BELIEVING – Season for Nonviolence, Day 5, and Trayvon Martin

This series highlights Peace Practices for the Season for Nonviolence.  Communities across the world discuss the same practice on the same day.  Today is day 5 of 64, and the Peace Practice is “BELIEVING.”

I was at first stumped as to how “believing” might be a peace practice.  Then I remembered that our feelings and actions are based on what we believe we see, and what we believe that means.

What we believe we see?

Yes.  We have all seen the facebook posts that go around about optical illusions.  Here is a link to a page of fun ones.  Please notice that your eyes are not as well trained to see what is actually there on the page as you might believe.  If you edit your own work you know what I am talking about!!

Begin excerpt:  Count the “F’s” that are in the following text.

FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE
SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTI
FIC STUDY COMBINED WITH
THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS.

How many “F’s” did you find?
Wrong. There are 6 F’s in the text above. Read and try again.

How is this possible? Your brain isn’t capable of processing the word OF.
Everyone that finds the six F’s at once is a genius. Three is normal, four is
very rare.  
 End Excerpt.  

I found four F’s the first time.  If we believe (trust) what we think (believe) our eyes are seeing in this example, how much more do we believe (trust) our beliefs about people and values?  Sorry, that’s a complicated sentence. How much of what we see and believe about people out in the world are stereotypes and how much is factual truth? How much of what we read goes through the filter of our belief systems and comes out askew?

The Trayvon Martin Tragedy

image credit: newsbustersImage

BELIEFS.  Who believed what? This is the question I think in the Trayvon Martin tragedy.  Here an unarmed 17 year old boy was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch person, when he was returning home from the store with some skittles and a soda at dusk.

Assuming Mr. Zimmerman had not set out that night to kill a child, he saw Trayvon and believed, for whatever reasons, that Trayvon was a criminal and that he should be stopped. Beyond that, he apparently believed that HE had a right to stop and follow and finally shoot Trayvon.  Who did the jury believe Trayvon was?  Did they believe Mr. Zimmerman had the stature of a policeman and a duty to follow Trayvon??  Why did so many people who were white see the entire tragedy with different eyes (beliefs) than those who were black or brown or red?

I do not argue the merits of the case.  I wasn’t there and neither, probably, were you. I merely urge you to understand, with the fire in your belly from whichever view you take (belief you have), you are looking through the filters of BELIEFS you may not even know you have.  Those beliefs can be deadly.

We all hold stereotyped beliefs.  All of us.  They help us get through life.  Our brains automatically give us (sometimes false) shortcuts to getting through the day, as we learned with the optical illusions above.

BELIEVING.  It’s vitally important to examine and question our beliefs and try to search out the facts, in the same way we had to learn to find all the F’s in the optical illusion.  Peace depends on you to take up this challenge, today and every day.  Trying to see through our illusions, (questioning our beliefs), is a most vital peace practice.

PS:  This is an election year.  Anticipating the wild rhetoric, I ask that we please train ourselves to look for actual facts and not automatically BELIEVE every outrageous story that comes across our pages or TV sets.

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