22 December 2012

After the Tragedy...Again

The buzz of outrage and grief is widespread and audible across the country eight days after the tragic mass killing in an elementary schoolhouse in Newtown, CT. 

Average citizens beat their breasts and moan "Why?!" and broadcast media intones the same question but masks it with the furrowed brow and somber enunciation their profession requires at such times. "Investigators are still conducting interviews and searching the home for clues to explain what motivated this heinous act."

The question is ridiculous and ultimately unanswerable but its spontaneous anguished utterance by a largely unenlightened society is no surprise. More sinister and frustrating are the political and civic leaders, the news analysts and ministers and educators who publicly entertain the question -- whether sincerely or not -- as though it is ever possible to know "why" anyone does anything or "why" anything happens, let alone the questionable value of the answer to the question. The answer will be hypothetical and the particulars unique to each situation.

The spokespeople have the privilege of highly visible and regularly witnessed soapboxes. People listen to them; society takes cues from them. They could make a valuable contribution toward the evolution of consciousness among us by speaking to the larger deeper issues that hide behind the simplistic, useless "why".

The NRA's outrageously inappropriate and short-sighted suggestion to place armed guards in every schoolhouse is also no surprise. It's another response to the impossible "why?!" People are demanding an answer. You feel like you gotta say something....

As is usually the case when confronted with a problem or mystery, we want easy, immediate answers and solutions. It's a cultural proclivity that we see over and over again. Can't afford that new furniture? Get a quick loan. Can't "control" your kids? Give them a pill? Feeling lonely? Call 800-???-??? and find love tonight.

Wanting a quick, concrete explanation of why a lonely young man would make off with his mothers arsenal and automobile, kill her, wreak bloody havoc in a school and then kill himself? Want someone to blame for the pain you're feeling?

Among the people and things I've seen blamed over the past week:  President Obama, the NRA, the gunman's mother, society, Congress, gun manufacturers, Satan, lax security at schools, the high cost and/or unavailability of mental health providers, gun dealers, Evil,.....

Identifying where to place blame will not prevent this from happening again. Demonizing a group or individual will not prevent this from happening again.

We want only "good" things to happen. We want to never ever feel pain. We want to understand everything.

And yet, as is abundantly clear, life continues to bring both good and bad things. We continue to experience pain and pleasure. There's a lot we don't understand.

When the rain falls, the option is there to cry "Why is it raining?! Why, why, why isn't the sun shining?" But the question will neither stop the rain nor prevent it from ever happening again.

Other options include taking a course in climatology to learn more about rain
procuring an umbrella to stand beneath and a raincoat to wear (if you don't like getting wet)
stomping around in puddles
composing a poem or a piece of music that expresses your disappointment
doing something indoors till the rain ends
collecting some rain and washing your hair

None of these will stop the rain or prevent it from happening again, either.

I don't mean to equate the horror of Newtown with an untimely downpour. What I mean is that asking "why?" in hopes of preventing or predicting the occurrence of "bad" events is pointless. A more relevant inquiry is how to live, given that something will always be happening and not all of it will be what we want to happen.

Shit happens.
Grace happens.
Mystery happens.

How do I live as the precious, priceless wonder that I am in a universe that doesn't know my name?