Like most of you I woke up yesterday thinking it was going to be just like any other Friday. Then I logged on to the Internet. And wanted to cry. I experienced the same set of emotions that I’m sure all of you experienced as well: horror, anger, sadness, fear, and yes, gratitude that it wasn’t me and that my own son lay at my feet playing with his Cookie Monster play dough machine. I started to read and I started to watch, but quickly decided to log off for the day. And I stayed off.
Instead, I packed the coolers full of water and food, grabbed the sand toys and the beach umbrella while putting Gus in his car seat. I headed straight to the beach with him. Just me and my guy who I hugged tighter, told him I loved him every three minutes, and took in every single moment of the day. I even left my phone at the house. We played in the waves, held hands while we got pummeled by the big ones , built sand castles, looked for shells, held rock throwing contests, and ate fruit on our towels when we needed a break.
It was wonderful. It was more fun than we have had with only each other in a long time. The biggest reminder that I learned from yesterday is that our lives can change at any minute. Any second. None of us are exempt. There wasn’t a single person in that movie theater who took their seat thinking their life was going to be forever altered. They were just there to see Dark Knight.
I got back online this morning. The conversations are centered around trying to make meaning and sense of it all. This is what happens whenever there is a tragedy.
We are driven to create meaning out of suffering. Millions of books have been written on the subject. We seem to be compelled to do so because our brains don’t seem to be able to rest until some sort of significance has been reached. There seems to be no peace that can be had until some type of meaning, however rudimentary, it might be has been reached.
I have done this many times. For example, I tell myself that the sexual abuse I experienced in my past allowed me to be able to work with children in a way that is uniquely helpful. I am able to understand them in a way that psychologists bred by textbooks cannot do. I tell myself that without my experiences, I would not be able to do what I do had this not been the case. Now this may or may not be true but it is meaning that I have subscribed to my experience that somehow makes it seem purposeful and divine rather than random and hideous.
Some go as far as to suggest that our suffering is a decision that is not based on external circumstances. Victor Frankl describes this as a choice to be “worthy of our suffering.” This goes beyond meaning. It sets forth the idea that man does not have to be controlled by their external circumstances and the greatest freedom that we have is to choose our own attitude. He demonstrates so eloquently in his writing that despite the most horrific experiences of concentration camp living that certain individuals were able to preserve spiritual autonomy and freedom within the confines of their horrid conditions. He writes about the handful of men that lived in the camps and took it upon themselves to comfort other inmates and to give them their last piece of bread. He purports that we always make a choice as to how we bear our suffering. Do we do so in a manner of dignity and grace, holding firmly to the place of spiritual light inside of us that cannot be reached by external darkness or do we allow ourselves to shut down completely and die?
Given this latest reprehensible act, everyone is asking why. Sadly, there’s no reason that James Holmes did what he did other than because he could. As human beings, we have free will. We get to do whatever we want and sometimes what we do is horrible. Sometimes what we do is unimaginable and completely abhorrent.
Evil doesn’t make sense. It never will. It just is. The only thing within our control is how we respond to it.