Civil War

It was early morning, driving to the gym in Corning on Rte. 414, sun rising, spreading its fingers over the fields to the left. My mind drifted for a moment, when the flash of a deer’s head came into my visual field from the driver’s side. The dull thud shook me even more awake.

“No! Not again!” I yelled at the road in front of me as I swerved off the road and slid to a stop. I had hit two deer in the past with the same car, and now had to watch a third beautiful creature suffer.

Out of the rearview mirror I could see the doe crawling off the road, attempting to reach the brush. She only made it to the shoulder, then lay there, seemingly bewildered.

I ran back to her, hoping and hoping…

I don’t think she was even aware of me. Lying on her side, her head lifted to look at her hind legs, which weren’t moving, as if asking, “Why aren’t they working?”

I reached down, touched her sweating hide, as the blacktop became a canvas for the blood coming from her mouth and her side. I began to call for help, knowing that the only thing to do was to have someone come and end her suffering mercifully.

But it wasn’t necessary. She lay her head down and let go her last breath. Her glassy eyes remained open where a fly settled down, announcing the end.

I thought of her for days, seeing her stare at her hind legs. Seeing the image of her beautiful face coming at me from the side.

As I waited for the town sheriff to show up, a pickup truck pulled onto 414 from a side road. The driver rolled down his window, looked at the deer, then at me, and said, “Too many of them damned things anyways, if you ask me.”

I didn’t ask him. I still feel the sadness as I write this…

Days later I was putting sealant on our deck, a long and tedious job in the noonday sun. I found myself picking up moths, ants and other crawling things, and placing them out of harm’s way before I put down the sealant. I really hate to end life before it’s time.

Yet, I am at times just as much under the power of a murderous trance, wishing to kill, eliminate and destroy.

After the deck had been sealed and many tiny creatures spared, my wife, Barbara, asked during our evening meal, “Did you hear about the second beheading?”

She was speaking of Isis and its brutal, savage attacks on anyone who believes differently from them. Haven’t we done this over and over throughout history? Haven’t we gotten any better at being human?

When I heard this, a different part of me took the foreground of my awareness. It is a part that knows how to kill, how to seek out and destroy, that wants so badly to end the lives of those who would brutalize others.

And as bizarre as it may seem, I would want to do that with an open heart. I would want to end the lives of those who torture and murder, not out of hatred, but to stop them from what they do.

Isn’t that continuing the same flood of violence? Would that change anything? Would I really be doing it out of fury and revenge?

Perhaps. I can’t answer these questions.

All I can do is to return to a place of awareness and watch. Awareness embraces everything and does so without judgment. It is how we can be deeply present to whatever is in ourselves.

It watches that in me that would rescue the life of an insect. Watches the part that would end brutalizing, human life, even if it only provided temporary respite from hatred.

And so I watched for the next few days as my murderous part quieted down. But it didn’t disappear. It remains. Both remain: the life lover and hatred’s executioner.

There is no neat ending to these thoughts. The civil war inside me continues. And I wonder if and how such intense and radically different entities will ever integrate. Perhaps, as my wife suggests, the war is something of a microcosm of the eternal swing between light and dark, good and evil, peace and war.

Perhaps we can only watch and hope… hope beyond hope that in our daily existence, Life’s pendulum shifts more and more into the place that Rumi describes: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”