Saturday, April 21, 2007

Not Another One

I don’t feel particularly qualified to comment on the Virginia Tech massacre in one way. I’ve not read any newspaper articles about it, I haven’t downloaded any of the videos on You Tube, I’ve read two blog posts about it and I’ve listened to maybe fifteen minutes of talk radio rants about gun control, evil and the politics of violence in America.

Everyone has an opinion and a dot they connect to some event or aspect of culture, politics, religion, psychology or morality that in some desperate way helps them make sense of the tragedy and what might keep another one from happening.

I don’t know Cho. Though I do in a way. I ran a Boy’s Home for five years. Kids were sent to us to cure, straighten out, point in the right direction, teach or nurture… whatever you wanted to call it. These boys had been beaten, burned, sexually assaulted, starved emotionally and physically, locked up, locked out and had seen things kids should never see much less even imagine. Some were genetically disadvantaged from the start their humanity compromised with low IQ’s, twitches, tweaks and synapses that didn’t fire or fired at the wrong times. Others had their humanity twisted out of them by watching their father have sex with the family dog in the backyard through their bedroom windows late at night then be assaulted by him later, or having scalding water thrown on them by their mother for crying when they got an “owie”. So, yeah, I know Cho. What I don’t know, nor does anyone, is how his peculiar experiences in life intersected with his peculiar humanity and its peculiar limitations. Nor do we know why he chose to work out his salvation, or his concept of it, in the way he did.

One thing I came to realize working with the shattered humanity I have, is that every action is purposeful and is intended to control some circumstance, create some illusion or tweak reality so that some deep existential pain within me will be alleviated and some vast dark void in my soul will be filled. We used to have a saying about all the dysfunctional ways the boys would try to do that: “Bad breath is better than no breath at all.” It’s a cliché that covers a multitude of sins.

Solomon said, “What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.” Ecclesiastes 1:15 Pessimistic? I think not. Who can straighten the path of the entire human race since Adam’s sin? Who can count all the ways we lack love? Who can straighten a child deformed by the dozens of people who have bent him, pushed him, twisted him and crushed him? Who can count what was beaten out of him, drained from him and torn out of his soul? What is lacking is not even clear to ourselves much less those around us.

Why does one person go on to a life of introspection, chose a path of painful healing and look to love as the cure for the darkness and another cast themselves headlong into their darkness and lose themselves and try to take everyone around them into that black hole?

The greatest despair is not to despair of the possibility of encountering healing love. It is to disbelieve that it even exists, and if it does, that it does not matter. The nihilistic spirit of the age is a culture of ultimate despair. Relationships and even love are utilitarian and ultimately are in service to our “feelings”. We are slaves to passion, and if we cannot “feel” something, we WILL feel come hell or high water and will do anything to experience something within us that tells us we are human and not an empty void. Even if that feeling is pain, sorrow and twisted exhilaration.

I ask myself of Cho what I asked myself of dozens of young boys I lived with for five years, “Is there anything that can be done to straighten this twisted human being, what could I possibly add to this empty vessel to fulfill its humanity?” All I can come up with is love. But the problem is, who am I that I can possibly love to that depth and intensity? I am inadequate to the task because I too am twisted and empty and shattered. But bad breath is better than no breath at all. Perhaps my imperfect and shallow and weak love will give a glimmer of the greater Love awaiting us all. If Cho had encountered a real Christian, would it have made a difference? We don’t know if he did, or that it ultimately would have mattered. I just believe some people are bent and in this life cannot or will not be straightened. And the rest of us have to live with this reality when the dark emptiness in them spills over into our lives and engulfs them. The only hope we have is the hope that even in that darkness there is still a Light that shines in that darkness and if we are faithful the darkness will not overcome it.

1 comment:

DvntWriter said...

Yes, perhaps I do "give too much credit to 'age=wisdom'." My logic is no doubt colored by the fact that I'm Orthodox. No matter how depressed I am, how out of sorts I can be, or how much I sometimes wish to end it all I know that God is there. He is my light; I know that redemption is possible.

Those who have been tortured (what you describe happening to the boys at the Boys Home is torture) and have lost "the light," for whatever reason, will struggle to find another way to relieve their pain and suffering.

I guess my question/or confusion comes from "why take out those who have nothing to do with your pain?" The guy at Wendy's took out a firefighter. The Amish school shooter took out kids. That's what gets me. As bad as this sounds, at least the high schoolers are "taking out" those that directly hurt them.

I don't know...