On Violence

My heart goes out to the victims and their families, of the shooting in Colorado, as well as to the family of the shooter.

So many of us in the face of something like this try to find the answer. But is there an answer? Is it possible to end all violence, to make complete sense of our world? To make it perfectly peaceful?

I’m put in mind of the film “Serenity,” in which a controlling government becomes convinced it can create a world without sin, and in the end the only world “without sin” is one in which everyone has been killed, or transformed into a monster, by that same government, in a misguided attempt to control completely.

We are human, and we do horrible human things. It’s horrifying.

We are human, and we do wonderful human things. We can take heart.

My family experienced a violent tragedy many years ago, and I know there is nothing but time that heals such wounds, and one is lucky if time does. Revenge doesn’t, the death penalty doesn’t, getting rid of guns doesn’t, trying to control people even more doesn’t. Frightening people and imposing even stricter security doesn’t. Marginalizing the significant portion of the population who are “quiet” or “loners” or who don’t socialize on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t. All these things serve only to separate us even more.

Everyone has something to say about this tragedy. Does anyone have an answer? A solution?

I could take a guess at the cause, just as everyone else is trying to do. A brilliant student who was fascinated by how we behave and by neuroscience, who in the past month collected weapons, chemicals, booby-trapped his apartment, bought some 6,000 rounds of ammunition. It wasn’t that he bought a gun, or a chemical, but the accumulation of these things that might have been a red flag, had anyone known of all of them. It wasn’t that he was a loner or “too quiet” but that there was this big thing on his mind that he didn’t discuss with anyone, and perhaps that big thing wasn’t just planning a shooting, but an accumulation of symptoms he was smart enough to recognize and yet not smart enough to overcome, some paranoid schizophrenic delusion or fantasy that had been stewing for sometime. One that, because he never felt safe sharing it, festered inside him to the breaking point, and shocked and surprised us all.

But I don’t know any better than anyone else.

President Obama: “I’d like us to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day.”

Mitt Romney: “I stand before you today not as a man running for office but as a father and grandfather, a husband, an American. This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another and how much we love and how much we care for our great country.”

Mayor Bloomberg of New York: “Maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it.”

What are they going to do about it?
What are we going to do about it?
What am I going to do about it?

For myself, I’m going to do what I try to do every day since my sister’s death. Live, love, be myself, understand myself. I’m convinced that there’s nothing to do out there in the world, but only in my own heart and mind.

Carl G. Jung: “This problem cannot be solved collectively, because the masses are not changed unless the individual changes… The bettering of a general ill begins with the individual, and then only when he makes himself and not others responsible. This is naturally only possible in freedom, but not under a rule of force, whether this be exercised by a self-elected tyrant or by one thrown up by the mob.”

While violence is as old as humanity, so is nonviolence. So is love. So is family. So is sharing. The early hunter-gatherers shared everything among the tribe. They buried their dead with flowers. Neanderthals are now known to have buried their dead with flowers.

Mohandas Ghandi: “I have simply tried in my own way to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and problems…The opinions I have formed and the conclusions I have arrived at are not final. I may change them tomorrow. I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.”

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