In the wake of such events the public cries out in despair and its responses range from calling for the end of “gun violence” or for a Texas-like public display of guns. Everybody feels threatened: some by the guns and some by government regulations curbing the use of guns. The result: yummy food for the lovers of polarization and distraction. Let’s stop for a moment and take a deep breath: is it really about the guns? When kitchen knives are used to take away human life – which happens at a stunning rate across every age spectrum – are we debating about the end of the use of kitchen knives or raging for more knives in our streets? The gun-debate is an ineffective and senseless attempt of a mind-trapped society scrambling to find a solution to a side-effect created by its own consciousness. We often get blinded by and lost in the symptoms: we react, blame, point fingers while all along failing to identify the root of the situation. It happens in most every sector of our society and guns are no exception.
The widespread availability of guns is not the cause of violence. There are many caring people owning guns and many raging “no-gun” believers. And the other way around. There are many for whom guns are not even a topic. In my country of origin guns are a non-issue and when I first came to this country reading the “no-gun” signs entering a public place made me think “are you serious?” No matter what each of our own beliefs about guns are, calling for the end of gun violence or for less stringent rules around guns, sounds like a slogan of a young child, still developmentally incapable of getting the point. The root cause of violence is the pervasive disregard for life that results from our numbing. This is the elephant in our society that has become as invasive as terminal cancer. Numbing and our disconnection from life has become of such proportions that in our desperation we point at the first thing in our exterior world: the gun! In truth we are like sickish cells running around scrambling for life. How can we decide who can own a gun while the disregard for life is so pervasive and thus not detectable? We cannot.
Mental disease is widespread across the socio-economic spectrum and goes well beyond the officially “diagnosed” psychopaths. Simply put, this disease is our engrained habit of numbing our feelings at all costs. Most of us have been taught by our families and the prevalent culture, reflected in our systems of governance, that feelings are an uncomfortable by-product to be sedated or avoided. So we do this through keeping ourselves busy, overworking, shopping, eating sweets, engaging in politics, drinking, at times even through spiritual practices. In the numbing perpetuated by our systems, reality is often virtual and devoid of life thus easy to disregard. Given that feelings are the fuel that keeps us alive, when we numb our feelings we are basically saying NO to life. It is that simple. Our numbing displays the same disregard to life as that of a mass-shooter. We just do it in a more politically correct way and little by little, which is seemingly more acceptable, yet has the same deadly consequence. Our disregard for life happens in many settings: in our public schools the entire focus is on the virtual reality of numbers and letters while children are given little or no tools for the knowledge of Self. In business and in our civic engagement we revert to manipulate reality because of our inability to know or express what we feel. The cost of numbing: inner and outer isolation, a fading sense of significance and belonging, in short: a slow death.
Since numbing has become the pervasive way of “living”, the artificial separation between mental disease and criminal accountability is increasingly challenged. Can we criminalize numbed behavior with a disregard to life when the society is actively and systemically encouraging the same behavior? Who is accountable for the numbing behavior and how is this behavior addressed? These questions come increasingly alive as we are dealing with shootings and brutal crimes committed by a seemingly innocent young adult lost in the delusions of a mind-trapped society or people like the mind-focused athlete Pistorious in South Africa who might get away with killing his girlfriend with a gun because of an “anxiety disorder”.
Is numbing and disregard of life a criminal or a mental health issue? Criminal behavior always stems from a mental health issue and for our mind-based legal system this interdependence is overwhelming. The “solution”: individuals that have lost touch with life are either left on the street in their numbed state or placed in an institution that fills them with numbing medication or placed in a punitive system that perpetuates numbing and disregard for life. Restorative justice and other holistic approaches are only drops of water in a desert as they are placed “on top” of a heart-deadened legal system with little systemic impact.
We are masterful at exclusively tackling side-effects in the naïve belief of bringing about durable change. No wonder, little ever changes. A mind-trapped collective body is incapable of tackling what has been created by its own insanity. What we are now seeing in the streets and schools of this country and in many other places in the world: the obligate fireworks of the grand finale of a mind-based society that has rejected feelings as the fuel for healthy individual and collective governance.
In a heart-based system criminal and mental health issues are approached as an integrated whole and transformed at its roots; the intricate world of feelings and how they guide human behavior becomes an essential element taught in schools, business, civic and legal institutions; feelings are integrated in the very definition of law and accessed in the co-creative process of governance; In short, the wisdom that is gained from feelings becomes the force that informs the mind and our systems because feelings are the gateway into the wisdom of the heart and the heart is where the vibration of justice and ultimately the gift of life resides.
The good news is that as we are screaming about guns we have a chance to get in touch with our feelings – anger, fear, sadness, joy – in a healthy way. Anger without blame and finger-pointing is healthy fire that fuels our life force. Fear without blame is the wind of creativity. Sadness without blame is the water of empathy and connection. Joy without blame is grounded responsibility. As we are feeling more life force in our body we can start to become truly alive and strengthen the healthy cells in our cancerous collective body. The good news is that our collective body is not terminally ill. Life is generous and offers a brand new possibility each breath, each moment. A new cell can be created in each moment which is a fact – now even scientifically proven. As we learn to feel individually we are fueling the collective body with new life and slowly awaken our atrophied collective heart. This is no rocket science. It is a wisdom that has been available in the stillness of our collective consciousness for a very long time.
Yes, many of us do not even know what feeling our feelings even means. We are masters at turning everything including feelings and awareness into mind-blabber. So the key is to have the courage to be uncomfortable, just for a while, and dive into the underworld. This is the gift that criminals offer – a new look at the collective shadow and our participation in it. If we get outraged at this proposition or if we feel we already know, let’s keep diving anyway. When we can put our arms around the insanity of our collective body, when we can see and take responsibility for our part in the collective numbing, when we can feel genuine empathy for those who hold a gun and those who do not, for those who engage in behavior in blatant disregard for life, we may realize that we have landed in the collective heart. This is the time when criminal accountability and mental health are embraced as a whole. This is the beginning and end point of cor publicum (the public heart), the evolution of republic (res publica – the public object), where governance and law are guided by heart-intelligence.
Practice Tips: Get in touch with the feeling that “guns” trigger. Use this feeling as a gateway into the underworld and land into the collective heart. Just be curious…it is simple.