Friday, April 20, 2007

The Darkling Plane

Much has happened this week. I feel I shoulld write about the events at Virginia Tech, should offer some thoughts and reactions.

But I find I have little to say. The events are, of course, horrific. The news coverage is, of course, pornographic. The "manifesto" is, of course, "rambling". The killer was, of course, a loner. Nothing is very different from previous massacres.

There are questions, of course. But I am constantly reminded of two songs: Jeremy by Pearl Jam, written about 16 year old Jeremy Delle, a student at a Richardson, TX high school who killed himself in class and I Don't Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats about 16 year old Brenda Spencer who sat in her room across from a school and fired her new rifle at the playground.

Specifically, the lines "Jeremy spoke in class today" from Jeremy and "And he can see no reasons / 'Cos there are no reasons / What reason do you need to die, die?" from I Don't Like Mondays.

The events occurred 12 years apart, in 1991 and 1979 respectively.

There are no reasons behind such events. Indeed there is unreason, the absence of reason, the dark void of rationality, a darkling plane of anger, hurt, fear, emptiness.

The victims are tragic, the famlies left behind are deeply bereft and it is only natural to ask why. But there truly are no reasons. A young man descended into the darkness of madness and the word 'reason' does not apply.

At least this time there can be no claim of "we didn't know", "no one ever suspected", he was such a quiet boy", etc, etc. This man was known to be ill, he was known to be disturbed, and many people DID try to get him help and to protect the world from his growing anger. But in vain. The rules and the laws, and the circumstances worked against the possibility of stopping him. But at least some people in his life tried.

There are heroes in this story. The 72 year old professor who gave his life so 20 of his students could escape; a true hero of the people. The survivors who aided fallen friends. There will be more stories of heroes as we learn more. But these events show, once again, heroes are not special, they have no 'powers'. They are ordinary people who perform extraordinary feats in a crisis...and some pay the ultimate price.

And there was a villain as well. But we should also mourn him. His descent into madness must have been intensely painful and lonely. He is a victim as well; a victim of something in his brain that took him onto that darkling plane. No condoning here, no excuses. But a realization that this was an illness which, had it been recognized when the chance to do so presented itself, 33 people would still be alive.

But there are no reasons. What reason do you need?