I couldn't help myself.
Already inundated with news articles—report after incoming report, many crisscrossed with conflicting information—heartsick, mesmerized, righteous anger mingling with horror like a slow, sweet poison, I found myself unable to stop reading post after tweet after status update in the hours following the shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012.
In the aftermath of crisis, the human animal seeks its own for confirmation that the pack is still intact; checking our experience against the collective for proof that we are not alone. Rather than being comforted by this common outcry, I found myself becoming more and more agitated by a simple thread of sentiment that wound through nearly every response:
“I am deeply saddened by the news of the senseless violence…”
“…to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy…”
“…this unfathomable senseless act…”
“It is senseless and beyond reason…”
“Senseless violence…senseless tragedy…a senseless act.”
No, actually, it wasn’t.
To the man who gunned down seventy people in the movie theater with a shotgun and an assault rifle, this act of horror made perfect sense…and in his reality, there was a perfectly legitimate reason for doing it.
Even more primal than the pack mentality is the irrevocable drive for self-preservation, and the fight or flight response (i.e., running for your life or turning to face the T-Rex head on) hasn’t evolved much in 2 million years. The problem is, our modern world has—and for many people, the T-Rex no longer exists as a singular, identifiable external threat, but as a terrifying amalgam of belief systems, emotional patterns, cultural influence and family legacy, run amok across the tundra of their own psyches.
Add to this the fact that we are all multiple personality. Within every one of us are dozens of separate selves, each with its own job-description and emotional agenda, engaged in a constant battle of wills between reason and anarchy.
Add to this, the alarming disconnection our computerized, desensitized, digitized world has fostered—disconnection from reality, from ourselves, from each other, from God.
Given that equation, this latest senseless act, unfortunately, makes complete sense.
Whether it is discovered that the gunman suffers from some form of mental illness or personality disorder, or he’s found instead to have the same mental state as the average person, one fact will remain absolute: Some part of him was utterly convinced that this move was a necessary one; that in the process of destroying others he would feel, perhaps for the first time in his life, powerful.
In a perfect world, acts of terror and violence against our fellow man are absolutely senseless…because a perfect world isn’t populated by wounded, frightened, disenfranchised humans, fighting for their emotional lives, with M-16’s available at their local gun shop and anger and violence as their only viable recourse against feeling powerless.
I could make this post all about gun control, adding my own considerable opinion as a wordy Molotov cocktail on an already raging bonfire. Mark and I talked at length about it a few days ago, and he encapsulated my feelings brilliantly and succinctly when he said, “When the constitution was written, the right to bear arms meant this…” and then he mimed using a ramrod to prime the powder in an 18th century muzzleloader.
Actor Jason Alexander wrote a fantastic post about the gun control issue, so I don’t have to. For me, this issue includes, yet goes far beyond, gun control—this is about outdated systems and social structures that need to be honestly ratified in order to serve a world that is modern, mechanized, complicated, and far, far from perfect.
It is time that we truly become our brother’s keeper.
People are coming unglued, and those of us with any glue left need to come together to create a safer, more conscientious, more sustainable society—one in which the walking wounded can be identified, given comfort, help to heal, and, if necessary, protection from themselves and the urgings of their own darkness.
And it is time we stopped seeing things as random, senseless, meaningless…even if, emotionally, we cannot comprehend how they could possibly happen.
It’s not the act itself that we rail against, it’s the gross injustice within the act—the destruction of innocent lives, the fabric of an already fraying world torn wider in a single, irreversible turn.
But if we don’t begin to see these events as part of a bigger picture of revolution, demanding to happen, then we risk wasting the gifts inherent in their horror.
It’s another hardwired truth of human nature that we don’t learn, grow, or change unless we are uncomfortable with our current experience. It’s time to agree that we’ve reached critical mass on the spectrum of discomfort. It is time to use our shock and outrage and despair as prime motivation to begin making wise, informed modifications to the structures that govern our world.
I’m talking about all structures—political, educational, religious, financial, medical, legal, social. The structures that allow the CEO of a company to swindle dozens of investors out of their life savings. That enable a college football coach to sexually abuse children for 15 years rather than jeopardize the social standing of the school. That permit a civilian to purchase four guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition in a few weeks' time without someone, somewhere, saying WTF?
“Yeah, right,” argues the cynic in the balcony. “Those structures have been in place for centuries. And besides, some of them are governed by the very criminals they enable. How in God’s name can any one of us make a difference?”
God knows exactly what He’s doing. Turns out, the planets are lined up to support a revolution. Literally. And it’s about damn time. The darkness in our world is being pointed out to us, more readily and more dramatically than ever before, so there’s no mistaking what needs to be done. The volume has been turned up, so we can’t fall asleep and miss the lecture…and Cliff Notes are no longer an option if we want to pass the test.
But if we keep telling ourselves these explosions of violence and exposed corruption are random, senseless, meaningless, we will miss the very instruction necessary to begin to make a difference…and we dishonor the critical role the victims, as well as the perpetrators, played in the unfolding of the collective lesson.
The only way to truly make sense out of the senseless chaos of the human condition is to bring God into the equation.
If we continue to see our world through purely human eyes, overwhelm and its corresponding paralysis are just a blink away. But God always has the answer. Whatever we’ve gotten ourselves into, He will always have the solution, the direction, the perfect creative infusion; the desideratum necessary to move whatever challenge we’re facing into the territory of the Divine.
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Every day, ask God for absolute clarity regarding the role you can play in the revolution at hand. If you are meant to write the letter to the editor of your local paper that inspires your local congressman to propose changes to some local ordinance, which in turn inspires a national panel on the subject from which new legislation is submitted to congress and passed as a new law…God will let you know.
Believe me, you can’t mistake the call to action when it comes from the top.
And remember: You are only responsible for your piece of the puzzle, not the whole freaking picture. Just as it requires a chain of unwitting cooperation for a tragedy to play out, so it will ultimately require a vast collaboration of reasoning, passionate individuals to bring about the changes our world is demanding. It truly takes a village…for good, or for evil.
Revolution has happened before. A sea change has occurred. Amazing, miraculous beginnings have spread their wings and risen from the ashes of unspeakable adversity. But only when conscious people refuse to let the experience be in vain.
So write the letter, produce the radio program, speak at the conference, paint the picture, rock the babies, talk to the neighbors. Be willing to acknowledge and heal your own darkness, so that your light can shine as brightly as this extraordinary global transformation requires. And walk in the world for everyone who has sacrificed or suffered so that change can finally occur.
And every day, pray for guidance, and for the courage to let God move through you. Then let Him handle the rest.
To me, that’s the only thing that makes sense.