Violence is Suffering Unheard

Parker Palmer asks, what shall we do with our suffering? as one of the most fateful questions we as humans must wrestle with. He writes that sometimes suffering rises into anger that can lead to murder or war; at other times it descends into despair that can lead to quick or slow self destruction. Palmer writes, “Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering.”
I’ve walked back to these words over and over while wrestling with the violence witnessed and experienced in my own life and the violence witnessed experienced around me. On Sunday afternoon I revisited these words as I watched a young mother pull her young daughter out to sea, out where the child (not older then six) was unable to touch bottom and then I watched as the mother repeatedly slapped the girl’s hands away every time the child reached for help. The child’s face a mix of confusion and fear. I watched as the child finally found ground under her feet only to be slammed head first under water by her mother, the child popping back up for air. The mother turning her back and marching out of the sea, returning to sit under the tree growling to herself and to the young men beside her. I kept my eyes out to sea and breathed for the child. She did not cry. She glared at her mother. And when her mother wasn’t looking she repeatedly raised her middle finger in her mother’s direction. I heard one of the small cousins or brothers say, “you nah fraid of your mother?” and the young girl balling up her fist and pounding the boy on the back.
Later when at home I knew I needed to breathe not only for the child but also for the mother, a mother who was acting out her own suffering. I thought of the trauma hauntingly living in so many people, trauma/suffering not easily, consciously wrestled with; trauma/suffering internalized, normalized, then passed on from generation to generation. Was there something more I could have done then just breathe. i thought if I confronted the young mother I could have shamed her into more suffering and this could have been played out again on the daughter when they reached home.
Breathing perhaps was the best I could do at that moment for both of them. Finding compassion for both the mother and the child, knowing this kind of suffering is being played out violently all around us and within us. How do we wrestle with it all. How do we find ways to be active in dismantling, de-escalating suffering, violence?
i look forward to further co creating and facilitating violence intervention/prevention workshops/programs/sessions for 2019 using various creative expressions such as narrative, poetry, theatre. Stay tuned. And in these last few days of 2018 more breath, more presence.

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