We have met the enemy…

The Colorado shootings will forever cast a pall over the opening day of the latest Batman movie, the kind of action-adventure fantasy many of us were looking forward to as an escape from all the other bad news that fills the papers these days.

I cannot add anything to the expressions of grief and outrage that the people of Colorado have and will make, but I heard one thing this morning that gave me pause.

The governor of Colorado said, “This is the act of a very deranged mind.”  It’s a natural thing to say, and we hear the same words after every similar tragedy.  The Texas Tower.  Oklahoma City.  Columbine.  The first thing we try to do is assure ourself that the crime was the work of a nut or monster.  The last thing we want to hear are comments now emerging from people who knew the suspect and say he seemed “really smart,” and “a nice guy.”  It’s terrifying to think that an “ordinary person” or a neighbor could do something like this.

Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who Martin Luther King nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, was versed both in Buddhist and western psychology.  His teachings gave me the concept of “store consciousness.”

Thich Nhat Hahn

This is the part of our unconscious psyche where all possible tendencies reside, like seeds, waiting to germinate.  The ones we water with our attention, thought, and action are the ones that grow.  Like all Buddhists, Thich Nhat Hahn believes that we cannot know for sure which seeds we have watered in previous lives, but our proclivities in this life, for good or ill, give a strong hint.

Metaphysics aside, we can recognize the truth of the core concept – the seed tendencies we water are the ones that grow.  The only memorial we can make to the people who died in that theater is to stand beside those like Thich Nhat Hahn, Martin Luther King, and all men and women of goodwill of the present and past.  We can join with them in trying to give the water of attention to qualities like compassion, patience, and non-violence – the seeds we want to grow.

Those who follow this blog know how often I quote Walt Kelley’s comic strip character, Pogo, who said, “We has met the enemy and he is us.”  It doesn’t have to be that way.

6 thoughts on “We have met the enemy…

  1. Hi Morgan, I was certain as soon as I heard of this tragedy that you would post something regarding the event particularly in light of your recent posts on superheros. The fall out from this kind of thing is already impacting people all around us, the first thing this morning someone I know posted on Facebook “I guess we’re not going to see Batman”. Although the sentiment is completely understandable, it is this ability of terrorism to stir up fear in our hearts, ceding over the liberty that is part of the fabric of who we are that saddens my heart.


    • Back in the early 90’s, I was a psych intern at a school district counseling center. I worked with one 11 year old boy who lived in a neighborhood where someone was entering 7-11 type stores and shooting the clerks and any customers. The newspaper dubbed him, “the thrill killer.”

      The kid I was working with and his friend would first check area convenience stores and then go in, read magazines and finally buy some candy and then leave. Now this boy had no father because of divorce, and I remember thinking how some instinct was pushing him to overcome his fears, even the fear of death, in that manner. A sad rite of passage, but there was someone who was not going to let terror stop him.

      News reports talk of beefed up security in theaters. Great, now we’ll have to get there early like airports! I’m not even going to speculate on what that will do to an industry that is already struggling…

      I hadn’t really considered the fallout from this, but you’re right, it’s very sad.


  2. “We has met the enemy and he is us.” It doesn’t have to be that way.

    But, unfortunately it probably always will be that way until some great national calamity brings us all together again for a few moments.


  3. We are very, very good at slamming barn doors shut after all the horses are gone. I don’t know how deranged Holmes is, although I believe something isn’t right for him to have planned and carried out such a thing, but beefing up security at theatres is just silly. This is a rare case where it probably wouldn’t have mattered if our gun restrictions were tighter (although I wish they were) or our mental health facilities more accessible (and they certainly should be) or whatever. It’s just a sad anomaly. It seems there was no hint he might have been planning such a thing, unlike other cases where hints abounded if someone had simply paid attention.


    • You’re absolutely right. One news commentator made the point that someone who can get hold of full body armor and tear gas is not going to be deterred by any of the gun control regulations that periodically get proposed.

      I honestly don’t see any reason for citizens to bear assault rifles, but we know in an election year, no one is going to risk the ire of the NRA.

      Also, one of the most worrisome aspects is that the perpetrator was “normal” enough to bypass all the screens for anti-social behavior. I thought of one of the observations that James Hillman made early in his career – to the effect that the worst nightmares of Freud’s patients are now playing out in the streets.


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