The Will to Kill

Leaving the gun control issue aside (I know we can’t really, but it’s not what this post is about, if you have the will to read on), I find myself pondering how it is that so many young people (and others, not so young) in this country have arrived at a mindset where they have calculated that slaughtering a large number of people—children, adults, whatever—is somehow a thing that they’re ready, willing, and able to meticulously plan and carry out with absolute cold hearted ruthlessness. Knowing they’re likely to die, or even planning on dying themselves as an end result.

How is that rational, or even sane?

How are we not spotting this level of mental instability? Or hatred? Or evil? How can someone be appearing to conduct a relatively “normal” life then suddenly commit an appalling atrocity? What’s going on out there? Are there no warning signs? Can we point to a root cause or causes?

Even if you could erase every gun from the face of the earth (which might be really awesome in the long run, as long as you never find yourself faced with a violent attacker you were unable to subdue with your martial arts skills), how is it we would still have so many people walking around on our planet with such an astonishingly callous lack of regard for human life, and such a grim desire/determination to exterminate it?

What in the actual fuck is happening in the hearts of the folks who are pulling the triggers, and the ones who are wanting to do it right now, the ones whose private journals are being written even as I type this sentence? God help us as a civilization if we don’t figure that shit out.

Riddle me that, however you plot your political position on the continuum.

By the way, I don’t own a gun and probably never will. I’m not really that emotionally invested in gun ownership. I’m all for banning assault rifles and toughening laws regarding ownership and responsibility for safe storage. All that, and more, would be fine with me. That’s not my inquiry here. It’s about the prevalence of the WILL to KILL–not just some individual that slept with your wife or ruined you financially with an evil scheme, but–large numbers of people, even children. To murder them. Mercilessly. This seems a largely modern phenomenon.

The Beatles, “Get Back”

To be clear, I’m a huge Beatles fan. If you’re not, I’m fine with that. Music, like most forms of artistic expression, hits our senses and sensibilities very differently. Debating the Fab Four’s relative creative worth is a waste of time. The music moves you, or it doesn’t. End of debate.

For me, The Beatles collective body of work is impressive in its quality and quantity; it’s an evolving musical landscape that can be raucous, silly, plaintive, intelligent, poignant, and beautiful … sometimes all in the same song. I don’t love everything they’ve ever done, but I love a lot of it. It moved me upon first hearing and it continues to move me decades later.

If you’ve watched, or are watching, the (long and winding) Peter Jackson documentary “Get Back,” I’m guessing you’re a pretty serious Beatles fan too. I’m helplessly fascinated, watching the four of them interact: being loony, inspired, frustrated, brotherly, undisciplined, petty, generous, cheeky, and brilliant. Time, talent, and pop culture have turned these guys into living legends, so everything they say and do becomes somehow larger and more significant than it likely was while it was happening.

I’m amused by the (seemingly) infinite articles being written about the documentary. They seem intent on interpreting every little word and gesture with articulate flair, as if the authors of the articles have any real idea what these four young artists were thinking nearly 60 years ago. My guess is if you could (magically) talk to each of The Beatles—and if they answered honestly, without filters—you’d have four quite different versions of the filmed events and none of them would remotely resemble these incessant long-distance interpretations.

My advice about watching “Get Back?” Don’t bother with the futile guessing games or trying to reconstruct why The Beatles broke up. If you’re a fan, watch the documentary for the sheer joy of it. Watch John, Paul, George, and Ringo as they piece together iconic songs that have become a permanent part of your musical psyche. Soak up this moment in time and enjoy sitting in with these compelling personalities that have improved your life and mine with their wonderful library of songs.

Seven Billion Saviors

Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?

–Job 38:12



One day every living human being became Jesus. Well, not Jesus exactly. No one was divine. No one had miraculous powers. No one thought they were the son or daughter of any god. It would be more accurate to say that everyone became morally pure.

The will to harm was gone. Feelings of superiority−gone. Lust for power−gone. Ego−gone.

Not only did every person understand what had happened to them, this Christification, they understood that it had happened to everyone else as well.

Prison guards immediately opened cells and opened gates. Cops took handcuffs off freshly-arrested criminals. Killers and rapists, abusers and thieves flooded the streets of the world and no one tried to capture them. No one was afraid of them.

Extra-marital affairs stopped. Unscrupulous business practices ceased. Wars ended. Unequivocally, instantly.

At first, there was a lot of crying. A haunting, inescapable grief shook every soul. A universal contemplation of the incalculable suffering humanity had inflicted upon itself since the dawn of its awakening. Such a weight. Such ugliness. It had to be mourned.

Then joy erupted. Literal leaping, whirling, and dancing in the streets. An absolute abandonment to newfound freedom. Freedom from every kind of addiction, freedom from every emotional oppression. The hurt were free from fear and any desire for vengeance. The hurters were free from guilt and any desire to hurt again.

Wealthy people drove their super-expensive cars into impoverished neighborhoods. They walked into barber shops and liquor stores and fast food joints. They asked people what they needed and went about meeting the needs. Of course they would do that. Most natural thing in the world.

Inequity, suddenly, was unthinkable. Political parties, irrelevant. Racism, absurd.

Religion, unnecessary. War, obsolete.

Essentially, life on Earth (silly as it may sound) became a John Lennon song.

Artists, for a moment, were puzzled. What did one write about or make movies about if there were no conflicts, no bad guys? What did one paint if there was no evil, no cruelty? What did one sing about if lovers never hurt each other?

The answers came. Love, of course. Nature. Children. Touch, taste, sight, smell, and sound. Wonder. Sex. So much of the old art now seemed macabre, obsessed with the wrong things; a reflection of an inner condition that no longer existed in the human heart.

Sadness was fair game−it didn’t disappear. People got sick. Accidents happened. Natural disasters. Birth defects. People died.

Suffering, however, only happened in the natural course of living; people no longer deliberately chose to cause the suffering of others or themselves. People no longer withheld charity or denied love. Why would they? Why would anyone desecrate so profound a gift as life?



As you can see, it isn’t so hard for a fool to imagine a world where the fundamental and constant nature of mankind is good. A world where we have free will, yet are gently constrained by an overwhelming inner desire to do no harm, to do the most good; where we act out of the very core of who we are. Who we were made to be.

What if we had begun like that? Would that have been so bad?

(This is a story/essay that is in my book Under Different Suns: Stories from the Multiverse. The complete collection of short stories is available on Amazon for .99.)

Under Different Suns: Stories from the Multiverse

UDS Final Edit w border1





Rest In Peace: Johnny Winter

Photo by John Kinsler
Photo by John Kinsler

I shook Johnny Winter’s thin, pale hand back in the winter of 2007 when his manager Paul Nelson introduced me to him. This was in the band’s trailer before a show at Dundee’s Clearwater Theater. Nelson said, “This is the journalist who wrote all those nice things about you.” I had just published a piece about Winter in The Courier promoting him and the Clearwater show. Winter answered some questions I’d emailed his manager and I worked up a historical piece, put the e-interview at the end of it.

I wish I could tell you I remember a bunch of cool stuff Winter said to me that night, but I don’t. I was a little overwhelmed by being there. I remember he was gracious, quiet, mellow, spoke softly. He and his manager and band mates told stories about clueless journalists asking very uninformed questions. I nodded and laughed and hoped they weren’t about to roast me. They didn’t.

At the height of his career, Johnny Winter put everything into his playing and singing. He had style and speed and originality. His voice had soul and gravel. I think it’s fair to say he made an important contribution to the music world.

Thanks for sharing your music with us, Johnny. Rock on.

CNN Article:

Courier News Article Dec 2007
Courier News Article Dec 2007