Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Shot in the Light

The headline caught my eye briefly and disappeared from my life as something I really did not want to know about, just another awful act of random violence out in the world. I was much more interested in the Olympic opening ceremonies and my music recording.

It peeked in again when I got a garbled email late Saturday night that included the phrase “the shooter didn’t get me”. I realized my blogging friend and a deranged professor were both from Alabama, but expected no connection since horrifying things like that just do not happen to people we know.

I answered her quickly anyway, and sure enough, my friend was in the room last Friday when the professor who was denied tenure pulled out a gun and began to shoot. The head of the department died in the arms of my friend with his last breaths trying to shield her body with his own.

Unharmed physically, my friend had been under heavy sedation and was just waking to the memory of the horror as we “chatted” into the early hours. At first saying she had been mostly unconscious, the process of typing short sentences to me revealed that she had been very aware and cognizant in those awful minutes, recalling with vivid detail the sights, sounds, smells that will likely remain in her memory forever to resurface in the unlikeliest of moments.

Two thousand miles away, in the darkness of night and the clatter of keys typing, I felt more helpful than she had as the life of her friend passed out of his body. I could tell her that in some capacity, he felt her arms holding him, her kiss on his cheek. From the ceiling above, or somewhere way beyond, his spirit could see her tears and feel peaceful amidst the chaos, experience the silence beyond the screams. Their souls would be forever connected.

No matter how tired I was, I could hold the space for her to explore her emotions and help her find some soft ledge on which to sit. Together, we could ride that roller coaster that charged from feeling like all was normal on a Saturday night to the dizzyingly twisty curves of sorrow, fear, guilt and anger that were racing past. My words could comfort her even though there is no true comfort around something so horrific. I could virtually keep her company while she could not sleep.

Again, I am struck by how quickly our lives can change, how deeply change can happen in an instant, and how small are our own issues in comparison to some one else’s plight. For me, the lapse of a few seconds landed me on a soft couch with a hard wound, unable for months—probably forever—to return to my life as I was living it. Her few minutes of terror, without physical harm, leave indelible scars, likely disrupting her motion in deeply profound and unpredictable ways.

In addition to the sorrows, regrets and anger around such events, there is also a marvellous appreciation for the beauty in life. Even as we mourn, we tend to revel in an ecstatic joy, celebrating life, the very fact that we are still alive and can feel at all.

Priorities are stood on end and what simple things were taken for granted seem suddenly so precious. Gratitude envelopes our heart and extends outwards to all who come into our circle. For a time, we are supercharged with the sense that all is so important and vital.

In my life, this has translated into casting aside the humble blanket of self-moderation and leaping into the day to declare my existence, for better or worse, in the world. Time should not be wasted, but utilized, every precious moment (even if that is resting) to move ourselves forward in the creation of the reality we want to live.

Happiest with guitar or pen in hand, I have to be careful when picking up a hammer. Too easily the demands of our life distract us from our purpose. I am capable of building a wall around myself that keeps me from the very things that give me breath and urge my blood to flow. Apparently for good reason, we focus on our “shoulds”, days leading into weeks into months into years until our vision is so shaded our unhappiness and dysfunction seem the natural way of the world and we risk dying having barely lived.

Be observant, self-aware. Lead your life this day as if none will follow. Read these words, but then quickly move on to words of your own. LIVE.

After my Mankind Project weekend of New Warrior training, I adopted the mission statement that “I create a world of growth, prosperity and tolerance by loving action and celebration.” As a man among men, I grow, prosper and celebrate.

I am not yet able to do this every hour of every day, but the mission is imprinted in my sight, filtering so much more of what I do than in previous years. I am the happier man for it and am grateful for better friendships ringing with more laughter than tears.

Please share with your friends


Sharla said...

Thank you~so much could be said but thank you will do for now.

Hayden Tompkins said...

Oh, WOW, Kip. I can't even imagine what that was like for your friend.

Laurie said...

I am glad you were there for your friend. You are a great man Kip.

Anonymous said...

If you can not be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.............................................

Anonymous said...

I feel for your friend, it must have been horrific. I cannot even imagine it. We heard about it on the news over here in England too.