The media and government in Canada have largely covered up the factors of mental health and drug addiction in the recent shooting of a soldier on Parliament Hill. The cover up gives a false sense of security to our mental health services, which are woefully inadequate. This same lack is shared by our neighbor to the south, which requires that I return to the very serious reality of more dead children.
The shock waves from the 1999 high school shootings in Littleton, Colorado and the 2012 massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, swept across North America and touched every community. As those shock waves recede, the greatest danger is public distance from taking responsibility for the toxic environments we have created. The specter of children shooting children in high schools shocked me very deeply. After several days of silence and meditation after Columbine, I wrote a short essay titled “Yes It Can Happen Here” that looked deeply into the causes of the shootings.
I wrote about the ready availability of guns and drugs. When this combines with lack of time spent with young people by parents, teachers and community leaders, then the consumption of violence by our children through the media, video games and the internet can lead to the deadly carnage of high school shoot-outs. Many of our children have become exiles. They experience “not love”, “not connected.” Nobody hears their voice, and we have largely forgotten how to listen to them. Many children have found a third parent in cyberspace where violence, hatred and killing are readily available without any sense of consequence or responsibility. In the absence of clear ethical guidelines from parents and society, young people are creating their own identity from the very worst that cyberspace and Hollywood have to offer. In the absence of a stable identity, there is a drive to achieve instant fame through acts of notoriety and violence.
Twenty years later after the massacre in Newton, CT, I wrote about Dead Children. Twenty children gunned down at an elementary school. Children killed as collateral damage in Gaza, Israel, Syria, Congo, Afghanistan and in world-wide violence. We are all grieving parents to the world. The question we all face is – What Now? In the face of grief we must feel it deeply, be hurt by it, taking time to feel the pain of the tragedy. Then come through, determined to make a difference. STOP: REASSESS: ENTER THE BODHISATTVA.
Stopping requires calling in the support of wise friends, counselors and community so we can begin to see clearly and give ourselves the chance to find ourselves. Stillness is needed, not social media distraction – for we now have to look for a new direction and leadership. To reassess the 21st century, we must look deeply at the factors involved in the shootings. We will see a complex, intertwined tapestry with the easy availability of guns and drugs, compounded by societal tolerance of violence through the worst that cyberspace and Hollywood have to offer. Plus the very serious common denominator shared by the killers stretching back to the Columbine massacre. This is the factor of mental illness in predominantly pre-adult white males who are caught in an identity trap that they escape from through violence and murder. This is their five minutes of fame that enables them to be remembered. They occupy a toxic landscape of “not love”, “not connected.” And this is what requires the attention of our mental health system and our mindfulness. How do we begin?
It is time for the Bodhisattva to enter the 21st century as a paradigm and archetype for individual and collective action. This enables us to deeply transform ourselves and our civilization. We nurture this paradigm by cultivating two aspects that lie dormant within us. The first aspect is Interbeing – knowing that we interconnect with everything – the earth, oceans, forests and mountains, all species and most of all – with all people. Interbeing creates harmony and unity and destroys the ego. The second aspect is Non-discrimination, which carries the energy of compassion, and this combination threatens selfishness. Taken together – these buried aspects, once they manifest from within us, open pathways and bridges to build a better world.
How do we do this? We cultivate the energies of transformation – Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight. Always – at every opportunity we bring Interbeing and Non-Discrimination to the forefront of our daily lives. In this way we shape the future of the 21st century as we begin to live differently – here and now. We are not intimidated by present crises. We are certainly shocked and hurt by such circumstances but are in fact much stronger than we think. Enter the Bodhisattva is the guiding paradigm for our lives. I allude to Bruce Lee’s classic – Enter the Dragon – which brings the fierceness of the warrior to the fore and the determination of a saint to overcome tragedy and set a new course. It takes practice, skillfulness and creative vision – but we are equal to the task.
My Manifesto: My body and mind are not individual entities that I can do anything I like with – such as filling them with drugs, alcohol, hateful attitudes and violence. My body and mind exist for future generations therefore I must be aware of what I put into them. We must also exercise care and responsibility over what we allow into the minds and bodies of our children, to prevent murders from happening in our schools. Furthermore, this care and responsibility is to prevent young people turning their consumption of violence in on themselves – in the form of suicide. We must take steps to fill the ethical void, give our children the benefits of our full presence and learn to listen deeply to them so that positive steps are taken to eliminate murders taking place in our schools.