Thank you for this beautiful and important post. I would only say that mourning takes a different shape and time for each person. There is a reason for timed, structured mourning–memorials, funerals, moments of silence, acts of commemoration–yet none of these can direct a person’s private sadness.
For me, this is a day of mourning, but I will also be grading homework and reading Donne. I do not see this as contrary to mourning. Last night I listened to an extraordinary performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony and found that it expanded my world a little and, with that, brought out sadness.
It is sadness over yesterday’s terrible events, and also over our tense and reactive society with its demand for instant satisfaction and instant results. I do not know that that had anything to do with the murderer’s state of mind. He may have been planning this act for years; he may have done the same in a kinder world. Nor would the teachers and children have shown such bravery if our world were uniformly reactive and self-serving. Any age is complex; it is difficult to say one thing unequivocally about it.
All the same, it’s an age of bombardment. There is little respite. Yesterday, within an hour of the news of the murders, I received two hormone ads by email. (I have a spam filter, but things get through anyway.) At the movie theater, the previews are not only violent but aggressively and frighteningly uniform; they seem to follow a formula of loud noises, swift scene changes, shootings, hackneyed lines, and confused narrative–and you get a whole string of such previews before the movie starts. At restaurants, the music is cranked up loud on purpose: so people have to talk over it and thus build up a “buzz.”
Again, this may not have anything to do with what happened in Newtown. But the sense of bombardment and overload is not making people kinder, either. I find this in the classroom, every day. I have to stop things over and over to remind kids to take turns speaking. When many students are talking at once, about any number of topics, the train of thought gets lost. It takes quite a bit of doing to build the necessary pauses and quiet–without resorting to regimentation. There is little sense (in the larger society) of what it means to listen, to think, to let an idea build, to take in various aspects of an issue, to look into someone’s eyes. I dream of a world where people quiet down just enough to take something or someone in.
“So runs my dream, but what am I?”