I was in Dunkin' Donuts tonight picking up some coffee milk on the way home after karate class and I got a glimpse of an incredibly disturbing scene on the news on TV. A surveillance video showed two teenagers with bats beating a homeless man in Florida. If that weren't shocking enough, two similar beating incidents occured at other nearby locations in Florida on the same night - one of which resulted in the death of a homeless person. It just leaves me totally dumbfounded - what would lead to such brutal behavior? What were the attackers thinking? How can people have such a total lack of conscience or compassion for others that they would do such a thing? And how many times a day around the world do awful events like this happen that I'm just not aware of? Just doing a quick search on Google to find a reference to this news story brought up all sorts of stories about other beatings and murders that happened this week.
This morning I was listening to a song (by Norah Jones) that included the lyrics "Peace is for everyone". I was thinking how it's an easy thing to say, yet for many people it's an extremely difficult challenge to reach. Most people here in the US have a very easy life. On average we work just 8 hours a day and generally get to live away from any real hardships. But unfortunately, for a large percentage of the world population, life is a real daily struggle for survival. It's easy to sing about peace for everyone, yet making that a reality... how do we do that?
I suppose at the physical level we never will be able to. That's one of the four noble truths of Buddhism - "Life is Suffering". The world isn't perfect, and it never will be. No matter how advanced society is (or becomes), there will always be unfortunate circumstances - random disasters, disease, sickness, accidents, etc. Even if we established perfect food distribution networks to feed everyone in the world and cured all disease, every single person will still eventually die. It's unavoidable due to the nature of impermanence.
So what does that mean? Is life just hopeless? Certainly not. The other noble truths of Buddhism go on to explain the cause of suffering and how the cessation of suffering can be achieved. A really quick summary would be this - the cause of suffering is attachment (or craving and clinging) and to end suffering you need to follow the path of self-improvement (i.e the Eightfold Path) which is a middle path between the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.
And that all addresses an individual's personal coping with life and improving themselves, but how does it deal with the awful news story that prompted this writing? What is the answer for brutal bat wielding teens? They obviously aren't interested in Buddism or self-improvement.
Sometimes I just don't understand the world...