It's very hard to comprehend human nature when something so traumatic happens. We can throw a bunch of theories as to why some of us do the things we do, but the faculties of our reason just get thrown back at us. Tragedies like what happened in Newton today are a straight shot to our gut and heart. All of our concepts of what is good, just, and possible in the world reel in agony when something so senseless happens.
A day like Friday, December 14th is very humbling. We're struck dumb. We don't know how to comprehend what happened, and we struggle to comprehend how to give the compassion needed to heal such wounds. Days like this may confirm all of our complex theories about human nature that we churn in our heads in academia and think-tanks and the horizons of cyberspace, but nothing we may reason about what happened gives any real satisfaction to our hearts. We are humbled again and again, for all the wrong reasons, at what human beings can do.
We can also be humbled and moved by a different potential in humanity, which is its deepest calling. This is a calling to be a vessel of grace. These are the days in which it is most needed. Whatever we can do, in prayer, in the giving of our hands and hearts to help those heal, is a chance to represent what we are really about as living beings, as vessels of grace from the Divine in its many loving ways and forms.
We certainly have to confront why such tragedies happen, looking within ourselves with courage and compassion at the state of our individual being and our collective being as a human society. That is also part of the healing that grace brings. We are humbled again and we must yearn for the Divine to help us understand our limitations.
Take stock today and tomorrow and going forward of our own state of consciousness. As the venerable Thich Nhat Hahn has written:
“Root out the violence in your life, and learn to live compassionately and mindfully. Seek peace. When you have peace within, real peace with others is possible.”
We can respond to these tragedies by allowing them to be more than a passionate call for certain political and social solutions (and these are debates, especially with gun-control, that need to continue). They are an opportunity for us to look inwards, as individuals and as a society, to see the violence and the grace we carry within ourselves, and to give us the chance to choose which path we want to take.
All I can really do today, at least, is pray for this grace to understand such tragedies, and more importantly, pray for this grace to come upon those who are so deeply affected by today's shootings.
Christopher Fici is a writer/minister/teacher of the Hindu Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, based in New York City. He is currently studying for his Master's degree in Eco-Theology at Union Theological Seminary in the city of New York. The focus of his studies is the anticipatory community, or communities anticipating the change from our unsustainable fossil-fuel framework towards a more ecologically-sound present and future. He has spent the last five years studying and living as a monk in Vaisnava communities in West Virginia and in New York City, where he is associated with The Bhakti Center. During his time as a monk, he taught vegetarian cooking classes, and courses on the philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita at New York University and Columbia University. He is also involved in Interfaith work in New York City with Faith House and Local Faith Communities. Christopher is an avid blogger, focused on the spiritual side of ecological and sustainability issues at his blog The Yoga of Ecology. He also contributes to Beliefnet, Elephant Journal, Good Business International, and State of Formation.