Marilyn Manson & Good News

I was recently watching an old documentary, “Bowling for Columbine”. Now, don’t’ stop reading here and assume I’m a Michael Moore, communism loving hippie. Rather, I had this running in the background while working… and was struck by a tiny little snippet in the film, where Moore talks briefly with Marilyn Manson.

There they sit in a small dingy room, picture every backstage pre-show room you’d imagine, and Manson sits, painted white face, with black lines and his over-the-top bright and almost eerie contacts. He’s the consummate caricature, almost always ready for a show. The initial reaction for a lot of us is to write that off, to look at him as a weirdo… a strange guy and just tune him out.

However, something different happens entirely. In just a short snippet, Moore asks Marilyn his thoughts on Columbine (The context being that Manson in the early 2000’s was a much maligned artist, that the shooters were reported to be big fans of). At first Manson offers a few simple thoughts on the kids there, he’s soft spoken and genuine behind all the makeup. The first answers were short, simple though warm and thoughtful, it gave a sense that Manson could easily relate to those kids. He could understand those who felt like outsiders, who felt different and misunderstood… It’s easy to see the connection.

Then Moore asks an extremely potent question: “What would you say to those kids if you could talk to them?” To which Manson response without hesitation — “I wouldn’t. I would just listen.”

I heard that one simple line and sat back in my chair, struck by the depth of that response. The insight into what was really needed. Manson shows us something we miss in the conversation, that our labels of the “crazy, dangerous, unstable kids who did the shootings” don’t describe. He knew, maybe more so he felt, that the roots of this kind of violence were in the disenfranchisement. It was in the lack of being known and connected, feeling lost and hurt that people… hurt others.

It was in just one short and seemingly simple answer, that I heard the depth of what is most often needed. When we are our most broken, our points of highest potential for violence, is when we are desperate for someone to listen. That in being understood we might be saved, from ourselves as someone takes the time to stop and listen, deeply listen.

In the face of a deep and disturbing hurt and pain, maybe we all need to remember to not look to first say something, to insert our own ideas and views on to the “other”. Rather to stop and not ask anything… but just listen. I know that’s a lesson I badly need to learn. Everyday.