The City of Lights
We are a couple of weeks past the tragic attacks on Paris. Hopefully, those affected more personally have begun the process of healing. The word process should be emphasized, because it is fact that and not as many expect, an event. Grief, like many other life circumstances ebbs and flows through many changes and takes time.
Paris is often referred to as the City of Lights. I would like to take liberty with that title by highlighting one of the stories I heard among those involved, because I believe they shine on the potential of a brighter existence for all of us.
Hélène Muyal-Leiris, left her husband of 12 years and their 17month old son, Melvil to attend a rock concert on Friday evening. Instead of returning to their lives, she along with 128 other innocent victims lost their life in the massacre. Upon learning the news, her husband Antoine offered the following powerful message to those responsible for his wife’s death:
“I will not give you the gift of hate.”
Leiris went on to interpret his understanding of the ignorance that leads to such violence, as well as, the limits of which, despite his grief, he will allow this to impact him and his son. When referring to his child’s future he added “He is only 17 months old, he will eat his afternoon tea as always and then we will go and play as always, and this little boy’s entire life will be an affront to you by being happy and free. For he will not hate you either.”
I am in awe of this truly remarkable posture. I often write about the accepting the freedom of personal choice in how we respond to what comes towards us in life. This example is one of the best examples I have seen of application. Leiris could choose to remain bitter, angry, devastated or immobilized by what has occurred. Who would judge him harshly for choosing any response? But instead, he opted to respect his grief, while also honoring the magnitude of love he felt for his wife. He achieved this by choosing not to tarnish his or his son’s love by being forced into other feelings dictated by the actions of others.
There won’t likely be follow up stories to let us know in 5 or 10 years of this man or his son succumbed to depression, drugs and alcohol or a life of crime of their own. But I have to hope that his gift of love will touch many people, who will in turn use it as motivation to choose in kind. I hope that his current posture emerges from a spirit within him that looks towards the good in the world and that as a result; he has surrounded himself with like- minded people who will continue to support him through the days and years which lie ahead.
I often hear people say they can’t choose their feelings. I’m not sure I agree. I believe that circumstances appear to us and then we create a story around those circumstances. How we build the story is predicated on our individual circumstances, both historically and in the present. Sometimes this information is in consciousness and sometimes not. But the story we tell is inevitably powerful, because it is the fuel that ignites our feelings. Thus, while we may not be conscious of choosing our story, we are nonetheless its author. Even if someone else originated the story, when we reinforce it by retelling it to ourselves, it becomes ours.
The good news is that all of our stories are subject to revision as we acquire new information. We don’t have to stop editing until we take our final breath. If you are not comfortable with the feelings generated by your plot lines, you have every right to change them. I hope you will choose those which allow you to shine at your brightest.