There is a similarity between the two recent events in Orlando. In one case, a kid escaped the bonds of his mommy into the mouth of an alligator and in the second, a sad and tragic slaying of many in a night club.
In last weeks Torah portion (“Naso”), the inventory of what each tribe gave to the temple is repeated twelve times. Given the idea that there are no extraneous words in the Torah, why the repetition? Wouldn’t it have been enough to say each tribe gave A, B, and C? No. No tribe was better than any other tribe. They were all responsible for any sin that was committed in their community.
One thought that goes through my head when I read of tragic events is a kind of self-congratulation that I didn’t let my son into the mouth of an alligator, and that my kids weren’t at the night club. It was the same feeling when another kid was kicked out of class for doing something “bad.” In addition, I think that I had no responsibly for what happened.
Last night I remembered Werner Erhard's definition of responsibility:
Responsibility begins with the willingness to be cause in the matter of one's life. Ultimately, it is a context from which one chooses to live. Responsibility is not burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt. In responsibility, there is no evaluation of good or bad, right or wrong. There is simply what's so, and your stand. Being responsible starts with the willingness to deal with a situation from the view of life that you are the generator of what you do, what you have and what you are. That is not the truth. It is a place to stand. No one can make you responsible, nor can you impose responsibility on another. It is a grace you give yourself—an empowering context that leaves you with a say in the matter of life.
It has led me to believe that we are 100% responsible for everything that happens. This is tough for people to wrap their heads around. And it is obviously illogical as are most ideas that interest me.
And here’s the idea: the options we have in our lives are unlimited. The zoo in Orlando has unlimited options. The way that society creates and then deals with individuals who are agitated and mad are unlimited. We each have the opportunity to change the world. If a butterfly can flip its wings and cause a tornado on the other side of the earth, why can’t we?
This idea is not meant to shame us all because we didn’t do something in the past, but rather to suggest that we take inventory of what we are doing now. Are we complaining at the zoo because their cages are “attractive nuisances”? Are we finding help for those in our community who are mad and angry? If not, we could do more… like the little boy in this story:
In this classic tale an old man finds a boy walking along the beach throwing beached starfish back into the ocean. however there are many starfish washed up on the beach—far too many for the boy to get them all. the man questions the boy, "how can you possibly get them all, why bother?" the boy acknowledges his limitation but retorts by picking up one sand dollar, just one and saying these words, "you're absolutely right mister, i can't get them all. but you see this starfish? i can save this one. it's worth it for this one..."