Tragedy – Making Sense of Senselessness

Sometimes the world we live in can seem an ugly place. We see natural disasters, economic failure, war, and personal tragedy in the news every day. In fact, sometimes it seems like these visions of suffering are all that is ever shown in the media. Of course we know, if we think about it, that the world is more than just death, destruction and despair. But that doesn’t mean we can easily ignore the violence we see on TV or on the web , or that we should ignore it.

Today, an absolutely devastating event occurred in Aurora, Colorado, when around 12am a young  man named James Holmes let himself in through the side door of a theater as dozens of men, women and children prepared to view the first showing of the new film “The Dark Knight Rises”. Holmes, a 24 year old grad student at University of Colorado – Denver, was wearing body armor head-to-toe and had painted his hair red. He was carrying two smoke (or tear gas, reports are unclear) grenades, an assault rifle, a shotgun and a .40 caliber pistol, in addition to which he had a second pistol left in his vehicle and booby-traps in his apartment. He walked in through that side door and let off one of the smoke canisters. Apparently some of the audience believed it to be a stunt related to the movie. But then, Holmes opened fire on the crowd and began attempting to pick people off at random as they fled the theater. The reports state that 14 people have died, with at least 50 or so injured, some of them in critical care at the University of Colorado Hospital that is just minutes away from both the theater and Holmes’s apartment.

There is no word better suited to this than simply tragedy.

Not only were adults and teens caught in the crossfire, a three-month-old infant was injured and a six-year old child killed. This is undoubtedly one of the worst mass civilian shootings in this country in decades.

Now, the question is how do we respond to an event like this?

No doubt many of us would prefer to ignore it, sweep it under the rug. Pretend it didn’t happen. Because certainly nothing like that could ever happen to us!

But consider: One of the women killed in the shooting, Jessica Redfield, was nearly a victim in a prior shooting in a mall in Toronto just a month ago. She wrote about her experience quite eloquently in her blog, here.

Also, consider this: I’ve been to this theater before. I lived in Denver from 2004-2008 when I attended the University of Denver. There was a theater just a few blocks away from our campus, but it didn’t always play some of the films my friends and I wanted to go see. So occasionally we would drive from Denver to its suburb, Aurora, to visit this theater instead. Oh, yes, and the only time I was hospitalized for longer than a day while I lived in Colorado was at the University of Colorado Hospital, where the victims of the shooting are hopefully recovering as I write this.

So while we might think that something of this nature will never happen to us (I’m sure Jessica thought her near miss in Toronto more than fulfilled her life’s quota for random violence), the reality is that we just don’t know.

We don’t know how or why the universe works the way it does. We have made a lot of intelligent guesses, and we can make some general predictions about how the world will react to the decisions we make. But ultimately it comes down to this: we can’t know what tomorrow will bring.

This part in the post is where I decide how to “spin” this story. Like it or not, every time we recount an experience (of our own or in this case of a group of strangers) we portray it in the manner in which we want others to see it.

I could use this story as a vehicle for expressing my political views. I could make it a story about gun control, as many have and will. I could make it a story about violence in the media and movies. I could use the story as a lead in to talk about mental illness and our poor understanding of it.

There are probably hundreds of ways that I could spin this story, and by that means, to make whatever point I wanted to make. But here’s the thing – I know you will all be bombarded with a thousand versions of this sad event in the coming days, each version designed to play on your fear, your sympathy, your outrage – on your values – in order to influence the way you think in some specific way.

I don’t want to do that.

Instead, I will let the tragedy speak for itself.

Say what you want about the many political issues surrounding it. All I really want to say is this: to the victims and those close to them – I send you my prayers, compassion, and peace in this time of distress. This could have happened in any city, and even if you weren’t a part of the only city on the planet I have ever called home other than Portland, I will still endeavor to treat your difficulties as I would if they had happened right here in Lake Oswego.

Already I have read stories about people who showed courage throughout the shooting, some even saving the lives of others around them. I think that while this occurrence is indeed a source of pain and suffering for many, it is also a testament to the human potential for compassion, love, and resilience.

Live on, Aurora. We are with you tonight as you mourn, and we will be with you in the days ahead as you recover, rebuild, and attempt to make sense out of senseless violence.

Peace to you,



One response to “Tragedy – Making Sense of Senselessness

  1. Pingback: Senseless Tragedy in Theater Shooting » Creating Your Beyond, LLC | Creating Your Beyond, LLC

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