It’s what we all want to know, regardless of the tragedy in question. From the shootings last week in Aurora, CO, to natural disasters, to illness, to accidents, to election results we want to know why things happen – and the more the thing offends our sensibilities, the more we want to know why. Yet, in a way that question can be an offense to the victims of tragedy, in that it implies that somehow their loss is less tragic if we can explain it – as if the pain a parent whose six-year-old child was just shot by a lunatic in a movie theater would be lessened by an explanation for the shooter’s actions.
The truth is that we want to know why because we want to put things away, to avoid the feelings that senseless tragedy brings up, and to be able to assure ourselves that such things could never happen to us. Both reasons are exercises in minimizing our very being because we need to feel the pain and anxiety senseless tragedy stirs in us and we need to know that there are no guarantees in life. One day, we all will die. Whether it happens in a senseless tragedy or in a nursing home at the age of one hundred and four, we will one day die.
It’s the same need for explanations, answers, and certainty that drives people to fundamentalist religious perspectives, and those same fundamentalists often look at tragedies like the Batman shootings and try to convince people that somehow God will either make it right or God’s will was behind this tragedy in some bizarre, twisted way. Quite frankly, I can’t decide who is the bigger asshole – people who believe this tripe or the god they construct and worship. One sure way to get punched in the nose is to tell someone impacted by a tragedy that either God willed it or that they shouldn’t worry because God will make it okay. Among those most needing a punch in the nose are the so-called spiritual leaders clamoring to offer their “explanation” for what ultimately has no explanation, and then repeatedly promoting their self-serving nonsense in hopes of prospering from the suffering of others.
We will do almost anything to avoid dealing with feelings – our own or others – won’t we?
The truth is that, as the bumper sticker suggests, shit happens. Sometimes we can explain it, but often we cannot. In either case, the job of those not impacted by the tragedy is to offer love, compassion, and support to those who were impacted. Leave the explanations to those doing the investigation, but hold the need for explanations loosely in recognition of the truth that there are things in this world that just don’t make any sense – and perhaps that’s as it should be. If we could explain everything and if we knew everything, we just might descend into emotionless beings who could no more sit in awe at a beautiful sunset than they could weep at the loss of a child.
I weep with those who were impacted at that theater in Aurora, and I weep with the shooter, the depth of whose pain must be unimaginable. I pray that we all allow ourselves to feel whatever we are feeling and that we refuse to settle for the easy answers that short-circuit emotion and insult intelligence.