Grief sits in places. The world watched as the community of Newtown discussed a very prognostic question about the fate of Sandy Hook Elementary School: raze or re-model? On Friday May 10th the 28 member Task Force Committee voted unanimously: tear it down and re-build on the site. I think all the questions such as “Can we afford this?” “Can we expect teachers and children to walk back through those doors to learn?” “Does tearing it down mean evil has won?” — all of them are rivulets feeding a greater question: CAN WE TRANSFORM? – the rage, grief, gruesome visuals, autopsies, crowded funeral homes, empty bedrooms, aching arms, tears to the heart, tears to the connective membrane of a community?
Amazingly it is possible: the healing happens through how we get the new elementary school not just the end result of a “clean” structure “free” of violation. Bulldozers are not powerful enough, but creative compassionate action to change the story of that land is. Think of it as a cancer intervention where the bulldozer is the chemotherapy, but it is the body’s immunity system that creates the healthy and vital new cells. The immunity system for a community is a shared motion of inviting life to rush back in.
The places of our world can have a kind of story-litter scattered over it. These traumatic human stories live in the psychological, archetypal, and spiritual layers of a place. If left untended, they fester and attract more pain-rodents as any nuisance site left with our unwanteds.
Thankfully, gone are the days when we believed everything lives in isolation for the survival of the fittest. We are a pulsing ecology of experience, interdependent upon each other and the places we live. Our connective tissue lives in all layers of life from environmental to political, personal to societal, and now once again we restore the reciprocity of inner peace and external place. To re-claim the school site: re-story to re-store, re-shape the land as families re-create their shattered lives, let earth and soul touch so that the inherent, transformative powers make way for both nature and the human soul’s resilience to burst through.
- Allow the process of destruction and re-building be a pilgrimage for the community – not to dictate their pace, but be a creative, compassionate opportunity to align in community, break isolation;
- Open the vein between internal journey and external creation – like a giant sand tray or art therapy mandala from the Western psychological traditions; or mandalas or sand paintings from Tibetan Buddhist and First People’s traditions respectively;
- Raise the raze – let the ruins scatter, let tears turn to seeds – give pieces to families and first responders; throw them in the ocean, burn them, bury them in a desert, or build a hill to circumambulate – who knows what they will choose to do? Let them choose – some amount of ruins are too precious for a landfill
For me there is no doubt there are stories in all landscape. The question becomes “whose” story is attracting “what”? Does a story need to be released? Is a new story, a molding of ashes and spit, needed to reconstitute the unfathomable? Where can I sign up?
What do you think Newtown needs to bring healing?