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A Global Perspective
on Conflict Resolution
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Sharif Abdullah

Sharif is the director of Commonway Institute. He lectures in the United States and abroad and is active in international mediation efforts. Sharif has authored two books:

Creating a World That Works For All

The Power Of One
Authentic Leadership in Turbulent Times
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Kip Kinkel is Soul-Less

Not in the sense of lacking a soul, but in the sense of an inability to access his soul. In reading his tortured journal excerpts (published in a local newspaper), it was clear to me that he had the experience of constant soul pain, a profound aloneness, a pain that we find hard to identify but is nonetheless real. Kip Kinkel, in sixteen short years, went from being a cuddly, happy, laughing baby to a homicidal maniac. In 1999, he killed both of his parents and then marched off to school, where he shot 24 of his classmates and teachers. He didn't start off life as a psychotic. He doesn't have a "bad gene." He is dying inside for experiences of the transcendent:


• Experiences of community with other beings, including but not limited to other human beings.

• Deep and meaningful experiences of the ordinary world; being "aware" of the spirit and beauty
   inherent in everyday activities.

• Experiences of a transpersonal Self that are greater than our individual bodies and thoughts.

Kip Kinkel is in pain. Soul pain is real. Just because our culture, in its ignorance of soul, cannot recognize Kip's pain (and its role in causing it), does not negate its reality or importance. Soul pain is real and important - obviously, more important than life itself for those who suffer it.

I say this from experience. "I was very young, clearly in the single digits when I recognized that something was fundamentally wrong with the world." Like Kip Kinkel, I had no language to articulate the emptiness that sat in my chest like a gaping hole, the sense that I was in the world completely alone.

Unlike Kip, I was lucky. Part of my luck was being raised poor and black in Camden, NJ, what Time Magazine calls "the worst city in America." I could label the emptiness in my chest "racism", and therefore have a focus for my anger and rage. Kip, a white, middle-class male living in a middle-class town, had no readily available handles on which to hang his anger.

Another part of my "luck" was finding alcohol at the early age of twelve. After seeking transcendence in the Episcopal Church, I found it in the bottom of a bottle of cheap wine, what someone said was "the mystical experience of the ignorant."

Without alcohol, without a readily available racial definition for my emptiness, would I have survived? Would I have picked up a gun like Kip Kinkel and tried to act out my emptiness?

In the face of our youth dying inside for lack of soul and transcendence, what do we do? Here in Oregon, the state legislature requires all school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Big furry deal! Nationwide, there are blue ribbon commissions to study the causes of youth violence, or to control the sale and ownership of guns. This is like trying to control the epidemic of youth suicide by outlawing razor blades. In short, the leaders of this society have no idea what to do.

We need transcendental experiences, the way we need sleep and dreams. There is abundant research to show that a person denied dreams (not just sleep) goes quickly psychotic. I believe the lack of access to soul and transcendence turns our youth into homicidal and suicidal psychotics.

Do you think that statement is too strong? Look closely at our youth; it may not be strong enough. We have created an entire society that revels in shallow materiality while denying soul, depth, mysticism, transcendence. This society created Kip Kinkel and tens of millions more like him.

So, what do we do?

Start dreaming. What is the dream that occupies you? What is the goal that transcends your life? My personal dream is to catalyze and live in a world that truly works for all beings. That dream keeps me young, alive and fresh. It's my reason for waking up every morning, and the reason why I can go to bed tired but satisfied every night. It is a dream worthy of my sacrifice, even the sacrifice of my life.

Share your dream with others, especially your children. Let them know there is more to life than a new car and a full bank account.

Introduce your children to transcendent experiences. Regardless of your religion or belief system, look for traditions and practices that deepen one's connections to the themselves, their world and the invisible forces. Meditate with them, practice yoga or chanting or mystical dance. Walk in the woods with them, and talk to them about the psychological, emotional ramifications of what they are seeing, smelling and feeling. Do the same thing with a walk down the street. And, if necessary, introduce yourself to transcendent experiences first.

Then, after you stop dreaming, start doing! The best way to root your transcendent experiences, the best way to introduce and establish soulfulness into your life is to act in the world in harmony with your dreams. It's the fastest way that your dreams will manifest.

Sharif Abdullah

Link to Commonway Institute website: http://www.commonway.org


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Editors note:

Steve Olweean invites visitors to this segment to share their comments with us. Your insights about conflict resolution, compassion, cross cultural harmony and creative problem solving are important in creating a world of harmony and concilliation..

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