02 January 2018

On violence


New Year's came with an explosion of fireworks out the back of the house on Victoria Road. Yoko and I both stirred in bed, but didn't get up, the way your brain registers something happening and what that thing is, without fully coming around. Yes, it must be the new year rather then the end of the world, and you fall back into whatever dream you were having. When the morning came, I got up with the intention to run, but lingered longer than I wanted to, first eating and then meditating and then putting things away. I got on the road, finally, just before eight, with everyone in the house still sleeping and some idea that I wanted to run on the canals. The distance I intended to run stretched out little by little and when I finally turned around at fifteen and half kilometers, I had that feeling you do when you run and run and run, where you are simultaneously remarkably weak and strong at the same time. You can't do anything but run, but you can run forever. My headphones died and I ran back in the silence of the morning, thinking at two hours I would have to give up. I pushed on and on, getting home and adding another 500 meters because I could. What is a limit, anyway. Who tells you what you can and can't do.

I was terrified of punishment as a child. I remember sitting on my bed, waiting to be spanked, screaming for someone who wasn't there to come and save me. There was always a lag between told you would be punished and then being punished, which heightened its effect. You dreaded it, the wooden spoon, crying so much that your mouth goes numb. You try to reason and negotiate, but you are a child and you can't negotiate, but only say no over and over again. Of course, you had done something wrong, but whatever that thing was became completely divorced from the experience of being punished. I never felt regret or empathy or sorrow for having done wrong in the face of punishment. I never understood that what I had done was wrong. I was only afraid.

The fear scales, from fear of your parents to fear of God. The bed was the location of punishment in my family, you sat on your bed when you were being punished. You had to sit alone and think and you would sit crying until you exhausted your emotional energy from fear and then you waited. But I also feared god in bed, trying to fall asleep but terrified of punishment, and begging for forgiveness for whatever I had done. I had internalised whatever that fear of punishment was, and I would ask again and again and again to be forgiven and then I knew in my asking to be forgiven that I was failing because I would have been confident if I had really been saved. I would have felt the love of God, wouldn't I.

I want desperately for my children to not fear me, but they do. You internalise violence — even when you don't hit anyone, the intention to hit them is there. They can see it in your eyes. Violence teaches you that you can control other people with violence. You can make them appear to love you. You can force them to do and say things they don't mean. You can abolish free will. You can make fear look like free will.

This morning the alarm went off at five-thirty and I felt a sense of relief, that I had a clear plan for the day: something to eat for breakfast and a list of things to do. I stepped down into the dark of the house and meditated, listening to a man talk about the solar plexus chakra, the yellow lotus flower that I was told to put my hands on and hear vibrate. You have strength when you focus on this chakra, not because the chakra gives you strength, but because your belief that the chakra gives you strength does. You animate the yellow light that you imagine pouring out of your body, beyond all thoughts of punishment or fear or the love of god. If violence scales, peace scales too. Look in my eyes, I want to say now, the fear is gone, isn't it. No one needs to be afraid — we are birds, we are flowers.
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