Mak­ing sense of the sense­less

The Covington News - - OPINION -

It’s the same each time. Af­ter yet an­other tragic loss of life at the hands of an armed mad­man, we mourn, ache, cry and seek some­one or some­thing to blame.

This time, we’re fix­ated on a small town in Con­necti­cut, and the in­no­cent lives lost are chil­dren – 20 of them – and six adults who died try­ing to save them. Af­ter all we’ve wit­nessed in Columbine, Blacks­burg, Aurora, Mil­wau­kee, Col­lege Sta­tion, Min­neapo­lis and too many other places, you’d think noth­ing could shock us. But, this was un­think­able.

We’re talk­ing about guns and gun laws, and that’s good. There are no easy an­swers, but we must ac­knowl­edge the im­pli­ca­tions of easy ac­cess to weapons of mass de­struc­tion like as­sault ri­fles.

We’re talk­ing about men­tal ill­ness, and that’s good. Those who are ill and par­ents of trou­bled chil­dren should have bet­ter places to turn for care and sup­port.

We’re dis­cussing spir­i­tu­al­ity, faith and fam­i­lies, and th­ese are good. Such events re­mind us evil ex­ists in our world, and strength of char­ac­ter and mo­ral fiber are our only real de­fense.

But we won’t find so­lu­tions by plac­ing blame. We choose sides and ar­gue. We quote statis­tics, dig­ging in and call­ing each other names. Even if one side wins the ar­gu­ment, ev­ery­one loses and noth­ing changes.

In­stead, we can em­power our­selves by ask­ing: “What can I do?” I’ve been en­cour­aged see­ing friends pon­der how they could have made a dif­fer­ence. One asked, how might Adam Lanza’s ac­tions have changed course if he’d been touched by some­one’s random act of kind­ness in the hours, days, or weeks pre­ced­ing that sad day?

The night be­fore New­town, I watched a doc­u­men­tary ti­tled “I Am” by Tom Shadyac – Hol­ly­wood writer, di­rec­tor and cre­ator of films such as “Liar Liar,” “The Nutty Pro­fes­sor,” and “Bruce Almighty.” Shadyac’s hu­mor is still ev­i­dent, but his lat­est work is a se­ri­ous film on a se­ri­ous sub­ject.

At the pin­na­cle of success, in­side his man­sion, Shadyac felt only deep lone­li­ness and great un­hap­pi­ness. See­ing the trap­pings of wealth as a trap them­selves, he ad­justed his life and be­gan giv­ing up those pos­ses­sions. Then, a near-fa­tal bi­cy­cle crash left him in se­vere pain, fac­ing mor­tal­ity, won­der­ing what fi­nal mes­sage he had for the world. When he re­cov- ered, the film­maker set out with a small crew seek­ing an­swers to two ques­tions: “What’s wrong with the world? And, what can we do about it?”

His jour­ney led to philoso­phers, sci­en­tists, re­li­gious lead­ers, heal­ers and thinkers around the globe. It also brought him un­ex­pected con­clu­sions. As the film’s promo says: “Iron­i­cally, in the process of try­ing to fig­ure out what’s wrong with the world, Shadyac dis­cov­ered there’s more right than he ever imag­ined.”

The film’s core mes­sage is that “con­trary to con­ven­tional think­ing, co­op­er­a­tion and not com­pe­ti­tion may be na­ture’s most fun­da­men­tal op­er­at­ing prin­ci­ple.” Through in­ter­views and demon­stra­tions, Shadyac ex­plains we have been mis­led into think­ing hu­man ex­is­tence is about get­ting a leg up on ev­ery­one else.

He notes Charles Dar­win uses the phrase “sur­vival of the fittest” only twice in “The De­scent of Man,” while writ­ing the word “love” 95 times. In one scene, Shadyac places probes in a bowl of yo­gurt to demon­strate that his emo­tional re­sponse to words gen­er­ates an elec­tro­mag­netic pulse “felt” by the yo­gurt. We also hear how global sen­sors de­tected mas­sive-scale elec­tro­mag­netic pulses world-wide at the moment of the ter­ror­ist at­tacks of 9/11/2001. On that sad day, all hu­man­ity was not just emo­tion­ally linked; we were phys­i­cally linked.

As for the vi­o­lent killings plagu­ing our so­ci­ety, I be­lieve acts of kind­ness make a dif­fer­ence. But, it takes more. Ac­tions speak louder than words, but there is some­thing stronger than ac­tion, which is love. Acts that mat­ter are the man­i­fes­ta­tion of a gen­uine kind­ness which springs nat­u­rally from a heart-felt car­ing for our fel­low man.

This may sound as naïve as the Bea­tles singing “All You Need is Love,” but sci­ence is find­ing we ac­tu­ally are wired that way. And re­gain­ing that aware­ness is key.

To kill with­out re­morse re­quires the abil­ity to de­hu­man­ize the vic­tims and deny any hu­man con­nec­tion to them. Mass mur­der­ers are the ex­treme. But, to what ex­tent do we all see oth­ers – es­pe­cially strangers – as ob­jects ei­ther in our way or com­pet­ing for what we see as right­fully ours?

Shadyac’s ti­tle comes from English writer G. K. Ch­ester­ton who was asked by a news­pa­per “what’s wrong with the world to­day?” “I am,” he replied. To that, I say “ditto.”

Let there be peace on Earth, and let it be­gin with me.

Mau­rice Carter is a Cov­ing­ton res­i­dent, a na­tive At­lantan, an IT con­sul­tant by pro­fes­sion, and an ac­tive com­mu­nity vol­un­teer at heart. He can be reached at mau­ricec7@bell­


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