Tuesday, August 22nd 2017

The Travis Bickle archetype: How an English major became a mass-murderer

“Pain bodies don’t like to be looked at . . . they thrive in non-attention,” spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle says in the short video below.

It speaks directly to the psychology of Seung-hui Cho, a child immigrant from South Korea who grew up in the Washington suburbs — and this week, transformed himself from a Virginia Tech English student into a mass-murderer.

Tolle’s point in the video is that there is an addictive quality to the thoughts of anger that cycle through each of our heads — and our consumption of external images in news, TV and movies (like Taxi Driver) of angry characters acting out violent scenes. They feed a little entity in each of us, an unconscious program we’ve embedded in our personalities. Tolle’s term of art for it is “the pain body.”

Cho’s pain-body seemed to thrive in an atmosphere of extreme inattention, due both to his loner social-status and lack of a center in his own psyche.

According to a report compiled by the L.A. Times, Cho had no close friends, gave people who addressed him one-word answers, and didn’t date — although he was reported, and treated, for stalking behaviors.

Stephanie Derry, a Virginia Tech classmate of Cho’s, told the student newspaper, Collegiate Times, that the 23-year-old lived in a private universe inside his own head:

“He would just sit and watch us, but wouldn’t say anything. It was his lack of behavior that really set him apart. He basically just kept to himself, very isolated. He was just there,” Derry said. “I can’t even describe it.”

What was going on inside Cho’s private world? Lots of circular thinking devoid of any direct connection to his immediate surroundings, senses or circumstances. The site Smoking Gun posted the manuscript of a play he handed in for a writing class, Richard McBeef:

Cho’s bizarre play features a 13-year-old boy who accuses his stepfather of pedophilia and murdering his father. . . The teenager talks of killing the older man and, at one point, the child’s mother brandishes a chain saw at the stepfather. The play ends with the man striking the child with “a deadly blow.”

We don’t know much about Cho’s media consumption, other than his addiction to wrestling shows, but he clearly became a human portal for a lot of dark matter.

A lesson for those of us who remain among the living is suggested in these lines from Tolle’s piece on the pain body:

One doesn’t see the madness of our civilization because we’re so used to it . . . When you watch your own tragedy and realize it as a story, when you watch your own drama and realize it as a mind-created fiction designed to give you a sense of identity in the absence of any true sense of identity . . . When you see your own drama as illusion, then you either laugh or smile.

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3 Comments on “The Travis Bickle archetype: How an English major became a mass-murderer”

  1. [...] Bonnie Parker’s poetry: The Story of Suicide Sal. Remind you at all of Seung-hui Cho’s “creative writing?” The site Smoking Gun posted the manuscript of a play he [...]

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