Brad Warner talks of Interdependence in an article on the SG WEB site. He addresses the idea I often hear and have said myself, “My life is my own and I can do whatever I want with it as long as I don’t hurt anyone else”. It sounds good and perhaps it is true at some level and regarding some things. However it assumes we are all independent unconnected people. Even at a superficial level that is not so. Brad’s article is entitled “Your Life is Not Your Own (Sorry)”.
“Seeing that guy made me realize that my life really isn’t my own. We all imagine that our lives and our bodies are our own possessions to do with as we please. We figure as long as we don’t do something really egregious like knife our next door neighbor or go shoot up the local grade school it’s nobody’s business what we do with ourselves. But I wonder if that’s really true.”
Consider the book by Ethan Nichturn (thanks Jared), “One City: A Declaration of Interdependence”. He argues we are all interdependent on one another not just locally and imediately but globally and internationally in almost every practical way. Truly but in a difference sense as John Donne said, “No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Buddhism and Daoism would posit that we are connected as well at some “metaphysical” level, that we are each a manifestation of reality and the universe and not as separate and distinct as we would appear or seem to our “selves”. This “distinctiveness” is part of the “illusion” or the ego. It is part of the movie we have scripted and produced in our heads complete with cast, dialogue and sound track.
What I do effects others and what they do effects me in wider and wider circles of influence like ripples from a stone thrown into a pond. The impact of the stone sends ever widening waves of influence. Those waves of influence do weaken and dimenish as they reach further and further from the point of impact but the influence is still there. This is not to say I am entirely responsible for the nature of the influence or the response of the person being influenced. That person is effected by that ripple in ways that are unique to them and dependent on who they are and how they see themselves and life. There is little way I can predict or foresee except perhaps in my most intimate friends how what I do will effect another person. Even then I can’t really know.
To continue the image a leaf and a piece of wood will be effected differently by the same ripple and the ripple will in turn be changed as it passes so that it’s further effect will not be the same as it would have been. Within the confines of our own ego structure we are free to respond and can’t blame our reponse on someone else, like the stone as it were or any of the intermediate floating flotsam and jetsam.
We can even break out of our ego structure by becoming conscious “enlightened” people. That growing consciousness and “enlightenment” frees us to act outside our “samsaras”. It allows the wheels of our mental carts to escape the ruts dug over decades of stimulus and response; to change the synaptic connections we have forged over a life time of thought, perspective and emotions. It allows us to “step outside ourselves” and see reality in a different way. It allows us, to use the other image, to yell “CUT”, stop the action, send the actors to their dressing rooms, tear down the scenary and tear up the script; to end the movie if only for a moment. However, the moments multiply, they grow longer and eventually we don’t live mostly in a movie anymore.
As for the Mall in Nebraska in case you are one of perhaps three people that has NOT read the story, here are the basic details. A 19 year old guy with an AK-47 and two magazines of ammunition (probably 40 to 60 rounds) begins shooting on the third floor of a department store in the mail. He kills eight people mostly employees of the store, wounds at least three or four others one of which remains in critical condition. This sort of mass murder keeps happening. In some cases even more people are killed; “Virginia Tech saw 32 murdered earlier this year; the Columbine High School shooting left 13 murdered in 1999; Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, had 23 who were fatally shot by a deranged man in 1991; and a McDonald’s in Southern California had 21 people shot dead by an unemployed security guard in 1984”. The police were only able to get there to clean up the mess and in the case of the Mall in Nebraska they arrived in around six minutes. Six minutes and it was all over.
Here are some superficial observations. “Gun-Free Zones” are so silly as to defy reason. Nebraska has a “Concealed Carry Law” which permits citizens who can legally own a gun, have passed a safety and competentcy course and have a permit to carry a handgun for personal protection. However, businesses can post signs banning concealed carry on their premises. The mall in Nebraska had such a sign. So, who obeys this ban. Well, not the guy with the AK-47, that’s for sure. So, what exactly did the “Gun-Free Zone” contribute to the safety of those in the mall? Apparently not much. Had there been only one or a few permit holders it might have changed the situation and saved some lives.
This is not speculation. Armed Citizens reduce the number of casualties in multiple victim shootings like the one at the Mall in Nebraska. The media does not report these incidents or, if they do, they fail to report it was an armed citizen that stopped the shooter or reduced his effectiveness until police could arrive.
This is old territory. John Lotts has repeatedly reiterated the facts and figures. However, many, many people just don’t seem to see how obvious this is. Criminal don’t care about the law, that’s why we call them criminals. John Lott rang this bell regarding the shooting in Nebraska as he has in the past http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,315563,00.html
Guns, like many things, are not all bad or all good. They can be both depending whose hands they are in and what sort of mind is guiding those hands. That is the balanced view. That is what you do not hear in the over 2500 news stories on this Mall shooting. That is what you do not hear in the one million or so stories of people who use a firearm to protect their lives or the lives of others and the reports never make it beyond the local paper. In many cases this is because no one was killed or shot. Even when the burglar or home invaded or abusive spouse is shot or killed you may never hear that someone else is alive because they were able to protect themselves.
So here is the part about interdependence, you were probably wondering when I would get to it, or even if. The shooter was 19 years old. He had been thrown out of the house by his family years ago and was on his own, had been for a while; he was a “ward of the state”. He had taken refuge with a family he knew. He had lost his job, lost his girlfriend, had no real home or family and was barely past 18. I don’t know why his family threw him out. He had “mental problems” for which he apparently was not getting any help. I’d say the kid had a pretty shitty life up to this point. That doesn’t exonerate or justify his actions whatever his motivation might have been. I don’t know what he hoped to accomplish other than “being famous” and not “being a burden to anyone anymore” but whatever it was it did not justify what he did. He made the decision, he took the premeditated action, he did it not anyone else. I can find some compassion for the kid, for his life, his pain, his confusion, all of that. It sucks.
There were obviously a LOT of people in his life whose behavior influenced his. Lots of people with their thoughts, behavior and perspectives impacted this kid. He was stuck in some movie of his own making but there were a host of other characters in that movie as well. Can you say all of these people bear absolutely NO responsibility for what happened? Perhaps responsibility is not the word. I don’t know what that word would be, but you can see the interdependence here can’t you? As Brad Warner says, everything you do effects someone. Most of the people in this kids life had some part in what happened in the Mall in Nebraska.
On the other hand I know, personally, a guy with a life a lot like this guy’s. He was thrown out of his house at sixteen, took refuge with another family and was on his own. However, he made it through college, married, has a couple of kids, a house, a good job and hasn’t killed anyone yet. I work with him and he’s kinda OCD but hey, we all have problems, right. Like I said, he hasn’t killed anyone yet. He is a relatively stable, loving, compassionate, productive member of society. He could have shot up a Mall too but he didn’t. Then you have the rich guys with everything that go around beating up homeless people for kicks. So, it’s not all about a “shitty life” or “negative influences” or “economic and social deprivation”. It is about the equation of interdependent influence and personal consciousness.
Yes, we are all interdependent, other people influence us but that influence effects us based on our own pattern of thoughts, emotions and perspective, whatever they may be at any given time.
There is room for compassion and responsibility.