A Heart-Felt Response to George Floyd’s Death

By Steve Ray, HBI advisor anD founding co-director of Vox Bandicoot Pty. Ltd.

Author Richard Rohr – a minister of the church, speaker, and philosopher – introduces a compelling idea in one of his books, that “everything belongs”.  He invites us to consider that everything we experience, whether directly or indirectly, provides us with an important learning piece in the matrix of our collective lives. He says our job isn’t to simply say what is right and wrong but to find out HOW something – some event, relationship, whatever it may be – belongs in the bigger scheme of things. 

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Photo by munshots on Unsplash

 When George Floyd died under the knee of a white police officer, it felt like a core human belief – that Love is the highest goal of our existence – might have also died.  Because at that moment we realized that although we humans are capable of truly extraordinary things we are also capable of the lowest and most inhumane as well.  What ultimately determines the path we choose to walk upon, wear in, and make our reality comes down to choice itself.

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, Richard Rohr’s “everything belongs” challenge rose up sharply in me. It felt almost sacrilegious to consider that there was something about his death that could “belong”. Everything about it to me was wrong. As a white male, I realized that the deep shame that I felt in me was something I had no choice but to sit with and acknowledge as a wrong-doing that was, at least in part, a responsibility I needed to share. To that extent, George Floyd’s death ‘belongs’ because the consequence of his death gives us the chance to do some painful learning and consider how things might change and what’s needed to get us to that place.

A direct, immediate and extraordinary reaction rose out of that horror in a much-needed emotional outpouring from millions of people globally. To me, the scale of the outrage acknowledged the scale of the inhumanity, and this act needed to be heard so that it could be clearly seen for what it was. It was almost as if our true nature – the one that longs for connection and love – was calling from the highest point in the existence, that this should never have happened and will not be allowed to go unchecked or unaccounted for.

As the days, weeks and months have played out, I’ve spent a lot of my time tuning into my spiritual heart. I know that as much as all the emotional release makes sense and “belongs”, any action, any response, any change to the status quo going forward will only happen if it comes from foundations that are loving. My whole life I have watched and experienced first hand (i.e., I’ve run the experiment personally!) what happens when action is motivated by strong emotion – anger, frustration, righteousness, etc, – and always without fail, the emotional fall-out undermines any good that might come from the action taken. It’s Newton’s 3rd law of thermodynamics playing out where every action causes an equal and opposite reaction. There is a pushing back that happens: in simple terms, “you get out what you put in”. 

“No problem can be solved with the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Albert Einstein

It feels to me that we need to move beyond the limited consciousness of our brain and access the additional consciousness of our heart if we are to find lasting solutions. By connecting with our hearts – the center of feelings of peace, calm, beauty, and Love itself – it’s possible to let go of strong emotions that get in the way of productive action; they literally dissolve away. And in their place what can arrive is clarity, wisdom and compassion.  It’s possible then for an outrageous wrong-doing like George Floyd’s death to be dealt with far more effectively and without causing further reactivity. From our heart, it’s possible to see such a blind, unconscious action from the bigger picture of systemic, societal failure and we can then address these root-cause failings and stop the recurrence of the problem. This doesn’t excuse the perpetrator of the wrong-doing or allow them to get off the hook, it just means we don’t personalize it and use the situation as yet another opportunity to blame or demonize individuals while avoiding the response that is needed to deal with the root cause of the problem: this we must collectively own and solve together.

How do we measure a person’s life and what it means? How can we? We say: “Life is sacred”, but I wonder if we really know what that means until shaken by the collective magnitude of shock, outrage and grief. Though it should never have happened, perhaps the death of George Floyd truly does “belong” in the Richard Rohr sense, because of the consequences of his dying, of what we got to see, feel and remember as being sacred.

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Author, spiritual writer and Franciscan friar Richard Rohr is known as one of the most popular spirituality authors and speakers in the world.

I’ve used the phrase “It’s possible …”  a couple of times when talking about the power of the heart, and I’ve done so deliberately. Because while it does happen that individuals use their hearts to guide their actions and discern a more wise and compassionate path, we know for sure that at the societal level we are not there YET.  And what a true game-changer it would be if we all used our hearts because then we would surely find our way through. Together. 

If it can be done at the level of the individual, then I feel certain we can collectively start relying on our heart’s connection with the Source of Love and Light that lies within us all and through that unlimited resource, create and be a part of, a very different world. George Floyd’s death was tragic, shameful and brutal.  Alongside that, his death has also been a great reminder of the urgent need for us to take action from a place of Love and to start walking that talk now.