Bombing the Soul

28 Dec

light-at-the-end-of-a-tunnelEarlier this month, my sister texted her hairdresser to confirm the day’s appointment. In her darkest of nightmares, Allison never would’ve imagined that her in-house stylist and friend had been murdered 36 hours before.

Intensely and shockingly personal or merely the morbid curiosity of passers-by staring at a traffic accident, the response of human beings to tragedy is complicated, but there does seem to be some irresistible pull toward misfortune and calamity. Several days later my sister found herself combing through the disturbing Facebook page of her friend’s demented and perhaps even satanic killer.

In his book “Everyone Loves A Good Train Wreck: Why We Can’t Look Away,” Wake Forest University Professor Eric Wilson explores the doom and gloom side of human nature. In a spin on the saying about the light at the end of the tunnel, do we need the darkness of that passageway to fully appreciate the light?

Last year at my old job, I eagerly asked the company IT director about his predecessor, who had been caught by the Feds in a child-sex sting. Somebody I didn’t know and would never meet attempted something horrific and I wanted to know more details. At about the same time, I felt the need to look through the Twitter feed of an Atlanta twenty-something charged with DUI and the death of a fellow motorist. There the young man was in his day-to-day, week-to-week posts talking about fun outings and trips, and then the online log abruptly stopped just hours before he stopped an innocent life.

Struggling to process and cope with the sudden loss of her friend, my sister was left to revisit a text conversation that was sickeningly one-sided at its end. There are obviously no easy answers in that type of very sad situation, but Professor Wilson argues that death and destruction can help us empathize with suffering and make us value life more. Studies like his can certainly help us in the psychological realm, but they fall short in soothing the soul.

In the holiday season with its many signs and symbols of hope and rejoicing, there can also be indelible reminders of heartbreak and tragedy. As my favorite reverend, Davis Chappell, preached, “The life of faith is a marathon. You have to learn to run with pain.”

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