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Lions Roar : July 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN jULy 2009 24 possible. But no cockroach has ever bitten off a human’s leg. So what am I afraid of? I see myself as the center of the universe. I believe other be- ings are out to harm me. I impute all sorts of meaning where it doesn’t exist. For me and for the rest of the human race, such distorted perceptions cause a huge amount of damage. For example, they lead to a twisted view of humanity’s place in the world’s ecology. They enable a callous attitude toward ani- mals, which results in horrors like factory farming, in which we convince ourselves that animals can be treated as if they were just inanimate industrial products. I looked up my reference to a world in a grain of sand and discovered that it comes from Blake’s poem “Auguries of Innocence.” I was surprised to find that this work is about cruelty to animals. he who shall hurt the little wren Shall never be belov’d by men. Blake shows that we are not so distinct from other creatures as we think. The caterpillar on the leaf repeats to thee thy mother’s grief. When we suffer, we can become more compassionate. Seeing suffering in the world set Buddha on his spiritual path. For me, it took a painful divorce. It opened me to some positive truths: as I hate to suffer, other beings also hate to suffer; and if I want to work toward lessening my own pain and the pain of others, I need to understand where all this suffering comes from. A staggering amount of it comes from our own distorted per- ceptions. They lead us to distrust and hatred and violence. I ponder all the bigots in this world, feeling so threatened by other people just because of the color of their skin, or their birthplace, or gen- der, or sexual orientation. And my little cockroach even gets me thinking about genocide. The only way you can feel right about slaughtering other people is if you hold toward them a completely false view, one that is self-cherishing and non-empty. It seemed hugely important to the Nazis to characterize certain people— Jews, gypsies, homosexuals—as inherently vile and inherently malicious. What was the metaphor they used? “Vermin.” I think, ultimately, that they were deeply afraid of these perceived aliens, which is odd because they held almost all the physical power. I saw a gun shop recently that had a lot of stuffed dead ani- mals. A pistol range offered a variety of posters you could use as targets, such as a latino holding a white child hostage, and a black man holding a white woman hostage. The message was clear: when they come for you, you better be armed and ready. Once again, the people with the guns are the ones who are most afraid, and this fear arises out of a deep-seated sense of How dare you invade my safe kitchen, you malicious little bastard. w ww. g omd eusa.org 2009