About five years ago a man with a gun was arrested outside the inner city primary (US equivalent elementary) London school two of my three children attended at the time. I am a European. To put a very fine point on things: I am Dutch. Like most European people I have not grown up in a “gun culture”. The only people carrying guns I encountered during the first 20 years of my life were policemen and soldiers. People who carried a gun for professional reasons. It was understood that those guns would be used only by those trained professionals in truly exceptional (read emergency) situations.
Here are the facts about the most recent school massacre:
On Valentine’s Day 2018 a mass shooting took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in the Miami metropolitan area. Seventeen people were killed and in addition fourteen people were taken to hospitals, making this one of the deadliest school shootings or massacres the world has seen.
The perpetrator, a 19 year old young man called Nikolas Jacob Cruz was arrested shortly afterwards. He confessed and was subsequently charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He purchased his rifle legally from a nearby store.
It appears that Cruz made death threats on social media many months before he committed his crime. Some of the students who survived this shooting have become advocates for stricter gun control legislation and they have founded the advocacy group Never Again MSD (also a hashtag phenomenon on social media).
As a mother of three teenagers my heart goes out to all people affected by this tragedy (students, teachers, emergency workers, police offers, their families and communities and so forth). Taking one step back from the incomprehensible horror of this, I believe that we urgently need to ask ourselves some very uncomfortable questions indeed.
1. What makes a 19 year old walk into a school with a rifle and shoot indiscriminately?
In part because he had legal and easy access to a weapon – but that is not the whole story (every family keeps knives in a kitchen drawer…)
Because he was troubled – but most profoundly troubled people do not go out and shoot other people. We need to dig deeper…
Because the authentic person Cruz was born to become was abused, bullied and violated for years to the point where he felt others “killed him” and he felt compelled to express his rage at this death no one stopped, no one observed and no one honoured. To me this feels like a possibility.
Before reading further I strongly suggest that you watch this video:
“I was almost a school shooter” with Kyle Clark – about a school shooting that never happened at Denver’s North High School:
2. What creates the phenomenon of repeat school shootings?
At least partly the massive publicity they receive. This follows the same principle as terrorist attacks – school shootings essentially are terror attacks. Knowing that a media circus will unfold gets others (read “future shooters”) hooked on the idea of committing the heinous deed. I have read research indicating that such people read all the media coverage and actively plan to kill even more people or add some shocking twist.
Now I am not advocating that the media stop reporting such events but I am trying to raise awareness of the fact that all of us (as viewers and people who buy the newspapers) carry a (small!) part of responsibility for this phenomenon. We need to give this more thought, collectively speaking. If we do not, the issue will keep coming to attention. Brutal fact: we are all co-creating that outcome by not doing our shadow work on this and not owning our part culpability in this.
There is a sick kind of overnight fame in becoming the next school shooter. For some young people – who feel that there are absolutely no positive opportunities open to them – this may appeal. We live in a world that rates fame and mass media attention.
3. Will the Never Again MSD initiative change things?
Starting an advocacy group called Never Again is a wonderful positive move. This is much needed and our young people are leading the world in a revolutionary way here and I applaud them. I thank them wholeheartedly for holding up a mirror for politicians making decisions about gun control. Will this really stop anything similar happening in the future?
This remains to be seen. Many survivors (of other traumatic mass events or private tragedies) have started charitable organisations to raise awareness – but their campaigns have not stopped such events recurring because we do not seem to have reached “critical mass” when it comes to collective awareness of the larger picture.
I have written many blogs attempting to raise awareness about the shadow manifestations of various phenomena in our world – offering a shamanic perspective – but there has always been another occurrence of the same thing.
“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Today I would like to paraphrase T.S. Eliot’s famous words:
“Humankind cannot bear to do much shadow work”.
Now before we all sink into powerlessness and despondency, let us ask another tricky question:
Is there anything we can do to prevent these things?
All of us face a loss when so many people lose their lives prematurely, in an act of senseless violence. Their talents and unique gifts are now lost to the world. Incidents like this also feed the Demon of Fear: do we feel entirely safe going anywhere, with so many threats hanging in the air? The thought occurs that many of the young people killed recently would have seen footage of previous school shootings and thought: “I am so grateful this was not me”. So this issue truly concerns all of us. Life on Earth is not meant to be a game of Russian Roulette.
In my first book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (published by Moon Books in 2016) there is a chapter titled “Spiritual Warriors With Water Pistols”. I appreciate that the title may sound a bit frivolous in the context of today’s events but in that piece of writing I attempt to provide a serious spiritual perspective on war, terrorism and the innate human need for fighting. I am not going repeat myself here but I will make a few points:
Take a step back from the shock and outrage you feel seeing the footage and hearing the reports. Observe the vibration of your response exactly right now: is the reporting moving you into anger, fear or even hate? Is that going to help the situation in any way? When we respond to any violent situation on the same level of consciousness, we add to the reservoir of violence held in our collective human consciousness. Take a moment to choose your response: what vibration (my youngest son would say: “What colour of the rainbow?”) do you wish to anchor and embody in this world? What response is this situation calling for? Are we as powerless as we (perhaps) feel right now??
The more people beam compassion at this situation, the more this place is held in light and the more it receives an energetic invitation to shift mass consciousness. People with the right shamanic training could undertake to do psycho pomp work, once an appropriate interval of time has passed. The families affected by this will need loving support, a listening ear and quite possibly financial support long after a new tragedy takes center stage in the world press. (Yes, I will call a spade a spade!) The land and building also hold trauma and will need healing work.
Now take another big step back. In the Western world we have freedom of speech and opinion and we have the free press. This is one of the reasons we feel so threatened by fundamentalist regimes. Observe how much attention this shooting gets. It is all over the papers, internet and TV. Beyond the need to know – what other energies do we detect in this mix? Are all of them honorable and in service to the situation?
Read for yourself how much is made of the fact that there were more victims than in any other school shooting so far. (so far?!) That makes this the worst school massacre (of this kind) in American history. Let’s read that again…. Is there some competition in progress? Well, we don’t like admitting it, but of course there is! Future gunmen and suicide bombers follow the media just as we do.– This is not a comfortable thought. Neither is the reflection is that people with jobs in journalism make money from disasters (and only rarely from happy events). We are so much part of this that we choose to NOT see that every single one of us is a cog in a larger industry: the reporting industry, the media industry, the newspaper industry. This means that all of us together hold some collective responsibility for the next massacre that occurs. This is a sobering thought… I know.. perhaps it feels like a physical punch in the gut…. and it should.
While I am at it, another uncomfortable question: do we still think of the people who died in the recent plane crash in Moscow, on that beach in Tunisia, in Paris and Brussels a few years ago? I think that perhaps we do, because those tragedies received huge coverage. Do we think of the children dying in war zones right now, of 14 year old soldiers and 12 year old prostitutes all over the planet this moment? Of the people dying in floods in Bangladesh or of famine in Somalia? Often it is tempting not to think too much about these things but something is desperately trying coming to attention. If we won’t look, it will find other ways.
My first book is about using shamanism in creative and empowering ways with a group for children. I once did a session with my London group (The Time Travellers) titled Meet The Monster – All About Shadow Work. That title was chosen months in advance, but the session happened to be on the day of the Sandy Hook shooting. I took the children through many exercises owning their own shadow (the hidden parts of ourselves we all have but only few of us admit to). The children went on a tough ride finding many shadowy aspects lurking in their own psyche. Ultimately this work is liberating: what becomes conscious loses the power to “bite our bottom unexpectedly, like a rabid dog”. By the end of the session I asked the group: “This session is called Meet The Monster: WHO IS THE MONSTER?!” All of them shouted ME! No one shouted the name of the school shooter. –Result! Proud teacher!! If children as young as 7 years old can do this (and passionately so) – all of us can do this inner work. If all of us do this – a huge paradigm shift will occur because of it.
I think we have all read about the young girl on holiday in Thailand who had studied tsunamis in school and recognized the signs when a very serious one was on the approach. This dramatic example illustrates something I wish to hammer home relentlessly: incidents like this are an invitation to all of us collectively to pay far closer intention to our intuition. This is not generally encouraged in our culture. Our focus is on science, rational thinking, evidence and so forth. We almost “beat” this natural function out of children by constantly asking them to focus on the dominant mode of perceiving reality.
We send our children and teenagers to school assuming they are going be safe, that they are going to be taught be people who have their best interests at heart. However, we may be living in a world in such great turmoil and transition that we cannot afford to live like that just now.
One evening many years ago I went for an evening walk in Stockholm, where I lived at the time. I stopped to look at the window of a jewellery store. A man stopped, too. He was doing absolutely nothing other than looking at rings and watches. Yet… my alarm bells started screeching: “This man has killed before and he is looking to kill again. GET MOVING!!” I have absolutely no evidence that I was right about this. There was no point alerting the police either. I made the quickest exit I could manage without showing fear and actually running. Nothing happened … yet … until today I remain convinced that I was in danger that evening.
We all have an internal alarm system. It is perhaps more finely honed in some of us than in others. I know that growing up in a family where I never felt physically safe did hone and fine-tune my “physical danger radar”. So perhaps a childhood spent living with violence now saved my life? (Quite a thought that!) Or maybe it attracted that man in the first place. – Both scenarios are perfectly possible. They may also be perfectly wrong!
Long before this young man, Cruz, committed this massacre, he may well have had friends/neighbors/colleagues/parents/siblings, who could have chosen to “read the signs”. Children who are brought up with a well-tuned spiritual compass and focus on listening to their instincts and intuition will be much better at reading such signs – but our society does not currently encourage this. My eldest son says that some YouTube personalities claim that one young man did contact the FBI about Cruz month ago. I have no way of knowing if this is true or not.
All of us collectively have a responsibility here: not to be too wrapped up in our own concerns, not to habitually ignore our instincts and intuitions, to find the courage to act on such hunches/hints and premonitions when they do occur, and to do our shadow work – so other people out there do not need to embody and express our shadow material for us.
So… are there things we can learn from this? I think so. We are all powerless and powerful both – but not always in the way our society has us believe we are.
Are there things all of us can do in response to this? Very much so! Start by asking yourself: when was the last time I thought (or said, even jokingly): “I could kill that person…”
When was the last time your teenager logged on to a computer game and tried to shoot as many “people” (characters) as possible in the shortest span time? The dark truth is that our young people are becoming addicted to those kinds of games.
When was the last time one teenager messaged another teenager GKY (Go Kill Yourself). I have been told the abbreviation has become almost a term of affection in some teen circles…
Are young people, our (grand) children, given a wide berth and not included in parties and social events because they are awkward or difficult to be around? Do we give those same people a wide berth when we see them walking down the street? Do we exclude them from community events, make them feel unwelcome? – This is normal human behavior in the 21st century but it actively contributes to tragedies like this.
This problem is not only “out there” in society, it is deep within all of us. And the problem will not go away until we realise that and make a commitment to working on this, all of us. – Are we willing to look in the mirror Cruz holds up?!
*Please note that I used an earlier blog as a starting point for this article. You can find the original blog here:
The Orlando Shooting: Blog About Shadow and Intuition
About the Author:
Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016. She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit 2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her second book SACRED ART, A Hollow Bone for Spirit : Where Art Meets Shamanism will be published in December 2018.
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