Of Tragedy and Bonds (Writing, 12-14-12)

Whenever a tragedy like the recent shooting at an elementary school happens, everyone wants someone to blame.  They especially like to target gun owners, as ‘if guns didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be in this situation’, or so they would assume.  If guns weren’t around, people would find one way or another to hurt each other.  Improvised weaponry, knives, clubs, even their bare fists.  People will hurt one another, that’s one of the dark sides of humanity.

 

So then, what can we really do? What can we take away from this, and how can we keep it from happening again?  Will more laws do the job?  No, I argue, they won’t do a thing.  What would be treating would simply be treating a symptom of the problem.  It’s arguably the same as keeping knives from someone who cuts themselves impulsively.  If they want to do so, and no one stops them, they’ll find a way.  People are persistent like that.  So too are those who want to hurt others, regardless of reason.  So then, how do you combat such indifferent hate?  With compassion.  Society as a whole loves to put those that would commit such horrible crimes in various catergories, groups, and keep them separate from the rest of society.  The reason why is simple, we all want to be believe that the killer is someone else, not one of ‘us’.  This leaves us feeling better about ourselves, and lets us continue with our daily lives with nary a thought or care about the situation as a whole.  We pass some new law, have a memorial, and move on with our lives, never treating the real problem.  The real problem, I hate to say, is not some inanimate piece of metal and plastic.  It is the horrible people who perpetrate such crimes, don’t get me wrong.  But the ones also at fault are you and I.

 

But it has nothing to do with you, you’re probably thinking.  That’s where you’re wrong.  How many times in your life have you watched others get bullied and simply ignore the situation?  How many homeless people have you stepped over on your way through a city?  How many hurt people have you ignored?  That isn’t to say that everyone else’s problems are your problems…but yes, they actually are.

 

We all like to isolate ourselves, form our small group, protect and interact with just them, and want to forget about the world at large.  Small groups are manageable, the people are close, and it’s something we feel we can affect, that we can change.  The world is big, and what could we possibly do to affect something so huge?  Thinking such is a natural thought, but believing it is something else entirely.

 

How many times in your life have you been hurt, and no one else stopped to help you?  How many times have you suffered, been betrayed, felt lost, angry, and without hope?  The person next to you, who you may not know anything about, has been in the same situations have you been, only the names and details changed.  We like to ignore that, and center the world on ourselves.  In short, we each think that the world begins with me, and ends with me.

 

By ignoring the world, ignoring the pain of those around us, we also ignore ourselves, our own pains, our own sufferings.  Such a world doesn’t get any better, but simply keeps repeating the same cycles of pain, loss, and despair.  You are not so far from that man who took the lives of so many innocent people.  You likely scoff at that last sentence, finding it ludicrous.  You think it’s impossible that you’re capable of such a thing.  I assure you that you are.  All it takes is one bad day.  All of us are truly just one bad day away from descending into such path to a personal hell.  What would your price, do you think?  Losing your family?  Being betrayed by the one you held most close?  Having everything stolen from you, even your dignity?  It’s possible for anyone to be pulled down to that level.  What we do when we’ve fallen that far, when have nothing left but our very souls and the flesh that houses it, that is often what defines who we are.

 

Would all of us choose that black road, spreading pain and misery in our wake in a deranged effort to quell our own suffering?  No, we would not.  It’s one of humanity’s saving graces, that many of us could never take the life of another in any situation, perhaps even our own.  Our reasons for such are out own, and certainly range from the most righteous to the most self-serving.  The fact remains that not all of us would commit such atrocities, but even so, not being a perpetrator does not free one from guilt.  If you say someone was setting your neighbor’s house on fire, would you not feel compelled to tell them?  It is very much the same in the every day, the small flames lit in the hearts around those you pass by every day.  Every licking flame burns away a bit of their heart.  To ignore it completely is no different than sitting back and simply watching the fire spread before it engulfs the structure entirely.

 

When then can be done, if anything?  The answer is simple, yet vast.  There are many ways of combating fear, the fear brought about by such tragedies, most readily anger.  Anger gives us drive, it gives us motivation to do something about a wrong committed.  Anger is also another kind of flame, a flame that easily grows and spreads, and often does little other than consume more than the fear that caused it.  Now anger, anger is a hard force to fight.  It feeds on itself, for little other reason than its existence.  Often when asking others why they hate someone, they will list any number of reasons, but even after those are resolved, they still ‘hate’ that person.  Time often is the only source of the decay of such an inferno.  Without sufficient fuel, even anger burns out eventually.  However, such a thing is more toward ignoring that it exists that combatting it.  Which brings us back to our original point: what then, can be done?  The answer, though a hard pill to swallow, is simple: compassion.  If we all reached out to even a single person in need, even in the smallest way every day, the collective action of all of us would amount to a great, great thing.  It is something so subtle that we often disregard it entirely, thinking such acts have no real effect on the world.  But, sometimes, often without our notice, even the smallest of kindness can mean the world to another.  Knowing someone is out there, anyone, who cares about them in the slightest can be the buoyancy that keeps someone afloat for another day.  We ourselves often find ourselves fumbling in the dark, not sure how we’ll keep our own heads above water in the day to day.  What we don’t realize is again, that person next to you is going through the same things you are.  You’re both in the same sea together.  You’re just screaming so hard for help that you can’t hear their cries through the crashing surf.  To survive, we need each other.  No man is an island.  We live or we die often by the strength of our bonds alone.  That’s the reason seven billion of us are out there these days: to bind ourselves to ever more people, holding them up while they hold us up.

 

So think twice the next time you see that person struggling to walk down the street, or crying in the corner on the train.  That person, sooner or later, will likely be you.  By reaching out, by helping that one person, even in the smallest way, the one you may truly be saving is yourself.

 

X&V,

K.D.S.

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