Dodging A Bullet: Hermekate, Synchronicity, and Mass Violence

Dodging A Bullet: Hermekate, Synchronicity, and Mass Violence

I’ve touched on a variety of topics which I can subjectively link to Hermekate, from reconciliation of opposites to controversies surrounding gender and culture; one phenomenon that is objectively highly gendered is that of mass violence. Mass shooters and those who commit other forms of mass violence tend to mostly be men, and their motives often boil down to some variation on a theme involving fragile or wounded masculinity trying in one last, desperate gasp to assert its antisocially distorted values about relevance and meaning; disconnected from the world after being trained that it must stand on its own, this dysfunctional masculine image can only validate its existence by lashing out. By now, we all know that guns are coded for dicks.

When I wrote the previous post signaling a shift in focus toward mental health and some “stories needing telling,” this isn’t one I had in mind because the tragic school shooting in Uvalde, TX didn’t happen until the next day. However, the other stories do involve the theme of synchronicity, I wasn’t sure how to approach dealing with its significance, but it turns out putting this story first solves all of those problems….which is…kind of how it’s been going writing this blog these last few months….and after all, I did mention in this post that Hermekatean symbolism has connections to targeting sights…

….for now, just sit back and take in the tale. It’s interesting, connecting the Unabomber with The Columbine Shooting. Any Jungian readers or magic/spirit workers who’ve experienced synchronicity will appreciate this as an example, and perhaps even more so, the puzzle of making meaning out of it.

Baptism and the Trenchcoat Mafia

In earlier posts such as When They Talk Back, I opened up a little bit about the time I spent living in northern California and about how my spirit work began spontaneously beside the Sacramento River; what I didn’t mention was what brought me there.

Shortly after my mother left us, my father abruptly quit his corporate job and opened up a franchise sandwich shop called Pot Belly Deli (not to be confused with the better-known Potbelly Sandwich Works!). Right around the corner from the State Capitol Building, a lot of his lunch clientele were legislators and other suits that my father figured would be repelled by my neon blue hair–so he would make me leave the deli and go take a walk during the lunch rushes.

The blue hair came in handy for him during the trial of Ted Kaczynski, otherwise known as The Unabomber, which was held just up the block from the deli; it got me on television on a coffee run for the news crews, wearing his deli’s apron.

The blue hair was also likely what drew the attention, one afternoon, of two gutterpunks and their dog. Their nicknames were Germ and Melody. They asked me for some change as I passed them on my way to “Old Sac,” the historic riverside district of Sacramento, but all I had on me was a twenty; I’d hit them up later on my way back after I broke it somewhere.

Following through on my word, I sat down in the shade next to them, on a raised lawn with our legs dangling over a retaining wall. I gave them a couple bucks and we hung out for a while. I remember they gave me shit about my Rancid t-shirt because Rancid were sellouts to them (they preferred Oi bands).

Then, they passed me a plastic White Sox cup full of clear liquid which I naively assumed to be water (it was gin) along with a joint.

There I was, all of 15, drinking straight gin from a plastic cup with a couple of gutterpunks. I got severely drunk for the first time in my life, and, because I was making too much of a scene, I remember they decided to toss me into the Sacramento River after we had wandered to its edge.

Oh, the consequences that would stem from that afternoon…I can see so many. Alcohol abuse would be the first and most obvious, but meeting these people also broke new ground in terms of my burgeoning deviance; they had literally wandered into town in a boxcar, were planning to leave soon, and had invited me to go with them. I seriously considered it until the very day they left town. I stopped short of packing my bags the night before. I was totally ready to do it. I think back on that: Not long after my mother left, an older couple and their dog enable my freshly-learned addictions and offer to whisk me away from the life I knew. They had already been fairly abusive toward me, but that was okay, I was ready to accept it and go with them (another pattern I’ve repeated over and over in different ways–even my friend group back home at the time spent at least half their time making me the butt of their jokes and to this day I’m sure that was my primary value to them). Our story, however, picks up at a time when so many of the seeds sown that afternoon had come to fruition.


When Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris gunned down 12 students at Columbine High School in what is likely the first prominent shooting many of us living today can remember (although it was preceded, I was surprised to learn this week, by the Thurston High School shooting of 1998), I was on the MacNeal hospital adolescent psych ward being released. I never became a school shooter, but as I’ve detailed in earlier posts, I was a seriously angry kid. I’ve never owned a gun or been very interested in them, but in 1999, the year this went down, I was drawing targets on the faces of people I didn’t like in my yearbook. I fit the profile of the shooters (it’s amazing how cliques were often organized by stuff like musical genre and attendant subculture, but the Columbine shooters would definitely have hung out with “the gazebo kids” after school like I did. One thing that characterized our group was, indeed, how much we got bullied by people from other groups, because we were considered the “freaks,” and yes, I had an axe to grind about it. What I’m trying to say is that I was probably headed down a similar road–but I got help instead. I have some recurrent gripes about how I was helped, yes, but the fact that it was going on might have kept something bad from happening; instead I’m sitting here today, having spent the day studying contemporary frameworks for mental health treatment, never having shot a living person.

Anyway, three days after I got out, the Dropkick Murphys were in town, playing a show at The Metro. I had two friends interested in seeing the show: Bob, who already had tickets, and Mario, who, like me, did not. The three of us took the Blue Line downtown, Mario and I hoping to score some tickets at the door; we did not. Bob went into the show, and Mario and I went over to the Wrigleyville hot dog stand. Mario got on the payphone to call someone he knew to see if we could hang out at her place while we waited for Bob to get out of the show.

While he was on the phone, I glanced up Clark St. and saw a shabby figure standing next to a garbage can about half a block away; wearing a knit beanie and imbibing from a two-liter of what I later learned was rum and coke, I did a double-take before approaching her, dumbfounded.

Melody?”

She looked up at me confused–so it must be her. She couldn’t recognize me (not surprising, as I do imagine she was already drunk) until I introduced myself as “the Rancid kid from Sacramento,” and then it clicked. After this, sentiments waxed jovial and she invited Mario and I to while away the time outside the show with she and her new male companion. No more boxcars–this one had a hatchback. When I turned to invite Mario (did he feel a disturbance in the force or what?) he was extremely hesitant.

“This is a bad idea, Dan. Nah, Dan, c’mon, let’s just go get something to eat. Dan? Fuckin’….god damn it….”

On my insistence, we tailgated in the parking lot at Wrigleyville Dogs, and things did eventually take a nasty turn: Melody was asking me what I knew about the city, and I was talking about the neighborhood I knew.

Something many outsiders don’t know about Chicago is that historically, it’s been one of the most segregated cities in the world. Though this is changing, it’s traditionally known for ethnically-segregated neighborhoods and people generally “sticking with their kind.” The neighborhood my family comes from was, for many years, peopled mostly by Czechs and Poles, but by 1999, was mostly Hispanic. My grandfather was one of the last Polish holdouts, and he did have a chip on his shoulder about the change in demographic, that was a matter of fact. Being drunk, I was probably sloppy in my delivery here, but it turned out Melody was half Mexican and talking about this offended her. Her boyfriend (probably in his 30s) had to step up and prove his valor by dropping me and kicking my head into a chain-link fence. I think I learned a lesson about cultural sensitivity that evening, incidentally. It wouldn’t be the last one I would need. Nope, not perfect.

Needless to say, we couldn’t keep waiting with these folks, so we started moseying. I remember we got stopped by the police and asked if we were members of the trenchcoat mafia, which I think highlights the naiveté of law enforcement when encountering something that doesn’t fit into an easy mold about the world. By that evening I was back at MacNeal, having my ear stitched up in the E.R.

Extraction

Soon enough, I’ll be shifting toward synchronicity as a subject of its own, but it’s time to start introducing some of its themes. Synchronicity is when two or more events seem connected in some unseen way, or when some outer event corresponds and resonates very strongly with some established inner meaning. It typically occurs in such a way that to the perceiver, the imminent presence of meaning is palpable, obvious, and undeniable, and yet trying to explain it to an outsider often proves frustrating and anticlimactic, if it’s even possible. Agonizingly, this is often true even when sharing a synchronistic story with someone you know also understands synchronicity–because the meaning is usually so personal that even though they get it, it doesn’t have the same effect. Even if they say, “that’s a good one,” it’s hard not to feel deflated on trying to communicate about these special occurrences. It’s one of those “you had to be there” things.

Often, synchronicities are vague; they are so striking, and yet it’s often difficult or impossible to discern what, if anything, one might actually mean. For most of the ones I’ve had in my life, the most I can say they meant is that they meant “something.” Sometimes I think that’s just it: They “mean meaning,” or in other words, they remind us that life has meaning by making that fact seem irrefutable, even if utterly irrational.

But this one? I see the Unabomber and the Columbine shooting–two events that have left deep impressions on the collective psyche of the United States–being connected to one another across time and space by a highly improbable crossing of paths. What connections do we see in both events? It’s not necessarily the intent of this post to extract everything that can be extracted from said connection; truly, there’s a lot to unpack. For one, there are very important differences between what mass shooters are typically doing and what the Unabomber was doing–but what about the common elements?

The semantic thread that serves as the bridge in this story is me, and my legacy of teenage deviance (read: suffering). I, evidently, got adequate help–did Harris and Klebold?

Did Salvador Ramos?

Here’s the main meaning I can tease out from the story, sitting here on May 26th, 2022 and thinking about what our country is processing (yet again):

Gun control is, to put it mildly, a partisan issue; generally, if you’re Republican in this country, you want guns to be as freely-available as possible, and if you’re a Democrat, you probably argue until you’re hoarse in the throat about the need to tighten controls.

In the midst of this arises what I am frankly shocked to see is a dilemma (I don’t think it should be a dilemma and it’s sad that this is the position at which we’ve arrived in this country): Governor Abbott immediately leans on mental illness as the explanation for this most recent shooting and politicization muddies the waters in two ways:

  • This is taken by many on the political left as a strategy to pull attention away from gun control (and to be fair, I think there’s truth in this).
  • Mental health advocates begin scrambling to create a sense of distance between mental illness and mass violence because they’re afraid that such an association will unnecessarily stigmatize mentally ill people.

While I can understand the concerns afoot in both of these responses, I personally think such reactions smack of political gamesmanship, and that both outlooks are short-sighted. What I find most fascinating is that all I have to say is that I think mental health matters, and often the assumption is made that I’m speaking against gun control. For one: I did not say that. Two: It does not follow. Three: While it’s true that rhetorically, we can only focus on one thing at a time, and yes, gun control is a key issue for people on both sides of the political divide, I gotta say….

…..this is not (solely) about politics.

As a person who struggles with mental illness, I can appreciate fears about being inadvertently associated with people like mass shooters by mere virtue of that label; not all mentally ill people are shooters, no.

But please, people: Mass shooters are not mentally well, and they need help. This is not an either-or situation, but the pandemic of mass violence is a psychological problem in our country for which comprehensive mental health support will be an indispensable part of the solution.

If admitting that means “the other team,” whichever team happens to be your “other,” scores a few extra points?

So what?

I’m a sufferer of mental illness, studying to become a mental health professional. I’m not a politician. It’s very clear to me what is needed on those fronts.

And like any good occultist, I begin addressing the scourge of mass masculine violence by addressing its manifestations within the Self.

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