How Am I Supposed to Understand This?


Today is the three year anniversary of Sandy Hook, an event that has become as evocative as Wounded Knee, as Ruwanda, as 9/11, as every other event where innocents are slaughtered for reasons I cannot comprehend.

Today I watched a video of a choir singing Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ that closed with the voice of President Obama reading the names of the children while their pictures faded on and off the screen, with a few sentences about each child. I watched it, and I wept, curled up around my heart.

How many lives have changed from just this one horror? The families of those children and teachers, of course. The first responders who went to help, all committed to saving lives, only to find they were too late, horribly too late. The community which has tried all this time to support each other. The friends of the children. First responders from all over the country who have tried to assist their brothers and sisters in Newtown. The people who support the supporters. Parents hundreds of miles away who still hold their children closer, tighter, afraid that the unspeakable could happen to them.

All of us, in fact, have been touched by this – from the cataclysmic event at the center to the jarring awareness miles and miles away. Like someone dropped a rock in a pond, ripples spreading, spreading. Or a nuclear bomb.

I will never understand this. It is devastating beyond my knowing. All reaction to it is divisive, proving my point that horrors like this tend to be destructive far beyond the initial impact.

If I had the answers, I’d be God. If I were God who tried to enforce the answers, well, history has many examples of how we turn on and savage those who demand that we stop hurting each other and begin loving each other. What is wrong with us?

If I stop trying to understand, I have to accept. If I accept, I have to have no attachment. Is the pain and sorrow I feel attachment? I guess… if I hang onto it. That would certainly keep me going over and over it, trying to find my way back to remembering, to seeing all that is good in the world.

When does being a witness, a compassionate listener, stop being a way to honor and become a millstone around my neck? What happens, what do I do when I have had enough? Do I snap, and pick up a gun? Do I withdraw myself from the world because of the pain, like a snail responding to a stimulus that must be threatening until proven otherwise?

Or do I lay it all gently down, and go looking for miracles again?