Never be a beast of burden

By: Jeremy Rick

Photo by Zach Barlow.
Photo by Zach Barlow.

The recent shootings at Santa Barbara Community College and Seattle Pacific University have sparked emotionally charged conversations concerning mental health care in the United States of America. The two gunmen, Elliot Rodger and Aaron Ybarra, displayed patterns of deep-seated anger and both received medical treatment that failed to deter them from violent actions.

So what caused these young men’s anger?

To quote Yoda, the fictional but legendary “Star Wars” Jedi, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” The motivating factor shared by Rodger and Ybarra was not anger, but fear. The medical treatment they received for their anger failed to prevent their violent actions because it addressed a symptom of their fear rather than the cause.

So what caused these young men’s fear?

I believe they feared the only true human freedom – conscious choice. They feared their choices didn’t matter. They feared that, regardless of their actions, they could never achieve their dreams. So they feared to dream. And when people fear to dream, dreams become nightmares. The lives we choose to create for ourselves are the realizations of our dreams. And if our dreams become warped into nightmares by fear, our lives will manifest their horrors.

So why did these young men fear the freedom of conscious choice? Well, it’s a convoluted issue, but here’s my take on the matter.

Humans are born into this world in a certain family, in a certain time, and in a certain place, none of which we have the freedom to choose. As children we are less conscious of our choices, acting intuitively and instinctively within the boundaries of freedom our parents or guardians establish.

When we mature and become more conscious of our choices, we can begin to identify the motivations behind our choices. But some people mature much more slowly in this regard than others. And some people fear the responsibility this consciousness brings, so they reject their freedom and surrender their will, which I believe is the commonality shared by Rodger and Ybarra.

After rejecting their freedom because they feared its existential responsibility, I believe Rodger and Ybarra became angry and resentful toward others who embrace and utilize their freedom. Their anger led to the hatred of other people, and then they expressed their hatred with violence.

So what is frightening about the responsibility of conscious choice?

Becoming conscious that each and every one of us possesses pure freedom, pure agency, pure subjectivity of choice within ourselves is like entering the door to a dark abyss. There is no light in the abyss, no guidance, no right and wrong, it is completely void of answers.

Once you have entered the abyss, you must provide your own light, guide yourself, choose what you believe to be right and wrong, and make your own answers. You must dream your own dream and create it within the void of the abyss that is your life.

But some people are too afraid, too weak to enter the abyss. Some people want others to give them answers. The sad thing is, many of the people answering the scared and the weak are actually manipulating them for selfish desires.

It’s like watching cattle being led to the slaughterhouse. And they go willingly because they cling to those answers as if they were objective truths, when in reality they have simply adopted somebody else’s subjectively created answers. They submit themselves to the wills of others. They make themselves pawns to be used and abused in other’s dreams. The result of this is that the individual never learns who he or she truly is. They never get to know their soul – their intuitive and instinctive compass within the abyss of pure freedom.

And the truth is, there are no answers in life. We can never know anything for certain. We can only perceive what we experience, express how it makes us feel and think, and be guided by the so-called ‘answers’ we establish for ourselves. In the words of the late beautiful soul, Maya Angelou, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

Leaders should speak more often of this tragic human manipulation. Rather than simply herding the scared and the weak like human-cattle, leaders should guide them to the door of the abyss, to the place where they can begin guiding themselves, to the open range, so to speak.

Sadly, some leaders don’t want to free their human-cattle because that would leave them powerless to achieve their selfish agendas of vainglorious grandeur. Instead, they keep their beasts-of-burden locked in pens of fear, ensuring they don’t wander into the scary abyss, the open range full of dangerous predators, so that they may be worked to the bone until they are useless sacks of meat ready to be killed and devoured, momentarily quelling the insatiable hunger of their captors.

Nature is survival of the fittest, and cattle in pens are only fit to be used and eaten by humans on the outside. Real leaders are the people who break down the gates of these pens and free the human-cattle, releasing them into the open range where they might finally drop the “cattle” and learn what it means to be truly human.

The violent behavior of Rodger and Ybarra exemplified that of human-cattle locked up for too long. Rather than breaking free from their pens, the two young men went mad with fear, lashing out at those around them.

By treating the symptom that is anger rather than the cause that is fear, mental health care services are attempting to keep the human-cattle calm within their crowded pens. Mental health care should address the underlying issue that many people in America are afraid to dream because they feel as if their dreams don’t matter.

But our personal dreams are all that matter. If we abandon our dreams we are consenting to live in a world that we have no influence over, a world created by others and imposed upon us, a world in which we feel victimized, a world in which we feel oppressed, a world in which we are simply slaves to a system, a world we are aimlessly rebelling against, a world we do not feel a part of, a world we feel ostracized from, a world that is not our own.

Dream dreams of love and beauty, and create them in reality through your human freedom that is conscious choice.


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