Since Friday at about 10 a.m. Central time, it’s been a tsunami of words about what happened in Newton, Connecticut.For the first few hours, many of the words were incorrect – we experienced the hypersensitivity of the news cycle as the media tried to be first with most, watching what’s was happening on social media, competing against each other, as the horror finally unfolded behind them.
Too many words. Useless, wrong words. It took some time for the right words to begin crowding out the wrong words.
Then came the groping for understanding. What happened is unfathomable. And our human minds began reaching for something – anything – that would explain this. We need to explain this. If we can’t explain this, we are afraid it can happen again. This is the stuff of our worst nightmares, and we are afraid we will never be able to explain it, that we will never know the reason for why the gunman did what he did.
Not enough words. Too few words.
I thought of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, something he wrote in The Gulag Archipelago: “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”
Words we don’t like to hear.
We are writing blog posts, emails, poems. We are drawing pictures and posting photographs. We are offering meditations. We’re ranting against guns and video games, and we are defending guns and video games. One blogger I read suggested we stop everything and simply observe a prolonged silence.
Painful words, encouraging words. We don’t know how to comfort a father and mother whose six-year-old daughter was gunned down for no apparent reason other than a lunatic decided to do it. We don’t know how to comfort a town which lost 20 year children and seven adults.
I made myself read the names and birth years of all of the victims. I lost it when I hit the third on the list, but I made myself read through every name on the list. These were real people with hopes and dreams and problems and life and whole lives ahead. They laughed and cried and thought that this Friday would be a school day like any other school day.
No words. The fact is, words fail here. The only way to comfort is to be there and weep with the families. That may be the most important thing we can do. Very few of us know what this is like, what it is to go through something like this, something that changes you completely and forever.
We look at our own children and our grandchildren, and we tremble. We have no words here, either, but we have arms, and our arms may be what we most need. Our arms around them. Their arms around us. Our arms around each other.
Perhaps we don’t need words at all.
Photography by Anna Langova via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.