Just Another Senseless Act Of Violence

I give you this fact which should be obvious:  No one ever does anything that to them, at least in that moment, does not make some sort of sense.  We may often have a WTF moment afterward, but that is hindsight talking. So, what are we doing when we say an action is “senseless?”  We are saying we need not consider how that action made sense to that person when they did it.  We are saying we need not think about how they came to think and feel that way.  Most importantly, we are avoiding looking into the mirror they hold up to us.  It may be about our politics, our theologies, our educational systems or health care systems, our justice systems, or our economic system, whatever, but the mirror is there, always.  Yes, the person may have some mental illness, and that allows us to say he couldn’t possibly be making sense, could not have any message for us other than that he did not get the treatment he needed.  But even if the action was driven by hallucinations and/or delusions, even those are saying something and take forms and contents consistent with culture and society.  Calling the act “senseless” allows us to dismiss the idea that it could have any deeper meaning, but is, “Just another nut job with a gun, how sad.”  Then we do not have to see the roots of the hate, or fear, or rage, or disappointment, or confusion that brought them to that place.  Then we can turn away from the mirror.  Someone else will come all too soon to hold it up to us again, and again, and again, and again,….and again.

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Just to be very clear about reality, the vast majority of people dealing with mental illness are not killing, raping, or blowing things up.  They are doing their best to live as well as they can with their conditions and manage their lives.  Many are active in forums like this sharing their experience and offering support and encouragement to others.  Many are active in their communities in similar ways and advocating for the needs of their peers.  They are not lashing out.  They are reaching out.  Many others are just quietly getting through from day to day in spite of their mood swings, anxieties, intrusive thoughts, voices, or whatever the manifestations of their conditions may be.  That is the reality of mental illness.



One thing on which, at some point, all the great teachings agree is that they counsel humility and caution against vanity.  In Christian creed vanity is counted one of the seven deadly sins.  The rendering of one of the Ten Commandments in English reads, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain,”  which, perhaps should read, “in vanity,” which sounds to me as saying one should not presume to be so vain as to think one can speak as if with the voice and authority of God.  The voice from the burning bush tells Moses it is nameless, a way of saying to him that its totality is beyond the limits of his finite mind to encompass, as is the prohibition in the Commandment of attempting to make a graven image of it.  So too is the question to Job from the voice in the whirlwind, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?”  Always, the admonition to know the limits of our understanding.

And, beyond the many gods of the Hindu pantheon there is the Atman which cannot be defined but is the source of all.

Lao Tsu tells us,

tao told

He describes the sage as humble and not taking credit.

Over and over we are reminded to be humble in the face of the great mystery at the core of being.


So, I ask this:  Is it not a great vanity for someone to say their understanding or opinion of the will of God or their interpretation of some scripture is the only truth and that that with offends them also offends God?  Is it not a vanity if they say this love is blessed and that is damned, and that they are commanded by God to allow the one and prevent the other from being acknowledged?  Or, that they know when a developing embryo is endowed with a soul?  Who do they think they are?  Are they not speaking vainly in the name of the Deity?

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