This kind of event—however rare, however unlikely— sends up ripples and waves of disturbance in all who encounter it, even from miles away. I felt horrified and sickened by what happened, and then—a quick transition-- angry, vengeful even. Working away at my desk, I wished suffering upon the killer. Really. Suffering. Nothing less. I indulged in brief but violent fantasies, thinking of what kind of suffering might suffice: solitary confinement with forcible, non-stop streamed footage of gruesome events projected onto a wall…. Scalping! Rip that f*cker’s face off... Wow: That came from my mind?
Those images did arise in my mind, and they made me feel better, briefly gave me a sense of justice or something. Gave me a sense of control over helplessness, distracted me from that quietly desperate feeling, from knowing that a child has been killed and that there’s nothing anyone can do about it now.
But those images, wielding their weapons and setting up camp in my mind, didn’t do anything about justice at all. They just made me a little bit more like the very thing I was so caught up in detesting.
I would rather feel helpless than violent. I would rather feel horrified than willingly invoke horror. And what makes me really, truly human is that I can make those distinctions. I can make a choice.
Interestingly, willingly returning to helplessness delivers us from it. My vengeful thoughts can’t do anything to change what’s happened in Brooklyn, and can’t bring about justice, but coming back to the present, to my reality, can bring some peace into the world. I was just about ready to up and buy a boy-sized bubble for my son yesterday: all bets are off, the boogeyman’s real. But that’s really not reasonable. Acknowledging my fear without being carried away by it, I can reflect on how I’ll teach Kaspar to listen to his gut and not worry about being nice, or polite, or quiet if he feels something is wrong. I will also hope and wish and pray that he never meets the boogeyman.
I can feel myself, as a mother, stepping into that grieving mother’s shoes, for a moment. And I grieve too, for her helping her son expand his orbit, taking the necessary precautions, and for the unimaginable happening anyway. Nobody’s fault. For the ground falling away beneath her. And for all of us, realizing there’s not really any solid ground—realizing that we all live here together, with our children and our neighbors, and we can’t just lock ourselves away in our homes or our minds or our angry, vengeful thoughts. Instead we do our best, we live and we raise our children, and when we encounter horror—together, from near and far—we make the human choice to feel that groundlessness and yet refuse to fuel more harm, hatred or violence. Even in—especially in—our own hearts. We hug and kiss our children, and make a simple, sincere wish for peace in this world.
we will not be able to develop sanity in this world at all.
Somebody has to plant the seed so that sanity can happen on this earth.
-- Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche