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.