Bev's Blog: Her Wisdom

It Shouldn’t Happen Here

How many times have you watched a news broadcast about a tragic criminal act and the neighbors or local residents being interviewed stare in shock at the reporter and say … "It shouldn't happen here?"  Probably more times than you can remember.  You may have even said it yourself when faced with a similar situation.

Last week, I read the latest edition of "David's Desk" containing this article by David Spangler.  The article resonated with my spirit and I was compelled to share David's heart wisdom with you.

Recently a dramatic event took place in the town where I live that got me thinking about expectations and how they affect our perceptions of ourselves and of our world. The event was frightening and could have been tragic, but except for one individual, it was not. Still, it gave birth to a universal sentiment, echoed in the local paper, that such an event should “not have happened here.” This got me to thinking, and its these thoughts I want to share with you this month.

A few days ago, on a pleasant, peaceful Saturday afternoon, a man in his early fifties stopped his car in the middle of the main street that runs through the small town where I live, got out, brandishing two rifles, and proceeded to walk down the street towards the nearby high school where a football game was in progress. There are conflicting accounts as to whether he was shooting at the time. Some people saw him only carrying his rifles, though occasionally he would aim at someone as if he were going to shoot them, whereas others claimed he definitely shot at them as they felt the bullets go by and strike the ground around them.

If he was shooting, he thankfully didn’t hit anyone, but when he reached the playground of an elementary school next to the parking lot of the high school and within sight of the football field, he dropped prone and began firing at police who by this time were approaching him, demanding that he drop his weapons. In the ensuing gun battle, he was killed.

At the football field, hearing the shots and commotion, all the players and the fans who had been watching the game were huddling under the bleachers where police had herded them for protection. My own youngest daughter goes to this school, though she was home while this was going on. However, several of her friends who were rehearsing a musical at the high school while this was happening saw the man approaching from the far end of the parking lot, shooting his weapons, and fled for cover.

It was a scary time. The police cordoned off all the streets downtown and around the high school, preventing alarmed parents from reaching the school to get their kids, which, of course, made them even more worried. There were rumors that the man had not been alone and that other armed individuals were in the woods around the school, which fortunately proved not to be the case. But it meant that SWAT teams and police helicopters with snipers on board were prowling the area for several hours. It was later discovered that the man’s abandoned car was filled with other weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Where I live is a small town nestled in a valley about twenty miles east of Seattle. We are surrounded by mountains, with the Cascade range to the east, the Olympic range to the west, Mt. Rainier to the south, and Mt. Baker to the north. You could not ask for a more peaceful or more idyllic setting. Violent crime is virtually unknown here. Therefore, it is not surprising that in the days since the shooting, people in town have been overheard saying, “This kind of thing is not supposed to happen here!”

I am quite sure that the people in Littleton, Colorado, said the same thing after the Columbine High School shootings, as did the folks in Red Lake, Minnesota after eight were killed in the high school there, or in Blacksburg, Virginia, where thirty-two were shot at Virginia Tech. And I know no one expected a gunman to kill sixty-nine teenagers and young adults at a summer camp on a small Norwegian island not quite three months ago. According to the residents of these places, violence was not supposed to happen there either.

Why not?

Why should one place be more immune to violence than another?

Context plays a role in our expectations here. If I’m on a battlefield, I have a reasonable expectation that someone is going to shoot at me. If I’m enjoying a meal at McDonald’s with my family, I don’t. Yet in 1984 in San Ysidro, California, a suburb of San Diego, twenty-two people eating in a McDonald’s were killed and nineteen wounded by a madman armed with three guns, including an Uzi assault rifle, who burst into the restaurant and began shooting everyone he saw.

We can rightfully consider the McDonald’s massacre and say, “something like this shouldn’t happen here.” But why not stand over a fallen soldier and say the same thing?

This in a nutshell is the change—the shift in consciousness—that humanity is struggling to make in order to create a more holistic and peaceful world. How do we come to an awareness that killing and other forms of violence against each other, whether the random actions of a lunatic or the organized actions of a state, should not be taken for granted as “part of human nature.” There is, after all, an increasing body of evidence from neurobiology and evolutionary biology indicating that violence is a learned behavior, a cultural artifact, and not something inherent in our species; instead, we are genetically geared towards cooperation and altruism, something that we see every day in the world around us, as when hundreds of people drove up to thousands of miles to Joplin, Missouri, from all over the United States and Canada earlier this year for no other reason than to help strangers they didn’t know recover from a disastrous tornado.

One place to begin this shift is with our expectations. Expectations are powerful. They shape how we perceive and think about the world. They affect the choices we make and the tasks we undertake. They influence our conceptions of what is possible and what is not. And they also influence our perceptions. In short, we see what we expect to see, or perhaps more to the point here, we stop seeing what we expect to see.

The gunman in my town was stopped before he killed anyone. A larger tragedy was averted. But the mere fact of someone walking down the main street with rifles, shooting at people, is so out of context for this place that people took notice. As an event, it stood out and captured everyone’s attention for several days.

When a bomb goes off in a crowded market in Baghdad or Tel Aviv, many people are killed and maimed; it is an outrageous and tragic occurrence. Yet I know that for many people here in my home town, it doesn’t attract much attention. It’s not only that it’s happening in a far distant land to people they don’t know. It’s that violence is expected in the Middle East. People have expectations about Baghdad, Tel Aviv or the West Bank that include bombings and shootings. While no one I know would say, “Well, it should be happening there,” or in any way sanctions the killings, the violence doesn’t raise an eyebrow in surprise and shock either.

This is where change can start. When I hear about a killing happening anywhere in the world for any reason, I want to be attentive and not let it just be part of the background buzz of my life because of some expectations I may have. I don’t want to think, “Oh, well, that’s to be expected in ______ (fill in the blank with a place name or situation)” and thus let my consciousness slide over the realization of what has happened, failing to truly see it. I want to realize that a person has ceased to be part of this world, that humanity has been lessened in some way. The world has lost the potentials inherent in the incarnation that has ended. Knowing the soul capacities in each of us to create peace and to give blessings in some way to the world, I want to know that a channel for those capacities has now been closed.

I want to say to any killing, “This shouldn’t happen here.”

Because I won’t take actions to change my culture if I don’t discover the grace and beauty, the love and sacredness within our species that can let me be truly surprised when any one of us commits an act of violence. That is, I need to know this is not our true nature but is itself an anomaly that has developed over millennia of habit and conditioning. And I won’t be able to change that conditioning unless when I say “this thing shouldn’t have happened here,” I mean “anywhere,” for there should be no place that I expect must be a home to violence, even if violence has happened there in the past. The past is not an indicator of the future. Transformation can happen, but not if I don’t begin with an expectation that this is so.

My home town had a close call with unspeakable tragedy. It truly shouldn’t have happened here.

But when I say “here,” I mean the Earth.

About the Author

David Spangler, Lorian Association"I have been a spiritual teacher since 1964. From 1970-1973, I was a co-director of the Findhorn Foundation Community in Northern Scotland. In 1974 I co-founded the Lorian Association, a non-profit spiritual educational organization, and continue to work with it today. I am also a Fellow of the Lindisfarne Association, a gathering of scientists, mathematicians, artists, spiritual and religious teachers, ecologists, and political scientists, all interested in promoting a new culture based on holistic and Gaian values. For further information on my work, my writings and my classes, please visit Lorian Association."

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