Monthly Archives: December 2012

Gun Violence, Mental Illness and Their Hidden Roots

Screen shot 2012-12-23 at 1.40.33 PMI expanded my previous post for this Huffington Post article, as follows:

Much of the discussion about gun violence, mental illness and public policy is like looking at the branches of the tree and its trunk. But we don’t consider the roots, which fuel how the tree grows. Those roots lie within some of our cultural values and aspirations that we absorb as we grow through our families, schools, and into adult relationships and careers. They are murky, hard to see. But here I suggest some worthy of facing and dealing with.

First, it’s quite likely that not much will happen following the Newtown elementary school killings, in terms of curbing gun violence. As Dana Milbank recently wrote inThe Washington Post, the tendency has been to “slow-walk” discussion about change. And then it never occurs. But if a sea change of attitude and action does result, it would require a critical mass of Democrats and Republicans to summon the courage to confront the political power of the NRA, and enact reasonable gun laws, one’s that would be enforced. Such laws would respect the rights of sportsmen, target-shooters, and hunters, as well as those who want firearms to protect their homes. But they would also limit the availability of assault-type weapons that serve none of those purposes. Protecting the public from the danger of being killed by people wielding assault weapons with multiple rounds of ammunition is no less a “right” than that of possessing a gun.

At the same time, Continue reading

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Gun Violence And Its Social Roots

Screen shot 2012-12-19 at 11.54.15 AMIt’s quite likely that nothing at all will happen following the Newtown elementary school killings, in terms of curbing gun violence. But if there is a sea change of attitude and action, it would result from a critical mass of Democrats and Republicans who summon the courage to oppose the NRA’s threats to defeat their reelection campaigns, and then enact and enforce reasonable gun laws. Such laws would occupy the “middle ground” that respects the rights of sportsmen, target-shooters, and hunters, as well as those who want to possess firearms for protection of their homes; and yet, limits the availability of assault-type weapons that serve none of those purposes. At the same time, legislators’ actions would also include creating additional resources for mentally disturbed people, including helping families, schools, and the general public recognize potential signs of disturbance and greater sources of help. Legislation that protects the public from the easy availability of assault weapons and multiple rounds of ammunition would recognize the rights of people to be protected from the use of such weapons for killing.

But keep this in mind: Most mentally disturbed people never become violent. In fact, most killings aren’t committed by the severely mentally disturbed. Moreover, we can’t predict who might become violent. We know that certain combinations of emotions, such as intense anger, fueled by alcohol or drugs, may result in violence. But many people fit that profile and never commit a violent act, let alone murder anyone.

A deeper, more complex issue is harder to address. It concerns underlying cultural attitudes and norms within American society that Continue reading

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How Your Karma Can Undermine Midlife Renewal

Screen shot 2013-08-17 at 9.38.21 AMAs the 78 million baby boomers have segued into midlife, a noticeable shift towards a sense of renewal, new growth and new possibilities has taken root. That’s a welcome contrast to the old view of steady, inevitable decline and loss. Yet there’s a real danger that can cripple or undermine your prospects for midlife vitality and positive growth.

To explain, let’s recognize, first, how inspiring it is for midlifers to learn about ways in which midlifers forge new paths towards growth and wellbeing in their lives. Some create new energy, passion and commitment in their intimate relationships, as I’ve described in some posts here. Some find other sources of personal connection without a partner. Others find new directions in their work and creative expression – whether in a redirected career or embarking on service-oriented work, such as promoted by Encore.org. For example, baby boomers who leave their careers to do work that involves helping others report feelings of growth, connection and service. Embarking on new directions takes courage and risk, as Marci Alboher recently described in the New York Times, but that “..the payoff is continuing to grow and expand your life rather than stagnate and decline.”

All of the above are significant, positive shifts of consciousness and action. So what’s the danger? From my experience working with midlife baby boomers (and from my own challenges, along the way) I identify two pitfalls that can undermine your renewal and continued growth: One is failure to recognize or deal with inevitable, long-term consequences of actions whose tentacles live on, into your future: your karma, the law of cause and effect; of actions and their consequences. The other is not knowing what enables you to “reboot;” to change your ongoing karma from this point forward. That is, knowing how to interrupt any continuing negative consequences of actions in your present life.

Facing your Karma

 Your past actions remain a part of you. Continue reading

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In Northern Mali, Extremists Silence Music And Drive Out Artists

This is a sad, destructive situation for both people and culture. Sudarsan Raghavan’s story in the Washington Post describes the efforts by extremists in Mali to attack and destroy all forms of music. He writes, “Northern Mali, one of the richest reservoirs of music on the continent, is now an artistic wasteland. Hundreds of musicians have fled south to Bamako, the capital, and to other towns and neighboring countries, driven out by hard-liners who have decreed any form of music — save for the tunes set to Koranic verses — as being against their religion.”

And yet, within the range of Islamic traditions, music is highly regarded and a vital resource for spiritual development. The form of Sufism that is more closely linked with Islam is a good example. Raghavan points out that “playing music brings lashes with whips, even prison time, and MP3 and cassette players are seized and destroyed.” For the full article click here, or read on: Continue reading

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