Society and the Dangerous Outliers

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Another tragedy has befallen us.  More pain and suffering inflicted on those who don’t deserve it.  Some of us say it is part of a plan.  Some of us blame guns, some of us blame society, many of us blame the culprit, and most of simply weep.

We all struggle to reason why, grasping for a logical way to define this thing, identify it for the future and hope to prevent another occurrence.  As much as I would gladly accept a world in which innocence was never tarnished, I don’t see it being even remotely possible.  Our universe is not structured where light will always win out over the darkness.  In our universe, light is actually defined by the darkness, it is constantly fighting against the engulfing abyss and cannot exist without it.  While we might posit that an utter defeat of the light would mean a triumph for the darkness it is quite the opposite.  Darkness is defined by the light it hopes to engulf.  Without light, darkness is meaningless and can only consume itself.

In the eternal struggle between “good and evil” we find an inherent stalemate, the darkness as an instrument of the light to give it definition, for if light wins out, light has no meaning and no definition.

The appalling tragedy in Connecticut today is just one of many examples.  I, as much as anyone, am sick with sympathy.  I can hardly imagine the pain and suffering being experienced and yet, I am reluctant to assign blame anywhere other than the hands of those who pull the trigger.  I have been reading some of the comments to news articles and I’ve seen the full gamut.  Quite a few people have really become stricken with a real concern that our society is ultimately at fault here.

It concerns me because it ignores all of the gains our society has made in diminishing these events on the whole.  I’m certainly susceptible to the feeling that even one loss of life, especially the young children lost today, at the hands of a random assailant is one too many, but I have to remind myself of the inevitable nature of some of this.  I doubt even Superman could have prevented this.

And there in lies the rub.  Our society does have plenty of dysfunctions,  but on the whole it does a better job of helping the down trodden and disenfranchised than it used to, than societies that came before.  Fox weighed in as the voice of reason earlier today reminding viewers that the odds of being in an event like this are around one in two million.  Those are pretty astronomical, but I am sympathetic to those caught in the middle, because if you are that one in two million, the odds don’t matter much.  Those are for the rest of us, to give us context.

Lots of people want to blame individualism and materialism.  They want to blame how consumer driven so many are, but that isn’t it.  These might be things that many of us dislike, but these aren’t reasons the people go on random rampages.

What’s more likely is that this person had a terrible home life or had some nasty experiences that dramatically altered their outlook on the world.  Some of us just have crossed wires from the start where we enjoy inflicting pain on others.  Thankfully those are an incredibly small few, but even one in two million results in one hundred and fifty plus people who are capable of committing these heinous acts.  Just in the US, world wide, certainly the numbers get a bit larger.

I know it is no solace to the victims of this tragedy, but these events are extreme outliers.  The world has become more and more safe with every passing year.  Some years represent spikes that throw off the curve, but in general we are trending towards a safer existence.

So yes, we should take this as an opportunity to smile at more of our fellows, even if we are frustrated.  We should hug our loved ones more and pay more attention to our children.  Turn off the TV and build some block towers.  Be thankful for the closeness that the winter season brings as we huddle for warmth both inside and out.  The world isn’t ending.  We aren’t going down the wrong path.  However, we can all be better and if anything this is a reminder of that.

In the final count, how can we hope to prevent this type of tragedy in the future?  Well, baring expectations that we could ever prevent all of them, we must remain more vigilant of others.

I, for one, always have a flash of recognition when I see something like this in the news.  I have a catalog of people who I am acquainted with, that are filed in my brain, whom I consider possible threats.  I am always partially relieved when I find out it isn’t one of these people, but I know the person is still in that file.  I have to believe that many of you are similar.  You assess people and identify some of them as threats, even loved ones.

So, my request is that we all take a more vigilant role in the lives of others.  Not one of directing them or trying to change their path necessarily, because that will almost always only end in expedited tragedy, perhaps driving one to tragedy when none may have been eminent   No, I mean to simply remain engaged somewhat with these people, if you can, and if a flag is raised for you, don’t dismiss it.  Keep paying attention and do the thing that makes sense for you.

I’m reminded of the mother that turned in her son when she became aware that he was planning a mass shooting.  This is perhaps the most difficult situation I can imagine.  The last thing any of us want to do is falsely accuse someone of something like this, especially our own child, but the strength of your conviction to protect the lives of the random others who would be destroyed through those actions is giving hope and meaning to the struggle of the light.

While the faceless non-victims may never know how you’ve impacted their lives and you may never know how many you saved, rest easy in knowing that you are part of the solution.  It may seem like a hopeless struggle, especially the way I have put it out there, but that is not the case.  The hope is in the heart of the light.  The darkness will always exist and so the light must fight for it’s meaning.  If none of us stand against it, we will be engulfed, but stand we will.

We occasionally need to be reminded of why it is important.  It isn’t for the individuals, it isn’t for the society, it is for ourselves, we stand to protect what is meaningful to us.  If you prevent a loved one from inflicting pain on others, you aren’t left to wonder why and what more you could have done or where you went wrong.

Perhaps I’ve waxed far too righteous and far to philosophical for some.  Maybe this is standard, maybe it’s too much, but that’s the way it has to be.

My thoughts and sympathy go out to all those affected by these tragedies, all across the globe.

May peace find you and the ones you love.

Stay safe out there,

~SH

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