close to home

© Blythe Dolores Utz 2018

This morning, waking to the news of another mass shooting, this time in the town I grew up in—a town historically considered one of the safest in the country—I feel shut down. Which for me, a heart-on-my-sleeve kind of person, is highly unusual. 

I anticipate the casting of the gunman as the monster, and in doing so, scapegoating our collective accountability. I anticipate some people will deflect reality and call this very real horror a “false flag” while others slip, understandably, into despair over how common these mass shootings have become. But mostly, I ache for children and teens growing even more anxious in the increasingly disturbed society adults are cultivating. Children who have no control over our actions and who we foolishly expect to become well-adjusted adults in spite of these atrocious childhood conditions. 

We’re not listening.

These gunmen do not work alone. They are programmed, influenced and encouraged by a society losing its grasp on sanity. These men serve as the front line to wars being waged on average citizens, in every community, indirectly led by psychopathic-leaning people in positions of power. They who pull the trigger are accountable, absolutely. But, they are also pawns.

Just like our health, political and eco systems, we focus only on the bothersome quality of symptoms. And our obsession with and effort to silence symptoms, en masse, creates a culture of blind consumerism and disconnection from essential nature. As a result, all of our problems, from personal health to broader communities to the environment, are increasingly unstable.  

Why aren’t we listening to what these symptoms are telling us about our shared wellbeing?

Instead of soul searching and truth-telling we’re unintentionally adding to the noise and creating even more cover for those who benefit from our collective chaos and intolerance. A schizophrenic noise that contributes to the radicalizing of unstable minds. How can we spot unstable and dangerous people when instability is the norm? 

Symptoms of imbalance are critical to listen to. From disease to gun violence, symptoms offer us a way to understand what is out of balance and how to reclaim it. 

Balance, though, doesn’t suit those who profit from societal chaos. Yet rather than being united as a common people, we are pit against each other. Distracted by our daily outrage and ever-increasing opposition to absolutely everything. Some Americans cultivate radical alternative notions of reality. And most of us live in some sort of in chronic despair, aching for a sense of safety, security and stability.

We need to focus on the needs we all share regardless of politics, religion or values.

We claim the cause of mass gun violence is mental illness or loose gun laws, complicated by staunch ideologies of the right and the left … these factors contribute, yes, but they don’t reveal extensional truths about why an individual decides to murder others often sacrificing their own lives in the process. 

The argument around mental illness as a factor in mass shootings is both obvious and flawed in a society where the average adult has at least one addiction and most people rely on multiple medications or vices just to get through the day. We’re ALL on the spectrum of mental wellbeing/illness—some more vulnerable to outside programming than others—but we’re ALL on the spectrum. So we need to start the mental health conversation from a place of a shared potentiality for imbalance, rather than othering those who don’t hide it so well. 

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
— Jiddu Krishnamurti

If this were an isolated case, we could scrutinize the gunman in great detail, keeping the focus solely on him. But these are not isolated cases. They are symptoms of dysfunction in the larger system. We need to care for the important details, like policies and laws, but we must also tend to the underlying emotional imbalances and existential crises within society that infiltrate the human mind purging empathy and reciprocity. Both of which are essential to a well-functioning society. 

And we must begin by facing our own trauma and despair. 

We are a society messily caving in on itself while absurdly touting, “We’re the greatest country in the world.” We are cognitively dissonant and in grasping onto comforting delusions, we become desperate and more easily persuaded to focus on the side show and not the main attraction.

We need to sober up and take care of reality prudently. We need to slow down and stop multitasking. We need to see things for what they are and recognize that the human psyche is delicate. As such, we need to stop dismissing the profound impact that trauma, chronic stress, isolation, shame, abuse or a disconnection from nature have on people. And, we absolutely need to tend to our own wounds and stop projecting onto others.

We must also stop viewing the world in rudimentary terms—black/white, good/evil—and realize we do not live in a two-dimensional reality. Context and empathy are antidotes to many of our woes. Yet, they can only be found in the in the grey. Living in the grey gets messy, is largely ambiguous and it takes courage. But it is in this soul-searching space that an individual can come to terms with all the ways in which one’s ideologies don’t align with reality—how most isolating ideologies reflect a personality framed by a lifetime of coping skills more so than essential character. It is in this soul-searching space we can heal our wounds—or at least, begin the lifelong process of doing so. 

Of course, some will scoff at this notion of healing one’s own baggage so as not to project his or her trauma into the collective.

For everyone else, all is not lost.

Begin within:
Start with generous self-love and compassion.
Cultivate a daily practice of deep listening—listening to self, the senses, nature and others.
Then, align thoughts, actions and words with purpose and calling.

This is how the flower blooms, the cell divides, the newborn horse stands and the entire ecosystem, of which we are part (though we have forgotten), dances in harmony. It is about honoring intuition and flow. Our troubles in this world would fade were we to stop resisting our essential nature.

It is subtle and will never make headlines. It won’t spike adrenaline or get a thousand followers. That is the thing about essential nature, it isn’t loud or boastful. It requires us to become still, quiet and listen deeply. If the world needs anything right now, it is more people choosing a practice of listening and reacquainting with essential nature.

I am so sorry for the profound suffering being lived through today in my hometown. I can’t fathom the trauma of it. In the midst of the understandable anger and fear, I hope outpourings of LOVE will provide survivors, the victims’ families and the community respite and strength.

My heart is with you, Thousand Oaks.

Heart work is hard work reflections after Pulse shooting 2016
When will we ever learn? reflections after school shooting in Oregon 2014