Who among us has not been terrorized?
Who among us has not also been a terrorist?
I’m talking about minor acts of terror. Under my definition, even a petty snipe can be a terrorist act. Even a petty snipe is an attempt to instill fear in a fellow human.
The minor or major terrorist feels small. The attack is his attempt to feel big. And it does boost his ego—for a moment anyway. But the truth is: he still feels small.
So, as if addicted, he may repeat the behavior and keeping on repeating it. Keep on throwing stones. Keep trying to inflate himself.
The terrorist usually justifies these acts by demonizing the other. But the demon he sees in the other is actually an aspect of himself. An aspect he’s rejected. The aspects we reject become the aspects we project…
…project onto other people, other groups, other nations.
I know of what I speak—I have been (and still am) quite a projectionist.
Yes, I try to keep a watch on myself…
But I fall asleep so easily. And once asleep, I may be slow to wake. When I finally realize how I’m projecting, I’m humbled—disappointed in myself…
Yet at the same time, I feel a little more hopeful about my prospects. After all, I’ve gained in awareness. I can break the cycle.
We know this behavior cycle—we know about rejection/projection. We’ve told ourselves this story in countless books and movies. In folktales, fables, and songs. This story might be as old as we are.
So if we know the story, why can’t we change?
Here’s what I’ve realized:
Though I can see your bad behavior in those fictional characters, I can’t see my own. That’s because I’m projecting my own bad behavior onto you. Ironic, yes.
I believe stories are usually the best way to communicate an idea…
…but in this case, maybe not. Maybe it’s better if we state these twin ideas plainly, simply, unequivocally. Repeatedly. A quotable quote—something catchy, something clever. A hook that will stay in the mouth.
Or rather: an expression that ring with a clear bell sound—a clear bell sound that can awaken the wise bell within us.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say: our survival depends on this understanding.
© 2017, Michael R. Patton
Searching for My Best Beliefs: a poetry book