A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Right To Bear Arms?

Somewhere in our evolution we learned to make tools.  Tools by their very nature are useful in some way or another.  Being omnivores, we not only gathered food, we hunted.  And so tools of violence were created to kill animals to feed ourselves so that we and our family and tribe could survive, especially during harsh seasons.  Because we were animals, we were also territorial.  We laid claim to sections of the land, built our homes there, had families, hunted, gathered, cultivated the land and stored our treasures.  When some outsiders arrived and threatened to take our stuff and/or hurt and subjugate our tribes people, we acted out.  If they hit, we hit.  If they used hunting weapons to hurt or even kill others, so did we.  Hunting was sometimes a matter of survival, but so was conflict with the violence of people outside of the tribe.

The very foundation of the predator/prey (or master/slave) relationship is the "us" versus "them" mentality.  We say to ourselves, we are valuable and they are worthless.  We must protect ourselves and they must be sacrificed.  For thousands of years we have de-humanized the other, the "enemy", in order to preserve and benefit ourselves.  The message has been drummed into us by ourselves that we must desire victory for ourselves and defeat for the enemy.

Other predators on this earth have no means to justify their aggressive impulses.  They are instinct driven.  When a kitten plays, it is training for one day hunting.  It sometimes seems as if we are ruled by instincts, too.  And yet, many live non violent lives and some have even forgone meat in their diet.  What this shows is that, unlike most of the natural world, we have a choice.

If we have been given dominion over the earth and all of its creatures, we have proven ourselves to be very poor stewards.  The human species has been raping this planet ever since our population exploded and we entered into the industrial age.  We are in such trouble now because of the choices we all have made, past and present.  Perhaps we are just following our animal instincts, but these same instincts, which once preserved our little tribe, now serve to destroy us.  We can either continue to evolve into an enlightened, peace loving society of humankind, which would require that we face our collective mental illnesses and destructive ways, or we can devolve and self-destruct taking the life on this world along with us into extinction.

No greater authority gave us the right to bear arms and use them; we gave that to ourselves in service of our primal us versus them mentality.  As a species, still dominated by the male sex, we are born warmongers.  But at this crucial point in our human history, with a planet that is rebelling against our abuse of it, we do not have the time or resources to waste on warring tribes.  The experiment to prove the necessity of violence in our civilization has been done ad nauseum.  Aggression no longer has any useful place in our world.

I do understand that many people in the United States are very attached to their guns.  Without guns, we would not have defeated the British and started this country.  But then, we also would not have slaughtered the native people here or institutionalized slavery of Africans.  We would not have had a civil war.  What if no one had the right to bear arms?  We would be forced to cultivate a deep and abiding diplomacy as the rule of law.  We would have to learn how to all get along with each other.  The very first step would be laying down our arms and turning away from them.

In our popular culture we have glorified the gun, made it a symbol of strength and heroism.  In typical (and instinctual) ways we are taught to believe that there are good guys and bad guys.  We are taught that because the bad guys are so out of control, we have no choice but to be out of control, too, resorting to violence and destruction in order to obliterate the bad guys.  The possibility of any kind of diplomacy is ruled out so that we can get to the real entertainment:  the fight.  If you can step away from the pull of entertainment to really look at what is being promoted, you will see that the message is one of mental illness and not the triumph over "evil" forces.  Look into your own heart, you are neither totally good nor totally bad; we are all good/bad.  The negativity you project onto others is inside of you as well.

Why aren't we taught that resorting to violence is not an act of bravery, but one of cowardice?  Because we have so much invested in perpetuating the illusion that we are better than others.  We are NOT better; we were created equal.  It is ironic to me, a person who has survived severe mental illness, that what I see in the world of humans around me is also severe mental illness, a form of mass denial.  The reason I attempt to write forcefully about what I believe is that I want to challenge my readers out of whatever complacency they have, to challenge deeply held assumptions, such as this topic of the right to bear arms or in other words the right to maim and murder other beings.

One of the ten commandments in the Judeo-Christian Bible is Thou shall not murder.  Then there was Buddha saying all life was precious.  And then, there was Jesus instructing that we love our enemies.  The United States is predominantly a Christian country and yet all of this spiritual guidance fails to register in many of our daily lives, which is why I don't see us a Christian country.  Believing in the right to bear arms is antithetical to spiritual practice.  Moses or Buddha or Jesus would not have picked up an automatic weapon and aimed it at anything with the intention to harm.  That's a fact.  If you are an American Christian and you had to choose between owning a gun or guns and following Jesus, would you have the faith to let go of your attachment to firearms?  I know many in this day and age would say no.

Instead of focusing on the right to bear arms, why not develop in yourself the right to be a mature, non violent individual, the right to grow up and work with others instead of against them?

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