The phone rang this morning. My mom, crying. Have you seen the news?
- No, I haven't.
You don't want to.
Got off. My two children, picking up on tenor of the conversation, wanting to know what happened.
Sit here, I said, pulling them close.
Johannes, 2 1/2: Did Mama get shot with a gun?
No, I said. Mama is fine. But something really, really awful happened to some children at a school in Connecticut this morning.
Gave a short explanation of the event, and then tried to shift the conversation away from the sensationalist aspect of the shooting itself (mesmerizing to two-year old) to:
a) our family protocols in emergencies, and
b) how the families of the children who died might be feeling right now.
Johannes has kept coming back to the connection between
a) somebody shooting guns,
b) people dying,
c) the person shooting guns being "not very nice,"
d) did Mama get shot?
The last two have easier answers than the first two.
We have banned the usage of certain words in our family. At the top of the list is "bored," or any of its derivatives. A recent entrant to the banned words list is "hate." I've told our kids: you've got to experience a bit more of what life has to offer before you get to start hating things, including green beans.
So as my children sat on my lap, firing away answer-less questions, I thought about what sort of conversations would be going on today, particularly from the lofty and impersonal fortresses of social media outlets, where you can safely tell a tale like an idiot, full of sound and fury and atrocious grammar; signifying nothing.
Conversations revolving around legitimate topics of debate:
gun rights vs. gun control
the role of parents in raising responsible children
mental health accessibility and support services
the role of violence, particularly in video games, as a desensitizing agent
the personal choices of parents in trying to find the balance between exposing children to the world's beauty while protecting them from its evils.
I squeezed my squirming children, and my eyes started watering, and I thought about how little I care about those conversations, those discussions right now, and I thought about how I would be tucking my kids into bed tonight, and about the Connecticut families who will spend tonight practicing how to live the rest of their lives without their little ones. The beautiful little beds that will be empty. I do not know how I would go on.
I am a curious person, filled with questions that metastasize into more questions. I am good at finding structure and patterns in the world; at dissecting large amounts of information and finding (or creating) the storyline woven throughout. I am fairly adept at making sense out of things. Science, with its evidence-based process and logical methodology, explains a lot of the world to me. Helps it make sense.
But it doesn't make sense out of today. Dan George, a pastor at Portland City Sanctuary, talked several weeks ago about who people go to when really, really bad things happen. They're not looking to Science for relief or for answers. They're looking for something, for someone to make sense out of the unexplainable. Something for the heart, not the head.
Science Fiction has been described as being '99% Science combined with 1% Fiction.' I love that description. My love of Sci-Fi is what, in a very strange yet logical way, helps me to believe in a life beyond the physical, provable reality of this world. Most of the world can be explained to me, in a way that makes sense and is provable, from a scientific standpoint. But there is a part of my heart and head that needs to believe there is a tiny bit left that we can't prove, or disprove, or explain in understandable terms. On days like today, I hang on to that fragment, that faith, especially tight and hope that the families, the parents, the siblings of those children are able to grab onto something similar and know, as Bob Dylan said, that Death Is Not the End.
Moby, the genre-hopping electronic musician, put out an album in 2002. A collection of 18 contemplative, largely downtempo songs, occasionally alluding to the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks the previous year and his response to them. The third track, In My Heart, is a gorgeous, neo-soul electro number featuring The Shining Light Gospel Choir. It is what I am listening to right now, and have been on repeat for the last 30 minutes.
Lord I want
To be up
In my heart
Daddy, the man who shoots people…is he not very nice?
- No, he was not very nice at all: I said.
I hate the man who was not very nice. He's not very nice. I hate the man who's not nice.
I couldn't bring myself to correct him. Not today. Maybe tomorrow.