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.

  • Dan Garner

    Tragedies such as these are a result and symptoms of an illness. Something is wrong, not with only the killers, but with the society that produces them as well. It is a problem that we all must show ownership in and work toward healing our society together.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  • Michelle Walsh

    Beautifully said James.

  • Mike Fieleke

    Sorry for your loss, Dosho. Much love.

    • doshoport

      Thanks, Mike, much love back!

  • Larry Anderson

    Hi Dosho,

    Sorry to hear about your Grandma’s death. She must have seen, loved and learned a lot in her 97 years. You and I are now at an age where more of our friends, acquaintances and those who we love will be dropping off. And the longer we live the closer we near the time when we live no longer. At least as a particular some-body at some particular place and time, at least for a time non-being. Only boundlessly All there IS.

    Just sitting in grief, allowing the sting, we discover (like the Tin Man) we already have/are a Heart. But when our tears are shed, we don’t rust, but are cleansed and finally able to let go.

    Maybe a lot of the violence we’re seeing is a result of not being able to fully grieve and share our deep sorrow. We should just go shopping!!! As president Bush suggested after 9-11.

    Bows to You and Grandma,


  • Dominic Gadoury

    Nicely said. So sorry for your loss.

  • Fred

    I am sorry for your loss.