In the face of death and tragedy, it is normal to cling to the idea of life, joy, and happiness. The problem arises, though, because most people do not want to accept that none of these things can be held on to. It is an awful and sobering reality to see people merely going to a concert died because someone decided it was a good idea to shoot up the crowd with 10 assault rifles. No one likes being reminded of mortality, and it is easy to wonder where the world has gone wrong.
Attachment is the root of suffering.
It seems when awful things happen, people tend to swing to this insane extreme of super loving life, and super Carpe Diem, and super protecting this notion of safety, peace, and protection to escape suffering they aren’t even aware of. This does not solve a damn thing, though. It’s like trying to grab air for stability. Happiness is a state of being and it is a purely internal experience. It is not conditional on any external. Yet, we instinctively chase it when we see death, because we are so sick we don’t see we are it. We are happiness.
“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.”
Kids do not worry about death or the quality of their life. They just live, and they are the wisest of us all. It is instinctive in parents to protect their children, and worry what the world will do to them. I find myself more anxious of the stupidity I’ve tainted them with then the risk of someone shooting them, but both are realities and possibilities.
Their reactions proved to me I’m doing just fine. They were sad for what happened, and they promptly forgot about it, lost in playing with stuffed animals and reading books. What else can be done? There’s no sense fearing getting shot when there are so many toys to enjoy!
We’re all presently too damn stupid to know if we were in heaven, hell, purgatory, or whatever other destination we’re too busy chasing. I watch my children and I learn from them. Their school let them bring stuffed animals in to be blessed for the Feast of St. Francis yesterday and my youngest said, “Well, Rex got missed by the blessing, but it was okay, I just wiped some off the floor.” Laughing at his serious little face wiping blessings off the floor for all eternity could be perfectly fine as my heaven. That moment came and went in a flash, I cannot hold on to that feeling, and I cannot keep him from outgrowing those notions or anything else really. Parenting is a crash course in Buddhism, indeed. You learn very quickly how futile attachment is, and change is the only constant.
Jeff Goldblum, as Dr. Ian Malcolm said:
Life breaks free, it expands to new territories, and crashes through barriers painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh, well, there it is.
People, in their suffering, turn then to all forms for protection and escapism of that reality – God, Government, Drugs, Toys, and the most addictive forms of thought: Blame and Guilt. Before the cadavers cooled, there were tomes of speculations for why this heinous crime was committed. People donned their Sherlock Holmes hats and with their finest words, presented opinions as facts. This desperate quest to find a why from the lips of a dead man is futile and all it does is obfuscate a truth that so many do not wish to embrace.
You will die one day. It may be at the end of a gun, it may be from a heart attack, or it may be from a ham sandwich. There will be no reason beyond it was time to die.
People kill people. Animals kill animals. Life and death are inextricable. It is the great termination of death that inspires people to live. Yet the great fear of death seems to prevent people from actually living. I think we’ve all become so consumed with our beautiful first world problems that we forget the way the world actually works. You can either fear the tragedy, or see the opportunity it presents.
If we all know that death, sadness, and suffering are real, there, and omnipresent, then we conversely know that life, happiness, and joy are real, there, and omnipresent. Your ability to live in either is a matter of choice and perspective – nothing else. Children innately know this, because they haven’t yet learned fear or anxiety.
What can I do? Why is the world like this? Why is there so much bad?
Mass shootings make people feel unsafe, divided, separate, and suspicious of our fellow man. It’s as if we suddenly realize a truth that was always there – someone could kill me at any moment. What so many miss is the opportunity to see the good in man. As easily as someone could kill you at any moment, someone could make you laugh, fall in love, or buy you a coffee. These occurrences happen far more frequently than a man shooting in a crowd, and they are ignored and forgotten. There is no news in “ordinary” life, even though death is just as ordinary. You will see what you look for – in everything.
How could God allow something like this to happen? Is this a punishment from God?
This is not about God or the Devil, unless you are saying they live in the man who did this, which makes more sense to me than any celestial aboves or belows. Yet, when faced with the frightening reality of death, people tend to chase one or the other. We cry that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, yet happily march people off to kill other people in the same fashion for the name of oil, money, safety, freedom, or whatever buzzword gives the jollies. This is apparently not evil, yet the premise this man was killing innocents for a reason is evil. It’s baffling. We say how unsafe things are forgetting famine, warlords, cartels, crusades, slavery, death, blood, dismemberment are all part of our history and present. Cain kills Abel pretty quick in the Bible, because we frail egos on this green and blue orb do not like to share.
With all the free time we have thanks to technology, we sit on blinking rectangles and argue with each other to tell them to come to whatever extreme. Fear and pain fester and blot out the true nature of the world. People apply labels like bad and evil as if they have a clue. They take this situation and use it to validate their viewpoint however it works best. If people had guns, they could have returned fire. If guns were illegal, this man would have been thwarted. Yet, it did happen and it will continue to happen. It will likely get worse.
But what does worse mean?
Events like this cause massive ripples in the collective consciousness. Fear and pain are shock waves through the world as we are forced to come to grips with the severe truth that we are not as civilized as we like to say we are. The fingers get pointed to the man, whatever diagnosis will get slapped on him, and whatever soapbox someone wants to use this situation to champion. It’s all irrelevant and not a damn thing is a fact.
No one seems to care about facts anymore, opinions are far more important. They are sexier and they get more clicks. No one cares about actually conveying information, they want to get people to click, watch, consume, and be advertised to. That is the truth people keep overlooking. The news outlets, media, culture – none of this is good for you, none of this is your friend. This is all noise to distract you. This is meant to keep you afraid and consuming to protect yourself.
Yet, there are some who may have a different reaction all together. They realize this is a continuing symptom of a sick society. Sick not because of mental illness, sick not because of a lack of morals, we are all sick because we have no clue who the hell we are. We identify ourselves in externals and possessions. Our self worth is as good as what is tangible – our house, our car, our whatever. Miracles always come with a tragedy, because the two are different sides of the same coin. Tragedies have a way of inviting you to take a step inside yourself, and the miracle of transcendence and transformation is often in the soil of suffering.
If I were to get shot at a concert, what do I leave behind? Where do I go? Have I truly lived? What do I want to do with my life?
The opportunity in a tragedy, the blessing in a curse, is the presentation of one of the most powerful forms of thought, communication, and our consciousness: A Question. Socrates was so effective in his teaching because he did not teach. He merely asked questions. Questions are scary nowadays. Everyone wants to be certain about everything, and it is getting really messy because people have accepted opinions as facts now.
People feel awful at the loss of life, and it is sad. I’m not going to try to say, oh well who cares that 60 people died seeing a country concert. I have so much compassion for the suffering of countless lives affected in the wake of this. However, I cannot help but ask questions.
“What can I learn from this?”
I cannot answer this for you, I can answer it for me, and I desperately want to hear others’ views, not soapboxes. This tragedy is an invitation. It is an invitation to see beyond your own perspective. Step outside all of the chatter and talking heads. This world is getting very, very crazy indeed.
What are you going to do about it? Are you going to get more scared? Are you going to avoid concerts? Are you going to give every white dude you see the stink eye? Are you going to allow fear to live your life for you?
The point of life is to live it. The point of a tragedy is to remind you to do just that. If you want to see a change in the world, in the collective consciousness, your only way to make that happen is to be it. Live it. Do it. Don’t talk about it, and don’t force your opinions on others. At the end of the day, your belief system, if that is what I’m babbling about, is another opinion. People get really worked up about that, and I understand, but it doesn’t change the reality.
Maybe a few more people will start asking questions in the wake of this. Maybe changes will come, and I don’t mean litigious. Anyone can write a damn law, who gives a shit? They get broken every second.
Death is a part of life and suffering is a part of happiness. You cannot have miracles without tragedies, and you cannot have hope without despair.
This leaves me with one choice: continue learning from my children, smile at the people I see, love the people I can, and continue asking questions until someone tells me to shut up.
I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a [bankrupt] Toys ‘R Us kid…