Lighting the Path Out of Tragedy

Drawing hope from despair in Newtown

Posted Dec 21, 2012

Human beings are the perfect predator. Not because we are the biggest, strongest, fastest kid on the block, but because we are the smartest. And what makes us the perfect instrument of violence is the very same thing that can make us the perfect instrument of peace.

The tragedy we witnessed in Connecticut is going to be pulled in all sorts of directions. It is already being politicized, leveraged and held up as an example of this, that or the other thing, depending upon which agenda you chose to subscribe to. The pundits and prophets are jumping to the fore with rationales, judgments, predictions and justifications. And some will even be so arrogant as to posit a deconstruction and analysis of the gunman and his motives when that, as one commentator wisely pointed out, is pretty much between him and God.

All of this is understandably to establish some false sense of certainty in the face of the utterly predictable uncertainty that is the hallmark of the human condition. It is also a trajectory that altogether misses the opportunity to invoke the very change it purports.

Change here is not about politics or legislative agendas. It’s about us. We are the change, we invoke the change and we maintain that change that happens around us through our thoughts, words, actions and the choices we make. These things weave the fabric of both our immediate culture and the larger social landscape, making us, ultimately, responsible to them.

So, what if we weren’t to slow down at the scene of the accident, dwelling instead on the potential good that might come out of something so unthinkably tragic? What if we were to move away from the apocalyptic vision we seem to hold so dear and see instead where hope might rise from despair?

These deaths are a tragedy, to be sure. Magnificent potential snatched away for no good reason. What better way to honor those lost to us than to think, speak and act in the name of the brilliant lights snuffed out before they even had a chance to burn brightest? Acknowledging impermanence and recognizing our own fragility in the midst of this precious life might be a place to start. Making one small gesture of loving kindness and peace every day in the name of those souls lost to us might be a place to go.

Because those souls weren’t just lost—they were lost to us, to the world. We are One, and those small gestures of ours twined with threads of our individual thoughts, words, actions and choice can provoke that change in our communities—and the world—the pundits and prophets promote, but can never seem to move forward.  

And so, we mourn. But in our mourning there is a particular tenderness. This is what the wisdom teachings call the heart of sorrow—a recognition of our own humanity even in the face of unspeakable inhumanity, and the willingness to do something positive and productive in its light.

In our heart of sorrow we may find our own peace, and we might yet bring that peace to the world. Let these souls lost to our world be the light on your path that brings us all out of the darkness and into a brighter day.

© 2012 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved

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