Life has been full and so I was pleased last evening, when I surveyed the week ahead, to imagine that I could get serious about a return to this blog on a regular basis. Then, just before signing off for the night, I learned of Osama bin Laden’s death.
My first thought was that I would not address the issue here – there being plenty of other chatter on the matter. However, realizing that my last post had to do with Universalism, I thought perhaps it would be cheating to duck the topic.
My concern is not for bin Laden’s eternal soul, for I do not generally concern myself with eternal souls. My concerns are for those who live in the aftermath of his death and the last ten years.
I would begin by noting the obvious. People respond differently to death. Even within one person there can be a variety of feelings. This is true of every death. It is particularly true of this one. For myself, I know that I am feeling resignation, relief, and sadness.
I am not a pacifist, but I rarely advocate violence as a solution. I cannot rejoice over the death of another human being. Still, I have known for some time that it was likely that bin Laden’s life would end in violence. This is the source of my feeling of resignation. Given the world as it is currently configured, this death was inevitable.
To the degree that this death was inevitable, I feel a certain relief. There are some types of healing that were not going to happen until this occurred. Being an optimist, I am hopeful that now there are new opportunities for our world to move toward wholeness and health.
Still, I am saddened to witness the many varied reactions that give evidence to the amount of pain that still exists. My hope is tempered by the magnitude of that pain and its potential to perpetuate a cycle of violence in our world.
From a theological perspective, one of my favorite quips about Unitarian Universalism is that we are not concerned with getting people into heaven; rather, we are concerned with getting heaven into people.
I don’t know what happens when we die. On the other hand, I have a lot of thoughts about what makes life a living hell. Hatred and fear fall into that category. And so, to the degree that we wish to create heaven on earth, I believe we are called to find words and actions that bring love and hope into the world.
We will all have different reactions to death. This I understand. But I also believe that some of our reactions, no matter how understandable, will, in the long run, increase hate and fear, and thus the suffering in our world. For example, this is one of the reasons that I think the burial at sea was a creative solution. It avoids the suffering that would have been brought on by either some of the more gruesome suggestions that have been made, or, at the other extreme, the inadvertent creation of a pilgrimage site.
Mostly, I am finding this a good time for the practice of compassion. For me, this means allowing myself to be touched, but not overwhelmed, by the pain of another. I may not share the pain and thus the reactions of some other people. Still, I can keep my heart open to them. Still, I can remain open to the possibility of deeper understanding. Still, I can find hope that all people have the potential to move toward more health and wholeness and that our world can move toward a more peaceful, just, and sustainable future.