Making Secular Sense of a Massacre
A gunman opened fire during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Most of us, after hearing about this, are probably feeling sickened and disturbed.
No doubt preachers of all stripes will come crawling out the woodwork to align their loving god with the massacre in Aurora, Colorado, or thank Him for survivors. No doubt moralisers of all kinds will bash their pulpits and proclaim – not justify – how the Internet, secularism, Obama, liberals, atheism, godlessness, those not conservative in the right way, homosexuality, women, the military and international wars, the glorification of violence in video games and films, caused this horrific incident. They will catch the tears and fill their pockets. They will count the bullets as part of their arsenal of fear-mongering. The rest of us will look on horrified, confused, angry, trying to block out their noise.
Hardest for me was reading about a fellow writer, talented at her craft, who wrote on sports. Her Twitter timeline currently stands exposed like an open diary of a person who will never return to close it. Her last entry proclaims her enthusiasm for the film she will never see to its end.
For those of us without god or belief in higher powers, we do not have that comfort solipsistic illusion affords. We cannot and do not press our palms and enchant existence around the contours of our species. We recognise death for what we know it to be. We recognise that the answer to the question “Why these innocent people?” is “Why not them?” Reality is not a plush cushion contorting to our desires: it’s a cold landscape where we have to make do with the tiny fires we provide each other. And it’s this and only this to which we can turn, when the biting wind of meaningless horror comes howling at us.
I have no message of hope for anybody who is grieving, since I think hope is unhelpful and, by definition, false – if it were true, then it would not be hope but reality. We shouldn’t hope, we should act; we shouldn’t hope, we should do.
There’s nothing good or encouraging to say. I only wanted to express that I do not want tell you how to feel, except to find comfort and recognise how stupidly fallible and fragile, yet so difficult and hard to manage, our lives are. And recognise that for almost everyone else too, no matter how much they may hold views you disparage.
I am a fan of Batman and the film franchise. Writing that seems quaint, stupid, and pointless. But it does mean something: it means I shared something with people who won’t ever see this film. It means I shared a world with people I never met, but who were as willing I am to fork out money to see our favourite superhero battle the very same type of violence they succumbed to. There was no Batman to save them, no superheroes to swoop in to stop the bullets. Passive and human and real, they died in a stupid, vain, idiotic, meaningless, cowardly attack from a terrible, horrible human.
Whatever you think about guns, whatever you think about violence, we can all agree this mustn’t happen and indeed should be glad that it doesn’t happen more often. Let’s not let their deaths be for nothing and think how we can make sure such an incident never happens again.
Image Credit: lafoto/Shutterstock
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
This is what the world will look like, 250 million years from now
To us humans, the shape and location of oceans and continents seems fixed. But that's only because our lives are so short.
The future of education and work will rely on teaching students deeper problem-solving skills.
- Asking kids 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' is a question that used to make sense, says Jaime Casap. But it not longer does; the nature of automation and artificial intelligence means future jobs are likely to shift and reform many times over.
- Instead, educators should foster a culture of problem solving. Ask children: What problem do you want to solve? And what talents or passions do you have that can be the avenues by which you solve it?
- "[T]he future of education starts on Monday and then Tuesday and then Wednesday and it's constant and consistent and it's always growing, always improving, and if we create that culture I think that would bring us a long way," Casap says.
These Jurassic predators resorted to cannibalism when hit with hard times, according to a deliciously rare discovery.
- Rare fossil evidence of dinosaur cannibalism among the Allosaurus has been discovered.
- Scientists analyzed dinosaur bones found in the Mygatt-Moore Quarry in western Colorado, paying special attention to bite marks that were present on 2,368 of the bones.
- It's likely that the predatory carnivore only ate their already-dead peers during times when resources were scarce.
As a doctor, I am reminded every day of the fragility of the human body, how closely mortality lurks just around the corner.