Everything we do, kind or evil, ripples through life like the waves that violently and then gently ripple out from a peddle dropped in a pond. Every act, part of a fabric. Many times, we won’t even live to see the consequences of our actions; or they are so distant from our experience that they seem invisible. But they are there. Our souls feel them. The universe knows. Not in a Santa Claus way. The universe lives by laws, and there is a balance sheet. Blood demands more blood. Fractures have to heal.
I can’t get this picture out of my mind. In case the Canadian tragedy was lost for you amidst all of last week’s other bad news, these are the pets of Cpt. Nathan Cirillo, killed in the Ottawa shootings, waiting. They are waiting for him to come home.
It’s so sad it makes me swear out loud whenever I see it. It is but a ripple from an act of hate, and a small one at that. People around the planet are suffering much more for all sorts of reasons. Families in Washington State, not far from my adopted Maltby, have far more right to swear and be heartbroken after last week’s school shooting. But sometimes a picture, like a single tale, captures the grief of a people. This one does.
People capable of the most extreme acts of hate don’t listen to talk of God or karma or consequences or ripples, so stop me from the conceit of thinking I might address them. Or that I might even try to make sense out of any of these things. The only thing I can muster is a thought that might be of some use to you: The next time I am about to choose anger over kindness, I’ll think of these grief-stricken puppies. They are the most innocent of innocent bystanders in a tremendous act of hate; even the hater didn’t dream of causing them pain, I would think. Yet the pain is there. All our actions have ripples we cannot see or even fathom.
But doesn’t blood demand blood? Isn’t that how the big balance sheet in the sky keeps score? In all my years of studying criminals, scam artists, psychology, and religion, the most useful phrase I have even learned is this: “Pain that is not transformed is transmitted.”* The boy beaten by his father becomes a child beater, unless he does something to turn the hate he received into love. The Protestant who’s father was killed by a Catholic finds another Catholic to kill unless the hatred is transformed into something greater. That is how the balance sheet works.
All of us will have a chance this year…this month…this day…to choose between kindness and hate. With any luck, it will be a very small, almost insignificant chance. But it will come. Perhaps the person who might be the target of your anger has no right to kindness. But you just never know who has a puppy waiting at home.
*This turn of phrase is generally attributed to Richard Rohr, though the concept, of course, belongs to the universe.