26 March 2006

March 26th, 2006


I don't know if you heard the news, but last Sunday morning here in Seattle, a young man named Kyle Huff inexplicably shot six people to death at a house party and then shot himself. No motive. No reason.

The house where the shooting happened is just a block from where Elizabeth lives. We carpool to work together. I can't avoid going past it when I pick her up in the morning. This morning when I drove by, there were still a number of kids holding a vigil on the lawn and sidewalk amongst soggy sleeping bags and wilted flowers. They looked like they were freezing. I went up to the Starbucks and bought half a gallon of hot chocolate and a dozen or so donuts and brought them to the kids. They were overjoyed to get something warm.

There was a news crew standing by from KING 5. They asked me if I'd speak with them on-camera and I consented. They said I didn't look like a member of the rave scene, and I said no, I wasn't. They asked me to spell my name for them, so I did. Then they asked me to spell it again, so I did. Then they rolled the cameras.

The reporter asked me if I lived in the neighborhood, and I said no. He asked me why I brought the donuts an hot chocolate and I said these kids look like they're freezing, so it seemed like the right thing to do. Then he asked me, as a member of the neighborhood, what effect I thought this tragedy would have on the area. I couldn't understand why he asked me that. I had just told him that I didn't live there. It was like a Zen koan. Everything kind of breathed in for a moment. I don't know how else to say it. I noticed that the reporter had a tan. I noticed that the microphone had a torn windscreen. I smelled wax. I thought about Kyle Huff. I heard some of the kids laugh. And then the breath went out again.

I said I hadn't spoken to any of the people in the neighborhood, so I didn't know. But my heart went out to the parents of all the kids who were killed. I said I have a son about the same age as a lot of the kids at the party, and that I couldn't imagine being worried, waiting for a phone call for him, only to find out that he was never coming home.

The reporter said thanks. I got in the car and drove away. On the way to work, I thought about how someone must mourn for Kyle Huff, too.

"Sometimes we think that to develop an open heart, to be truly loving and compassionate, means that we need to be passive, to allow others to abuse us, to smile and let anyone do what they want with us. Yet this is not what is meant by compassion. Quite the contrary. Compassion is not at all weak. It is the strength that arises out of seeing the true nature of suffering in the world. Compassion allows us to bear witness to that suffering, whether it is in ourselves or others, without fear; it allows us to name injustice without hesitation, and to act strongly, with all the skill at our disposal. To develop this mind state of compassion...is to learn to live, as the Buddha put it, with sympathy for all living beings, without exception.

"After I escaped from Tibet, [my brother monk] Lopon-la was put in prison by the Chinese. He stayed there eighteen years. When he finally was free, he came to India. For twenty years, I did not see him. But he seemed the same. Of course, he looked older, but physically OK. His mind still sharp after so many years in prison. He was still the same gentle monk.

He told me the Chinese forced him to denounce his religion. They tortured him many times in prison. I asked him whether he was ever afraid. Lopon-la then told me: 'Yes, there was one thing I was afraid of. I was afraid I may lose compassion for the Chinese.'"

-Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness The XIVth Dalai Lama

1 comment:

luke duke said...

wow, that's really touching there Thaddeus. Respect to you for doing that, the thought of it warms my miserable heart