Today as I sat on the train from Copenhagen to Malmö I found myself for the first time face to face with what in Swedish media is generally referred to as flyktingkrisen, the refugee crisis. In front of me was a young man noticeably nervous, twitching in his seat, looking left and right for any signs of the Swedish authorities who literally held the responsibility of the rest of his life in his hands.
He asked me if this train could take him to Oslo, where he said he had to catch a plane from in the evening. I informed him that this train would stop in Malmö and that he had to get another ticket to Oslo from there.
As we crossed the invisible border to Sweden and it was announced that the Swedish border police was boarding the train to check for valid documentation drops of sweat fell down his face, and he sought eye contact with me perhaps for reassurance, seeing as I too had black hair and didn't necessarily fit the Swedish mold, and in those eyes I read pure of fears. I whispered to him to breathe and stay calm, asked him if he had his papers in order and he nodded a silent kind of yes, which I understood could mean that they were, kind of...in the end it would be up to the border police to grant him entry or not. This being the day when Europe was recovering from the Paris attacks, his chances were about fifty fifty. If the police man was friendly and accepted his papers he would be able to stay on the train and if not, well...on the seats on the other side was a blond typically Swedish looking young family and the silent glances they threw in our direction were also full of fear. Since I spoke English they didn't know I understood what they were saying and even though the words were not exactly derogative, their meaning did not go unnoticed. I felt such a sharp pain in my heart. A pain which catapulted me right back to childhood, when I was also occasionally subject to those sideways glances and words. I thought to myself that this poor man is going to have to live through those suspicious stares for the rest of his life, should he be so lucky to be granted asylum. But I suppose when faced with the choice of living through the atrocities connected with war, occasional contempt is a small price to pay...
The policeman accepted his papers and since we got off before the central station, I left him with a heartfelt good luck and a lump in my throat. The only thing that separates me from that man is the luck of the draw that got me a Swedish passport and an automatic membership to the exclusive club that is Europe. And the only thing separating me from that fearful family is the fact that I was not born blonde and am no longer part of this society, so the concerns and fears that make these formerly so politically correct swedes temporarily forget their humility and humanity are no longer mine, but what unites us all is this fear. This fear of our own survival and the survival of our family, of our culture, our views and ways. How do we deal with that?

Yesterday I spent the day with Iomi in tivoli Copenhagen, an oasis of pleasure, excess laughter and sugar. Yesterday the people of Paris were in mourning over to once again in a very short period of time having to have to live through the insanity of extremism. Today I choked up being the first hand witness of what it means to have nowhere to go, no place to call home, being scared of your fellow man simply because they hold the ticket to your future, and in the afternoon my heart soared seeing the joy in my little girls eyes as she was riding the glass elevator up to the 17th floor of the hotel we're staying at here and I once again choked up when she met her friend that we came to visit, who had written her a lovely note saying how happy she was that they could once again play together, despite their geographical distance.

Life is extreme. It's full of these extremes, both on a global and a personal level. What was it our friend The Buddha said, in his teaching of the eight worldly dharmas,

Pleasure and pain
Loss and gain
Praise and blame
Fame and shame

The opposites and extremes who when they hook us, cause us the suffering we today are all experiencing, regardless of which end of the spectrum we find ourselves. Today in these times of uncertainty and fear it's perhaps more useful than ever to examine intimately how they work in us, how the kind of strong emotions and opinions make us feel, so that we understand on an experiential level the seeds that have set these strong worldly winds we see manifested today in motion. What else can we do? Right now the old saying, 'an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind' is more true and relevant than ever. Peace can only truly be restored when we find it inside. And yes, I know, meditation, internal inquiry can feel like a very meager contribution when we witness the current state of affairs and desperately want to hold someone or something responsible for our pain, but I do believe it's the only really significant thing we can do at this time when these extremes threaten to annihilate life as we know it.
I agree wholeheartedly with The Dalai Lama who in his response to the Paris attacks said:

"Violence is a reaction by short-sighted, out-of-control people. At 81, I believe it cannot be resolved through prayers or government help. We have to begin the change at individual level and then move on to neighborhood and society"

Just so.

May peace be with us all.


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