I am a violent person. I don’t remember hitting anyone lately. Surely I have, possibly my brother when I was little and he was mean to me. Well alright, I killed a couple of fruit flies about six months ago when I was writing my thesis and afraid of an infestation, because I did not have the time to deal with one, if these flies decided to breed in my kitchen. I am still violent through and through. How do I know this?
I learned of my violence through a flower. No, not by picking a flower. I stopped that a long time ago. No, a flower showed me how violent I am without any direct contact. It was a yellow flower, a flower of a dandelion, the ones that grow everywhere and anywhere. No, she did not whisper in my ear: “You are violent person, Manuela” – none of that.
The flower I am talking about is located right at and underneath of the fire door that leads into the back of the building I live in. This is my entrance door because I live above a shop and enter through the back door. Let’s say I live in a funky neighbourhood and nothing is legitimate about my entrance. The council won’t even provide recycling bins for me because they can’t seem to fathom where I live. I tried to get bins but after approximately thirty emails and a different person replying to my emails nearly every time, not knowing what the email thread was about, I gave up. I still recycle but I have developed timings and techniques where I can deliver my plastic gatherings right to the passing pickup truck.
Anyway, I am drifting. So this little flower found its place to grow right under the fire door, which is the door I have to open every time I enter into the outer world. When I do so the flower’s little head rolls back as if practicing a yoga asana – and every time this occurs I sense that she might not make it through alive. Poor flower, what can I do to move you out of my way and into security. That’s the violence I am talking about.
Such a thought is intrinsically violent, which leads to far-reaching destruction that we are currently experiencing on the planet. Currently? Oh, let me rephrase this – that we are always experiencing throughout all of written history. Why is such a thought violent? It is violent because I elevate myself, as human, above all life and single out one manifestation of life, taking it up on me to protect it. That is violent. Protectionism is violent.
In my thought to safe the little yellow flower from me having to hurt it because I must step out the door and into the world, is not considering all other life that may be dependent on the flower and that I am not aware of because I am human. A human, with let’s say a very narrow bandwidth of perception. I know most people would not take it as such but this sampling machine that I am has a narrow visual and audio spectrum available to compute input from the environment. Let alone the spatial configuration, I do not have 360 degree vision, my back can’t see and I can only combine vision with touch to understand the surface of the physical reality in front of me. However, for all these limitations I make a hell of a lot of assumptions, such as that I know what is best for this flower and that I should be protecting it from me – and most likely I would be considered a good person. When in reality the opposite is true. Such an act is violent.
I single out this flower in my ‘savior complex’ because humans are taught to have a positive reaction towards flowers. Well, most humans – some humans, such as Slavoj Žižek, think flowers are disgusting. Nevertheless, even disgust is an emotional reaction towards flowers. The rest of the world would probably not send flowers to so-called loved ones if they thought flowers are disgusting. I have a positive emotional reaction to flowers and that is why I wanted to save this little yellow flower that has chosen such unfortunate location for itself.
Again, what do I know about the flower’s choice of its location. Is it all based on my communication with the little yellow flower when it told me that it is hurting every time I open the door? Of course not. I know nothing about how the flower experiences itself as flower, as life, here in every moment. I did notice that it grew quite short as I normally remember dandelion flowers to grow tall – this one is a midget.
Perhaps it is enjoying itself because it does not perceive the door opening act that I perform as dangerous and life-threatening. Perhaps it has calculated the exact move it has to make to get out of the way and has fun doing so. I don’t know this, but I surely will make assumptions. In my Buddhist days, I once read that Buddhist monks will displace worms from the earth to keep them alive, if they have to erect structures somewhere. I don’t remember the details but it is certainly the same instinctual reaction I had towards the flower – let me ‘do’ something to take you out of my way.
Now, what if that pretty, little yellow flower was not a flower but a nasty looking weed, would I have even noticed it? Probably not. I would have cared less, probably even stepped on it. Like I said, my limitations are such that I can only focus on one thing at the time, and most of the time it is not the nature that grows between the concrete in the streets that I tread on.
If we leave this actual example of my violence and go into the abstract, then I can easily tell you that I have proceeded in this violent way when I protected my ideas, opinions, and my morals. Every debate I have ever entered builds on this simple act of un-manifested violence. I need to protect what is mine, what is right, what is fair – but who is it to decide, it is me and no one else. You may say that society has shaped me this way, and that in a way it is because of the society we live in, but “I am society” would be my answer. There just isn’t anyone else out there who is called society.
Whether this violence is exhibited in debates or in flower gazing ‘let me protect you’ moments, it does not really matter because throwing an atom bomb at someone has to start somewhere, it starts with me needing to protect the little yellow flower growing underneath the fire door. Seriously, if you look at what is going on in the world you will easily see what I mean. Oh, I don’t single myself out, this violence that I am explaining in this post is everyone’s violence. You my reader are violent as well. You protect your family, your wealth, your opinions and ideas. Given the right circumstances you and I will throw atom bombs – no, absolutely not, it is not someone out there who will do it for us.
Governments are made up of people, cooperations are made up of people and you maybe working in one. I have worked in one. We are all, all of us, taking part in violence, and it does not come in shades. All manifestations of violence are equally violent because they are always about creating a preference based on images and information that stimulate emotional reactions that depend on the individual’s particular configuration of emotional triggers.
It is one and the same pattern that is repeated and then embedded in the environment which is where it is scaled up. We live in constant and continuous separation with everything around us, and each act of separation whether it is merely in our minds or executed in the world is the violence with live today. When we start to understand this fact in the most fundamental way, we can do something about it. We can begin to stand up and leave the trappings of emotional states behind, and see life for what it is, in the way we have never seen it before – one and equal to all – then we will realise that everything outside of this equality is delusion.
Thus, tomorrow morning when I step out of this building again to face the world, I will thank the little yellow flower for making me aware of the violent person that I am.