An easy question to ask when your town has just experienced a mass shooting.
Three days ago, I posted an article on my blog, How to Love in the Face of Pain.
Loving in the face of pain is so difficult, and now my own community is faced with a trial to massively test this capacity.
How can we love, or even find hope, when a madperson walks into a school, movie theater or grocery store to randomly shoot and kill people?
What will it take for this to stop?
I’m am gutted over the lives lost in my town, but I’ve been gutted…for years…at the seemingly senseless violence that continues.
I’m angry. I’m heartbroken. I’m in pain.
My heart aches for the families who’ve lost loved ones, for a town that is in shock, for the many who are traumatized having narrowly escaped with their lives from this tragic act of violence.
We can focus on this question of why, but perhaps it’s time to consider what we’re asking why about.
Are we asking, “Why this particular senseless act of violence, or why my town/community/family, or why me?”
or are we asking,
“Why do these seemingly senseless acts of violence keep happening?”
I feel an almost desperate longing within me for every human being to recognize the depth of Soul-sickness Humanity and the Earth are experiencing in these trying times, and to take up the arduous task of healing it.
The violence we see in these horrific scenes must not simply be labeled as “senseless” without further consideration.
Definition of Sense (n):
- A meaning conveyed or intended
- The faculty of perceiving
- A specialized function by which an animal receives and responds to external or internal stimuli
- Conscious awareness
- A definite but often vague awareness or impression
- A motivating awareness
- A discerning awareness and appreciation
- Capacity for effective application of the powers of the mind as a basis for action or response
- Sound mental capacity and understanding
- One of two opposite directions
To sense is to find one’s way.
If we call these acts of violence “senseless,” we must understand that they are committed by those who have lost their way, and far too many people have lost or are losing their way in the noise, pain, and Soul-sickness of today’s world.
We must take note that this is not about one madperson’s senselessness. It is about a culture that is increasingly at risk of becoming senseless.
This is not to excuse such acts, but to lift up a red flag that deserves our immediate attention.
It’s easy to interpret mass shootings and other atrocious events as “senseless,” i.e. being without meaning, without conscious awareness, without discernment, without sound mental capacity, etc.
That may be true of the perpetrator’s behavior, but what about our interpretation of it?
What if we could also search for a sense of what is at the root of these painful acts?
We as a culture, and even as individuals, have been all too quick to label such things as “senseless” without engaging in the further contemplation required for healing at a very deep level.
If one definition of sense is “one of two opposite directions,” perhaps it’s time to look at what we tend to render senseless, and instead consider the “motivating awareness” it is trying to offer us.
The “sense” of acts like what has happened in Boulder is bringing an awareness that we are indeed Soul-sick, that we must find our way into the depths of this, however painful, and seek to find meaning.
We must be willing to ask difficult, and even painful questions that we’d rather not consider.
What deep pain are the shooters experiencing that would cause them to do something like this?
What harm has been experienced that disconnected them from any level of Soul, and could cause them to implement such a Soul-less act?
Is it a Soul-less act, or the act of a human being having lost connection to Soul in a world that is Soul-sick?
When we are connected to Soul, all Souls matter…all of Life matters.
Yes, we want justice for the victims and their families. At the same time, we need to find a deeper justice (“moral soundness and conformity to truth” that is “rewarding to everyone” per etymonline.com) for Humanity and the Earth if we want these acts to stop.
We must look at the ways in which we as a culture and as individuals perpetuate the Soul-sick acts we continue to see. We need gun control, but we need Soul-healing most importantly, because without that, no measure of laws, restrictions, or dictates will change the track we are on.
In times like these, even my greatest comfort in connecting to the Great Mother (which I mentioned in my prior article) seems elusive.
The shock, the numbness, the sheer agony of how hurt we all feel…
But I know She is there…
Stories are coming forth about how the people in that Boulder supermarket banded together to help one another get out as quickly as they could.
Is that not an expression the Great Mother within, seeking to protect Her children?
I’m always amazed at how communities rally to help one another in times of disaster, finding their ingenuity and compassion as they collectively and collaboratively build resilience.
There are many measures in place here in the U.S. that don’t exist elsewhere in the world, which are offered to protect and support people. We have troops and organizations that come in with their well-mapped out protocols to lend support, and I’m deeply grateful for that support.
But there’s often a missing element that disconnects people as these protocols are implemented.
People who begin to rally together at the onset of disaster often end up disconnecting as these protocols take over, relying on others to do things for them, or even being told to “stay out of the way so authorities can do their job.”
Of course we want them to do their job, and I have deep appreciation for the risk they take in doing so. But how can we bring more Soul to the experience? How can we stay with the pain long enough to get a true sense of what is needed?
I can see the Great Mother in our Boulder Police Chief as well.
She’s showing us what it means to bring Soul to a situation like this with her authentic expression of heartbreak as part of the community rather than standing as a separate entity from it, which so often happens with the stoic nature of “standard procedure.”
I find it interesting that of all those who speak on what has happened, even with sadness in their eyes, it is this steady and strong woman who is described as “emotional” or asked about her emotions in press conferences.
Thankfully, even while headlines offer clickbait indicating that she “gets emotional,” Chief Maris Herold has been applauded for her expression of emotion, rather than condemned for it.
She stated her own struggle with living so close to the shooting, wondering about her neighbors and partner as she got word of the shooting. She expressed her heartbreak in talking to the victims’ families, the numbness that can come in reaction to such a tragedy, and how hard it is to lose a colleague.
“This is my community. I live here. To know the fear in the community is heartbreaking.”
Her words show her connection rather than separation. There is no “us and them” in her words, but rather a “we” that brings her compassionate “I” into the connection.
Tears make us uncomfortable in a culture that often suppresses them or considers them weak.
Tears put in and on our face the very real pain we’re experiencing that’s asking to be met.
Tears remind us of our common humanity, and our common struggle.
Tears are called for in these times, and will sting with years of Soul-sickness asking to be healed.
Tears will connect us in our pain, and honor our humanness.
Tears will open the floodgates of compassion, helping us to heed the words of Chief Herold, “Don’t lose your compassion. We will get through this and come out of it stronger.”
Let this latest of many acts of seemingly senseless violence not be rendered senseless.
Let the pain be felt, and bring the sense of Soul-sickness so many are suffering from to the fore.
Let this sense be a motivating awareness that cultivates our capacity to act in wisdom.
Let the light of the Boulder Star, lit for 10 days in honor of the victims of the Boulder shooting, illuminate and inspire us to take measures to heal the Soul-sickness, both within ourselves and for the World.
May we hold the victims of these tragedies in our hearts.
May we find the courage to travel to the depths of our being, feel the pain of Soul-sickness, and offer the healing balm of Love.