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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 6:10 pm | Fair 62º


Tim Durnin: Praying in the Wake of Senseless Violence

I find the 'what can we learn from this?' mantra as empty as it is meaningless

I woke up Saturday morning with a CNN Breaking News email at the top of my inbox. The short preview stated, “Fourteen dead in Colorado theater massacre.” Early reports got the number wrong.

“Another crazed lunatic with a gun fetish and a thirst for blood,” I thought to myself. Unlike most of his ilk, this gunman didn’t have the decency to take his own life.

We’ve been through this before — Columbine, Virginia Tech, Luby’s Cafeteria in Texas. I lost a high school friend in the shootings in Sunnyvale in 1988. That is the most personal any of these tragedies have been to me. I find it difficult not to be cliché in writing about such things, but I find the “what can we learn from this?” mantra as empty as it is meaningless.

As a culture we haven’t learned, we don’t learn, so let’s stop pretending these things are more than a sensational distraction from the mundane. The glaring exception being those souls close enough to the tragedy to be touched by the wave of unimaginable grief and heartache that follows.

I am also put off by the plethora of pseudo intellectuals clamoring for air time offering their own myopic findings in vain attempts to dissect the mind of the perpetrator. Their educated but painfully armchair psychology does little to add to the conversation except perhaps to placate those who blame all of the world’s faults on bad parenting. Profiling experts offer similarly banal and distracting content.

I can’t tell you how I would fill that air time. I do not have an offering to placate our culture’s voracious appetite to fill the void that follows such events. But the void is vast.

Standing on its edge there is the beckoning call of loneliness, isolation and our own mortality. It is no wonder so many turn the volume up, immerse themselves in the media and tune out the world.

My response, out of habit or reflex, was to pray. In the face of yet one more absurd act of violence, in the midst of a world teeming with injustice and senseless killing, it is the only thing I know to do, the only thing that grounds and steadies me.

I reach out to an elusive God, pray for the victims and their families, and end with the simple yet troublesome word, “Why?”

And after the prayer there is silence. I wake up early to immerse myself in that, to flirt with the terrifying void and pray for a return to peace. I always find it. In spite of the multitude of tumults, it is the silence that will finally comfort me — that, and the knowledge that beyond the silence there is God.

I pray again. My lips begin to whisper the most comforting words I know, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee …,” and that is all. It is as simple a lesson as it is cliché, but I have come to understand and embrace the truth that sometimes the only thing one can do is pray — and sometimes that has to be enough.

— Tim Durnin is an independent consultant for nonprofit organizations, schools and small business. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to read his previous columns.

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