Mass Killings and What To Do

I’m back from sesshin at Boundless Way (click here for a shot of the sesshin crew and the Monkey Mind’s reflections on sesshin) and (finally) getting a day of needed rest after the work week.

Today’s rest is one of soft grief.

Lots of death around me lately, including my 97-year-old grandmother on Thursday night and then Newtown, CT, mass killing, as you know.

So grieving we all are today.

Even though I’ve worked with young people with serious emotional problems for many years and studied the mind for about as long through Zen practice … well, it’s still hard to get my head around somebody having a really, really bad day (or many days even) and then shooting a bunch of little kids.

Click here for a Mother Jones story about the prevalence of mass killings (4 or more deaths). There have been 61 in 30 years – this makes 62. Mother Jones calls for a better mental health policy.

I suppose that can’t hurt. 38 of the 61 had some known history of mental illness.

There are also calls for gun control. And I’d certainly support that too. Can’t hurt. Probably it’d reduce the incidence of these events. But as David Brooks has pointed out, Norway has tough gun laws. Many of these crimes have involved meticulous planning and so that even sane gun laws might be circumvented.

But such sane gun laws would help in many ways, imv, reducing the casualties of lots of crime, so that part is a no-brainer.

However, there seems to be a couple deeper issues here. One is a cultural element. We glorify the drama of dysfunction and the rage of distorted entitlement-thinking while paying scant notice to heroic acts of love and self-sacrifice.

And we don’t know how to be.

In the case of grief, I’ve found it so important to really pay attention for as long as it takes, staying with grief, being grief, until grief has been thoroughly felt and drops of it’s own accord.

The news frenzies following mass killings are a good example of attention deficit disorder. For a news cycle or two we hear and see every possible bit of information and then the story is buried and we go back to some other bright (or dark) and shiny thing.

And nothing happens to address the causes and conditions of this phenomena.

Then another incident blasts away and our focus shifts back to the underlying suffering that seems to be screaming for attention, perhaps not to be understood, not for us to get our heads around, but simply to be felt.

Simply for our hearts to be broken.

If we concentrated in a gentle and sustained manner on the pain that is being expressed in these murders and talked with each other about all this, I believe that effective actions steps would flow from that.

Until then, I suspect, we’ll be stabbing in the dark. Which seems to be what the killers are doing.

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