart is full of burnt up love and grace that all will remain is a burden of ash.

We were all created in love to love. To be green and lush and beautiful like the mountains. And if we're not careful and we're not aware, the heat of our emotions are going to continue to destroy anything that once was perfectly and wonderfully meant to be - Love.

In my own response to the shooting, victims and the suspect, I feel the great need to pray for both, and to love without conditions because no one is too far from salvation and redemption.

A great article shared with me today.

How to react to Colorado shooting
(hint: no dark knight rises)
The Colorado shooting during a screening of the Batman movie 'The Dark Knight Rises'
will evoke calls for ways to prevent more mass killings. But such tragedies only point to
Americans having to learn how best to react personally.
By the Monitor's Editorial Board / July 20, 2012
As with other recent mass shootings in America Columbine, Amish girls, Virginia Tech,
Fort Hood, Gabby Giffords – Friday’s killings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., has evoked
a desire to prevent another senseless tragedy.
People try to discern the motive of the killers, the means used, the lapses in security. And
simply bringing justice, such as a long prison sentence, isn’t enough for many.
The ultimate goal is reliable protection.
The most popular demands for ensuring public safety from mass murder will likely be calls to
better screen public places, tighten controls on guns, and demand less violence in media –
assuming that action flicks like Batman movies actually provoked the killer to open fire in the
Such solutions can change society on a large scale for the better. Gun laws do often work.
Young children do now watch less fictional violence. Law enforcement has become better at
detecting potential killers.
But the best protection lies within each individual, not only in improving one’s physical safety
but in the mental, emotional, and even spiritual ways we react to horrific events.
Killers often seek to evoke anger and fear in crowd shootings, perhaps out of a perverse
need to deal with those same emotions within themselves. Simply reacting to such murders
with anger and fear – while certainly understandable – may only reinforce such behavior.
The best antidotes are the opposites of those emotions. They include openness, empathy, a
respect for individual rights, and even forgiveness. These undermine the emotions that lead
to violence because they have a long-lasting reality, as seen in how human civilization has
advanced to embrace them as the core foundations for governance and daily life.
An open trial for this killer in a public courtroom will include many of these defining qualities,
such as a fair treatment of the facts and an adherence to the rule of law. Such traits may
take a long time to have their effect on violence-prone people. But history shows that
violence has declined as more societies adopt the humane ideals of justice.
Ultimately, those touched by the Colorado shooting – the survivors, the families of those
killed, and even the public at large – may be asked if they can forgive the killer.
The best example of this difficult but bold act was seen in 2006 after a gunman killed five
Amish girls in Nickel Mines, Pa. The Amish families of those killed immediately went to the
home of the gunman’s widow and humbled themselves in Christian faith to forgive the killer
and his family.
“Our forgiveness was not our words, it was what we did,” said the father of one slain girl. The
families brought gifts of flowers, food – and hugs. Dozens of Amish attended the killer’s
The Amish faith compels such action. It sees forgiveness as essential to reflecting God’s
qualities of love for mankind and a necessary part of one’s own salvation.
For the nonreligious, modern psychology also embraces forgiveness as a part of personal
healing and as an antidote to revenge and hatred in society. Such good qualities are seen as
both necessary and natural.
That doesn’t mean killers shouldn’t be locked up, often for a long time. Others must be
protected until the convicted comes to accept those qualities that bred nonviolence in
individuals and thus society. They must find their own forgiveness for their acts, a process
helped along if they feel forgiveness from others.
After the Aurora shootings, the media, law enforcement, and others should watch to see if
Americans have better learned how best to react to such tragedies. All the better to prevent

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