On Villains and Heroes

January 12, 2011

Whenever we hear of a crime, like the much publicized shooting in Arizona recently, we immediately react by condemning the criminals and praising the heroes at the scene. In our condemnation, we distance ourselves from the villains and dismiss them as unstable, schizophrenic and evil. We bring them before judges and lock them up for life or even put them to death. But we rarely give any thought to the ideology and measure behind our judgment. We don't question the patterns that operate in our lives. We automatically fall into their grooves that have been carved out over thousands of years. And indeed, this paradigm of good versus evil has come to dominate the basis of much of our thinking. Many of us see the world as a battleground where gods and demons are engaged in a constant fight for the soul of humankind.

The fact is that we are no less responsible for the crime in Arizona than Jared Loughner, the man who pulled the trigger. He is a conspicuous reflection of the many faces we hide from ourselves. If we were to look closely we would find that each of us often wears the mask of the criminal, the judge, the politician, the rebel and the hero. All of them were represented at the scene that fateful day. While his actions are deplorable, Jared Loughner carries certain burdens on behalf of society. In many ways, criminals stand in courtrooms and sit in jail cells on our behalf. And when our so-called justice system condemns them and puts them to death, we temporarily silence a dark impulse that lives beyond the execution of one man or woman. People like Loughner represent that part of us that can no longer suppress the deep, psychological trauma from living in an insane paradigm. While the rest of us continue to adjust our thoughts and sensibilities to match those of an increasingly depraved world, criminals express their maladjustment often through violent actions. They are prophets of a deep darkness that has a message for us.

We must recognize that each one of us is responsible for the problems of the world and is complicit in every crime. A cancer usually arises because the body has consumed or has come in contact with toxic elements. There is much to indicate that our organism is falling more ill with time. Our economic system is designed for people to exploit and cheat each other. Our educational system aims to siphon off the innocence and creativity of our children and subvert their humanity. It turns them into homogenous automatons who can only think in linear grooves by regurgitating concepts and ideas made of numbers and alphabets. Our judicial and governmental systems often favor those with money and power. The daily life of the average citizen is carried out in a fog of thoughts that have little to do with reality. We are daily fighting against the order of nature and the impulse of life, which only thrive through constant change. We work hard to maintain a rigidity to our lives in the name of security and so-called progress. And the real world of nature constantly falls victim to our futile efforts. Even as death approaches, we fight to the end - at all costs - to hang on to our possessions and more importantly to our self-image.

With such preoccupations, how can anyone genuinely care for another? Even though we live in a paradigm that pretends to praise virtues such as compassion and goodwill, we live in a wasteland of loneliness and alienation where human beings have less value each day. We fear the unknown so much that we would much rather remain undisturbed, in the grooves of our routine and follow the script of hellos, goodbyes and I-love-yous. It is much easier to remain comfortably numb than to look in the mirror. We are quite afraid of being confronted by a dark reflection and of seeing elements of a Jared Loughner in ourselves. But there may be a few among us who have the courage to look through the reflection. They are the ones who may discover a wonder that is beyond good and evil, beyond criminality and heroism. That wonder cannot be categorized or tainted by our current paradigm. It belongs to a pattern of an entirely different dimension.

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