Monday, December 17, 2012

A Eulogy for the Victims of Sandy Hook

I come to this moment to remember the children and their teachers who were so brutally and senselessly killed last week at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

I come seeking, with you, consolation, because the enormity of this fiendish act challenges the capacity of either human or divine comfort.

Novelist David Gemmell has disturbingly said, "If there is one sound that follows the march of humanity, it is the scream."

We feel that truth today.  And all of us hear that scream.  It is the scream of terrified children helplessly vulnerable to a deranged killer.  It is the scream of heroic teachers giving up their lives in the ultimate act of protecting their students.  It is the scream of parents and spouses and other children and family members engulfed in tears and broken with grief.  It is the scream of a community and a town embittered and angry by an unthinkable violation of all of their values and dreams and efforts at creating an environment of safety and decency and togetherness.  It is the scream of a nation completely exhausted with mass murders and gun violence and the cheapening of life by a culture of shallow pathetic human barrenness cloaked in macho bravado and raging bullying superiority.  And it is the scream of a severely disturbed young man imprisoned in feelings of disregard and weakness, of isolation and desperation, of being defective and alone; a young man of crippling self hatred and a bewildering sense of place in life.

And so we hear these screams and they terrify us and humble us and make us ache for comfort and protection.  Because they are our screams, too.

I have seen, as you have, on television and across the various media outlets the sweet faces of the murdered Sandy Hook children and the beautiful inspiring faces of their principal and teachers.  We cannot imagine their deaths.  Our minds go numb at the thought of it.  Our hearts freeze in some kind of emotional self defense or else they would split open and let out all the love we possess never to be retrieved again.  

We are left needing more than prayer, though prayer has its value.  We need more than promises of banning assault weapons and enforcing gun laws, though all of that is so vital.  We need more than the tired sayings that God is in control, that we can't question life's mysteries, that good will come out of this horror.  Perhaps that is true, but right now, in the presence of so much devastation, it all sounds so useless and empty.

All we can do is remember how unfinished life still is.  Whatever our evolutionary progress it has not gone far enough.  The great religions of the world offer redemption, forgiveness of sins, rebirth, spiritual transformation.  But even with all of their power and instruction we are still left with our human failings, our vulnerability to mental illness, our greed and our selfishness, and the disasters of our own making.

I am not advocating despair or giving up on ourselves or on each other.  There is something that can comfort us.  And it is in the gift that children are.  Their openness to life, their love of learning, their curiosity and fearless questions, their trust and blamelessness, their way with pets and the world of animals, their freedom with laughter, their welcoming arms and gentle souls, their playfulness and harmlessness, and their endless willingness to extend love—all of that is our model in these confusing times.

Goethe, the wise German writer once said, "Age does not make us childish, as some say; it finds us true children."  We need to recapture the soft-heartedness, the open spirit, the sheer delight in life that children possess.

Grown-ups never understand anything by ourselves.  We always have in our minds that when some hideous and monstrous act destroys our confidence in people and ambushes our perception of life we are to turn to the wisdom of adults for help.  But perhaps in the midst of this nightmare in Connecticut it is best to turn to the children.  They more than anyone else can show us how to heal and how to live.

© 2012 Timothy Moody

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