What We Learned; rambling in the midst of sorrow


Whenever we stare into an unfathomable abyss, the human mind instantly flicks to speculation. A void is intolerable. In the face of unspeakable tragedy, we try to impose reason.

Inevitably, we fail. Some problems are intractable not only because of human nature, but because of the way the world is.

Every time you step outside your home, you put your life at risk. In fact, even if you don’t leave the house, there’s still risk. It’s inevitable.

I remember many, many months ago, in the Bay Area, an unstable man used his car as a weapon, going on a rampage to run over people.

Why? I just can’t fathom how anyone could do this.

What we’ve learned is nothing about gun control or mental illness, or even our own culture.

I’ve read it all and none of it makes sense. They’re trying to impose order when there is none.

Someone will fall between the cracks. Always.

There’s a level of autonomy that all people maintain. You can’t control them. You drive your car as carefully as you can, but odds are, you’ll probably be in at least one accident. We can’t fix everyone; not all killers are psychopaths.

I don’t blame the pundits for their inane ramblings. It’s just human to ask why, and then provide reasons.

But why this happened has nothing to do with the incompetence of anybody or anything, except the killer himself.

People like this exist in the world. It is inevitable. And some of them will be successful in killing other people, even large amounts of others. It is inevitable. We can’t control everyone at all times. Someone will fall between the cracks. Always. No matter what you do, certain human minds will find creative ways to kill others. Bombs. Gas. Guns. Cars. We can’t confiscate everything that will harm people.

Perhaps we could learn something if this were a regular occurence. With repeated experience, we can find patterns and extrapolate. But here, there is no pattern.

If anything, we’ve learned that this is extremely rare. That humans like this are rare people. That the nearly universal response to this tragedy is that it is not only sorrow, but that this is almost unfathomable to most people. We’ve learned that 99.999% of people are not like this.

We always try to draw lessons because we are enraged, but sometimes there are no real lessons to learn. We want to find someone to blame. We want to find something — anything! — that will prevent this tragedy from occurring again. We try to find something that isn’t there.

This is the human condition. There will always be a certain amount of risk inherent in living as a human being among other human beings.

There’s nothing satisfying or comforting about this fact. I’m sorry, but I can’t just sugar coat the truth.

The solace one can find is in the rarety of these people. The solace one can find is the deeper rarety of these events. The solace one can find is that because this is so rare, we need not change our entire ways of life.

What lessons did we learn? Nothing.

At least, in terms of policy, there is nothing to be gleaned.

In this ever increasingly linked world, isolated tragedies become national events. Yet we’ve also reaffirmed the lesson that the interconnected world allows us to share our strength, as well.

So while the pundit-class and the news media are as crass as ever, I find the trade-off worth it, if the victims of a tragedy know that others stand in solidarity with them. Just as I find the trade-offs of the modern world worth it, despite the risks.

We’ll never know why. But at least when we are confronted by the unfathomable void, we stand together in the sorrow and mystery of it all.

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