In my card reading for this week, I spoke of my feeling that it was going to be a bit of turbulent week. Unfortunately this proved correct on a national level, but also on a personal level, and I think the two are related.
Unless you have been living in a bubble this week, you would have heard about the siege in Sydney. I am sure that this was particularly shocking to everyone who lived or worked in the Sydney CBD, as they know it could have easily been them in that situation. The rest of the nation and the world were just as shocked by the ease with which the everyday event of visiting a café so easily became such a frightening and tragic one.
There are many questions which will need to be asked in relation to this event. I understand that there are to be enquiries made into the events leading up to the siege which allowed the perpetrator to be out on bail after being charged with a number of offences, and also into the actions of the police during the siege. My questions focus more on the way the media and the government have portrayed the event, and the way that we the public have reacted.
Tony Abbott said, in his speech calling for an enquiry, that this was a terrorist incident, and yet in the same speech states that the perpetrator had a long record of mental instability. My first question, then, would be: What was the man hoping to gain from this?
Normally we think of the aims of terrorists as merely to cause terror. This isolated incident by one violent and mentally unstable individual, who is now dead, is unlikely to cause terror in the rest of us, unless the media and the government portray it as a terrorist incident.
From the videos which the hostages were forced to record which were played on Channel 9 after the siege was over, the requests of the perpetrator were fairly simple: an ISIS flag and a telephone call from the Prime Minister. My second question would be: Might there have been a different outcome if these simple requests were granted?
Judging by the reports about the man which were aired after the siege concluded, the man was not given much respect in the past by the media or others in the Islamic faith, having been given the title of the “fake sheikh”. If he was truly mentally unstable, a conversation with the Prime Minister may have allowed the man to feel a little more respected and perhaps he might have no longer needed to try to force others to respect him using a big gun.
I am just speculating on this and I am not claiming to have all the answers; I am just wondering if the outcome may have been different if the person was treated as a mental patient instead of a terrorist.
The reaction of the public has been overwhelming support for the hostages and the police. I think it is wonderful that the people of Sydney have reacted with such compassion, as evidenced by the large area of floral tributes which have been left in Martin Place.
Even more inspiring is the #IllRideWithYou campaign started on Twitter to allow those Muslims who were frightened of backlash to travel on public transport in safety.
What all this shows me is that it is in our nature to care about each other. We care when another person suffers at the hands of a madman, and we care if an innocent person is made to suffer in retaliation. Humans are loving beings. Some of us have forgotten that, that’s all.
And this is the reason for my week of personal turbulence: I finished reading The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, in which Annie Kagan relates the conversations she has had with her deceased brother. I found this book very confronting because it gave details of the afterlife which I would rather not have known. It all sounded too grand, too big, too different, and too lonely.
Billy told his sister that, after he went through certain other processes, all memories of his life experiences were erased, except for his memories of her, so that they could finish the book together. He was moving on to another realm and he didn’t need any of those memories any more.
This really upset me, and I realised later that it was because I imagined that heaven would be more personal than Billy described it. I expected that all of our relatives would be there to greet us, but also we would see Jesus, the angels, and even God. I expected that it would be filled with love, as Billy said it is, but not an etheric kind of love, but a real tangible, visible, audible kind of love.
After I was so upset, I went back and reread the parts in which Billy talked about heaven. I began to understand that just as every earthly life is different, every heavenly life is different too. Billy did say that others are greeted by their loved ones, but he didn’t need that because he was ready for the afterlife. His memories were erased only after he had taken on board all of the gifts which those memories had to offer him and only when he was ready for it.
He also said that it was possible for beings to return from the higher realms in order to be there to greet their loved ones when they pass over. This has left me with a question still: If one’s memories of a loved one are removed, how can one possibly meet them when they pass over? Your thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.
Even though I didn’t have an answer to this question, I was able to resolve my difficulties with faith. With all that I have learned about life and about God, I know that God provides us with all of our desires in our earthly life: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) I realised that if God loves his spiritual children enough to provide them with all of their desires in this life, I know that this would continue to be the case in the afterlife.
Love abounds in this world and the next, and I have faith that God provides us with this love in whatever form we need. In the afterlife, we come to realise that we don’t need anything, and this is the state which Billy arrived at, but still he went on to bigger and better things, according to his desires.
So how does this relate to the national turbulence?
I realised that it is only the fear of death which gives terrorists their teeth. If we had no fear of death we would have no fear of terrorists, and therefore there would be no way for them to create terror. Perhaps instead of avoiding all thoughts of death, we do need to start hearing more about life on the other side, even if it is grand, big, and different.
If we can lose our fear of death, surely we can lose our fear of everything in life, as well. When we realise that we have nothing to fear in death or life, we can begin to live our lives to the full – to know our true magnificence.
Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net