What does one say?


Like many others, I watch the news from Paris with sadness and rage.

There will be the dead. The lives cut short because of where they happened to be. There will be the loved ones, the hearts broken, the families devastated. There will be the survivors, the nightmares, the destructive coping mechanisms.

Of course, this is not limited to Paris.

These are stories told time and time again as we lash out at other, kill each other, blaze through the lives of strangers because we feel entitled and righteous and overcome with fury. People will blame ideology, but I blame it on being human.

We can’t cope with this amazing magic called life. We drift through space, terrified and clinging to money, to power, to faith as if any of these things change the reality that we are on the mote of dust in a dark and so far silent universe.

We can expect the usual prayers and pontificating. Honestly, I’m not big on prayer. I think of the Syrian child thrown overboard by a human smuggler. Does God need me to pray for that child? Shouldn’t God care about that child whether or not I pray? Isn’t God supposed to know about that drowning child? Isn’t God supposed to know about each and every person?

Don’t talk to me about prayer.

And then comes the pontificating. The blame and finger pointing and the racism and the vitriol, which are all just different ways of dressing up fear. If the earth were a short distance one way, the earth would be fire. A short distance the other way, the earth would be ice. And yet we are here on this amazing planet with butterflies and oceans and rainbows and waterfalls and bacteria and viruses and decay. We are so afraid.

What is it like to be a murderer? What is it like to walk into a space of life and happiness, and to know you bring death and heartache? I can’t help but think that the more you fear your existence, the more you feel meaningless, then the more you have to destroy. It must prove something, right? To know you can destroy other lives and to know they will never forget what you’ve done.

How do these people live with themselves? It’s often a flip question, asked about con artists and people who cheat on us–how can you sleep at night?

You know how it is in the darkest hour of night, to wait for sleep, and for many things to nudge you, claw at you, come to mind. It might be the stupid thing you said at work. It might be the terrible thing your father said to you when you were twelve. It might the opportunity you passed up or the decision you regret. But what if you’ve terrified and murdered people? What comes to you at 4 am?

Maybe nothing. Maybe this is how you know a soul has fully rotted away. Maybe these people feel nothing at all even when they’re all alone with their own thoughts. They’re psychopaths and sociopaths, and what do we do with people like that?

I’ve often thought the best punishment is remorse. For those of us who feel bad for what we do, we understand what it is like to be racked with guilt. I want these people to live an endless night of remorse. I want them to feel the enormity of what they’ve done. From the human trafficker who thinks about nothing but his own gain to the terrorist who craves violence, I want them to realize the great pit of heartache they’ve created. The weight of every life they’ve taken or ruined should weigh upon them in a suffocating pitiless dark.

But how do we move on? How do we deal with such people? Can we forgive them? Can we bring them back into the world? How do we save ourselves from be taken over by fear and rage and hate?

4 thoughts on “What does one say?

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