Mourning for my Alma Mater
My alma mater, Northern Illinois University, is mourning today, following a shooting in one of its classrooms. News reports say that a gunman whose identity is not presently known shot and killed four students -- a number sure to increase -- and wounded many more when he fired a shotgun and then pistol in a large auditorium classroom before turning his pistol on himself. It is sad, and it hits me close to home as I think of the many exams I proctored in that very classroom during my grad school days.
Perhaps we will learn more about the reasons why he did this to people he did not know. Having an explanation such as that helps us deal with the pain and loss. But in our everyday lives, we do what we can to avoid the unpredictability that surrounds us. Events such as this, when they hit close to home, bring us back to the reality that our world includes unpredictability and it isn't as safe as we supposed it to be.
I am going to read again my copy of Elliot Aronson's Nobody Left to Hate. His social-psychological examination of the Columbine High School killings contains much wisdom for us as a society as we consider senseless violence.
More fundamentally, join me in a moment of silent reflection. Whether or not you believe in God, pause and contemplate existence and the fragility of life, and recognize that there are, every day, many people who suffer and who die horrible, premature, and preventable deaths. Then, consider how you might help alleviate at least a little suffering that goes on in the world today. There is too much war, too much suffering, and we all too often move through the day carefully avoiding exposing ourselves to it. Facing suffering is part of life, but doing something to alleviate even a small part of others' suffering is the essence of living.