The Power of Pain

I’ve sat down and tried to start this blog post three different times. On Sunday Night I tried to write it, and found that I had nothing to say. On Monday night I tried to write it, and found that I simply couldn’t make myself say anything I wanted to. Tonight, Tueaday night, I am trying to start it again, and I’m finding that I can finally say what I want to say. I’ve spent the past two days asking myself how I come to terms with the weekend’s atrocities. How do I rationalize 50 shot dead just a three hour drive from my home, how do I understand the death of so many people so near my own age? What do I tell myself to grapple with this? It took me a long time to realize the truth.

There is no coming to terms with this. There is no understanding. There is no way to grapple successfully with the kind of violence. We cannot truly understand what it takes to kill 50 people one has never met, to hate someone so virulently because of whom they love, to shatter a Saturday night with the sound of gunfire. These things, when they happen, defy all our attempts to explain or understand or rationalize them, because they defy all our understanding of what it is to be human. All we can do is watch and question and mourn and feel a deep, undeniable pain. 

And perhaps that is where the hope lies. When we cannot understand, when we cannot rationalize, when we cannot make sense of what we are faced with, when raw emotion is the only thing left, that is when we let ourselves feel unreservedly. It is this feeling that makes us cry and beat our chest and mourn, yes. But it is also this pain that motivates us to act. When it finally settles a little we let the memory of it, the hope that it will never happen again, drive us. We become crusaders against the pain, and as long as we are there is the chance for real change. We have seen this unfolding even over the past week, as a senate Democrat filibustered for stricter gun laws, hopefully to inspire real change. Perhaps nothing will happen, and the cynic in me cannot help but say that probably nothing will. But there is some hope in the pain we feel, and in our passionate crusading against it.

That hope, though, only exists for as long as the crusade goes on. So when the pain fades, as it inevitably will, hold on to the memory of it. Let the moments in which we hurt too much to do or say anything motivate us when we find that we can act once more. Let the phantom pain inspire us to strive to eliminate the real pain. Let the feeling of horror drive us to the end that we all hope for: that horror like this will never happen again.