There are the everyday choices each of us makes (blue socks or brown with this outfit?, sandwich or soup? Letterman or Leno?) and there is the underlying set of emotions that cradles every decision we make (brown socks look better with this suit, soup as it is cold outside, Leno 'cause he's got that really cute actor on tonight).
I'm going to apply this over-simplified notion to all of the news about mass murder in the U.S. I cannot begin to know what decisions each of the men (and it's overwhelmingly men who perpetrate this) made that led them to think that committing the acts of violence they did was the only way to fix whatever was going wrong in their lives, so my whole "everyday choices" thing only works subjectively.
So, it comes down to what these men were experiencing in their emotional lives that led them down the path toward this tragedies.
It was quite clear with the man responsible for the murder and mayhem at Virginia Tech years ago that he was losing the battle with mental illness. As to what others in the past weeks were struggling with emotionally, it is anyone's guess. Little is known about the most recent incident in Pennsylvania, but in time more will be revealed. Whether what is reported sheds much insight into that man's psyche is anyone's guess.
Surfing the 'net, I stumbled onto an article which helps me understand the psychology behind these acts a little bit better. So, there may not be too much any one of us can do for some who find themselves in these situations. The "sense of 'doom and gloom' that pervades the cultural atmosphere" cannot be all there is to understanding recent events. The expert cited in the above article went on to say:
Usually there's a rigidity in that person (who kills) and an inability to really process stress. They absorb it. They can't digest it. They want structure, they want answers, and things are not that clear for them."
I have to admit, I'm at a loss for answers and there's a good deal of fuzziness about all the goings on in our country these days.
So, it's back to me to find the context in which to view these shootings and to ask myself why I haven't done what these men have done and why I cannot imagine me perpetrating this kind of violence while these men found themselves having arrived at the decision to do so.
Maybe the answer is really back at the start of this post. Maybe admitting I'm a little out of my depth is exactly how I avoid all the sad decisions that lead to tragedies like we've seen on the news these past weeks. I could site my faith as my strength; however, I find that same connected feeling when I go to the political grassroots meetings every month. I get the same feeling of assuredness when I march amongst hundreds or tens of thousands in the past months and chant out my frustration, anger and sadness.
And, when I try to reach out and give permission to everyone I know to feel as they feel and let it out in health ways, maybe I'm becoming part of that same net I feel under my feet as I try to figure everything out.
Last week I reminded all who read this to laugh sometime during the week. What I ask now may be tougher to do:
choose to admit you're out of your depth
be a part of the "net" in someone's life
(doing both is OK, too)