So many thoughts and questions have surfaced in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting. The question of “Why?” has sounded the longest and loudest.
For the past week there have been doctors, theologians, politicians and psychologists, explaining why they believe the quiet, reclusive, 23-year old English major and immigrant from South Korea would erupt in a final outburst of violence and death. All of the experts’ reasons seem plausible and valid.
But is there a root cause — a foundational element that supercedes all? And if there is, what is it?
I can’t help but think of the Buddhist parable about the elephant and several blind men. In it, each blind person was told to feel the elephant and then describe from their experiences of what an elephant is. But, each man only felt a part of the elephant — the trunk or the tusk, the tail or the stomach. Each gave a truthful description of the elephant, but it was only one part of the whole. It was true, but not complete.
There has been speculation that doctors may have diagnosed Cho Seung-Hui with autism. Theroies have been made that he barely spoke as a child; that he was made fun of in his classes for mumbling or speaking differently; that he didn’t feel like he fit in; and that he fantasized about women at school. From the beginning of his life, it seems as if he lived in world cut off from others and when he grew into adulthood, Cho’s world simply got smaller and smaller. In my opinion, the walls closed in on him — there were plenty of warning signs but no one sounded the big RED ALERT!
In hindsight, there were so many people who could’ve made a difference. But how many lonely and awkward young people are on the path to violence? We don’t know until it happens, and then it’s too late.
Every person exists in a world of their own making. Events in our lives shape us and mold us. Experiences, parents, siblings, teachers, friends … interactions with them throughout the years make us who we are. I truly believe that we are more a product of what’s been done to us, or how we’ve been treated, than any genetic predisposition.
When things happen to us, we immediately assess what we believe it means — whether or not it’s true. For example, someone might say any of the following:
• “My friend didn’t e-mail back. She must be mad at me”
• “My boyfriend didn’t remember my birthday. He’s insensitive”
• “I got a bad grade on my paper. My teacher has it in for me.”
All these “reasons” are stories we make up of events in our lives. They may be true. But even if they are true, it has nothing to do with the event. A friend could indeed be mad, but it may have nothing to do with why she didn’t return an e-mail. Your boyfriend may be insensitive, but that’s not why he didn’t acknowledge your birthday. And the list goes on.
Years and years of this story making creates our profile of how we view life, other people, and our role concerning both. And the type of story that’s attached determines the type of emotional resume we build. Are you angry all the time? Do people always disappoint you? Is life a blessing or a burden?
I’m giving no excuses for Cho. I won’t let him off the hook, even if it is determined that he suffered from a mental disorder. What I am saying, is that the foundations of his final word to the world began long before last Monday. Perhaps, if just one person saw beyond his faults, and saw his needs, maybe … just maybe … things would have been different.
We want to assign blame as if that will salve the aching in our hearts. But there is no earthly salve that can take the pain away. Suffering and pain are human experiences from which none of us can escape. We must endure the grief. But someone once told me something that gave me hope in one of my darkest hours, and now I pass it on to you. That is, “There is no heartache that Heaven cannot heal.”
We don’t grieve alone, and we do not grieve as those without hope. Believe in that.
Lauren Green serves as a religion correspondent for the FOX News Channel. Prior to this, Green served as a news anchor for “Fox and Friends,” where she provided daily news updates and covered arts for the network. You can read her complete bio here.
Lauren Green currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief religion correspondent based in the New York bureau. She joined FNC in 1996. Her new book is "Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog."