There is something so blatantly, metaphysically, evil in the latest made-for-social-media slaughter in the United States that one wonders how anyone could not see it. The dominant news media, having voyeuristically exploited one horror after another for entertainment value, is doing just that however.
Viewers in Virginia and around the world woke up to a former WBDJ reporter casually walking up and executing two the station’s most popular people, Alison Parker and Adam Ward. They were televising an interview with a Chamber of Commerce leader, Vicki Gardner, about local tourist attractions (Gardner was gravely wounded but survived).
The New York Times buried the story. The article describing the event didn’t even mention the killer’s name, Vester Flanagan. They’ve obviously made an editorial decision that featuring such stories and printing the names of the mass murderers anymore than absolutely necessary just gives them what they want. Easier to wade into the mess in the Middle East (that we’ve helped make) than address something that hits so close to home.
A longtime sports director for the channel, Mike Stevens, captured the essence of what the media is treating as, if not calling an isolated incident:
“All these different places that reporters go that are somewhat dangerous, and yet here they are standing beside a quiet lake as the sun is rising and all this craziness breaks loose. To me, it’s still kind of surreal. I can’t begin to explain to you how peaceful Smith Mountain Lake is at that time of morning, and to have those gunshots ring out like that…”
While American print journalists try to ignore the reality, CNN and other cable outlets can’t stop talking about it. That will last for two days, to be forgotten and then repeated with next eruption of evil. The two approaches represent the ugly twins of duplicity and complicity.
The idea that the world’s suffering is externally generated, and external to us, is the deepest kind of ignorance. A serious person is not one who has insights into the contradictions and complexities of nations and peoples beyond one’s own, but the person who has insight into human consciousness as it applies to oneself and one’s own people.
That doesn’t mean, as inwardly dead journalists deride, that one becomes a “navel gazer,” or “goes Zen.” It means that one realizes and lives the truth that the culture and world are the expression of the consciousness of everyone in it, and that change begins within us.
So we come to the hard part. Can one see the darkness and evil in human consciousness without separating oneself from it, yet not absorb it and be overwhelmed by it? I submit that we can only keep from absorbing and being overwhelmed by the darkness of the global culture by doing so.
Evil is not individualistic, and treating it as such spreads it. Like terrorism, evil is an attack on the psyche—the soul if you will—not on the body. Its metaphysical purpose is to destroy people’s feeling for and faith in humanity, and therefore themselves.
And because evil is being denied and ignored, it’s working. The ruling media treats evil as solely a problem of the individual, reducing it to clichés about mental illness and the availability of guns.
Evil isn’t supernatural; it’s all too natural in humans. Wretches like Flanagan are puppets on the strings of larger forces of darkness in human consciousness. Adam Ward entered Virginia Tech the year the massacre occurred there, and Flanagan cited that atrocity approvingly, and used the same kind of handgun.
The soil of evil, which is a collective phenomenon, is the sludges and grudges we allow to build up within ourselves of individuals. Vester wrote of how much he hated people, and how deeply he bore grudges, especially against women. The all-American girl Alison Parker became the target of his all too American rage, and the perennially denied metaphysical reality of evil flowed through him like a sewer pipe.
What keeps one’s heart from being numbed and destroyed by all this excreta? Is the solution, as one hears so often, the bromide, “I don’t listen to the news?”
No, we cannot separate ourselves from the culture anymore than fish can separate themselves from the sea.
One can empty cognitive and emotional residues, and thereby bathe in the stillness and silence that encompass all things. Doing so has become psychologically and spiritually imperative.
An unwilled movement of negation happens when one takes the time every day to listen to one’s mind and heart, allowing them to tell their story while taking total responsibility for their contents, not separating, judging or choosing what one thinks and feels. Attention, not concentration is the key.
Doing so, the mind quiets and the heart is cleansed. One deepens and strengthens one’s capacity for understanding and love. Then one is ready to return to the world and face it afresh, growing daily in non-accumulative learning.
Initiating, through passive watchfulness gathering into undirected attention, a spontaneous movement of negation, one comes upon the peace that passes all understanding. After all, even cold-blooded killers desperately want peace. Flanagan ended his disgusting manifesto to ABC News, “When I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace.”
Do you think he has it? There is no hell as punishment, but sadly there is, in life and perhaps after life, a place beyond the reach of grace.