Today is Julian's sixth birthday.
One of the benefits of my job is that it provides me with ample free time during the day. Consequently, I was able to attend, with Erika, the birth celebration at his Waldorf School.
It was a wonderful experience. As the teacher sung her way through the morning, the kids engaged in imaginary play, stimulated only by colored sheets and various pieces of wood. The birthday ceremony was rather spiritual and the kids, throughout, all behaved surprisingly well.
All in all, as I sat there observing, I concluded that there could be no more peaceful, inspiring place to spend a morning than a child's classroom.
This conclusion to be violently shattered fifteen minutes later when, upon sitting down to write, I learned of the mass-killing at a Connecticut grammar school.
Naturally, we as a society will go through the usual process of trying to understand what happened. We will assign blame, here or there, and propose various corrections for the problem. Nevertheless, another mass-killing will happen again; sooner, rather than later. It always does.
Which begs the question of whether or not there is any hope. Or are we, as a society, just too sick?
Blaming guns is always a popular option. In my opinion, this is also the most specious. Obviously, if guns were not readily available, then a mass killer would not be able to achieve the same level of carnage that he could today. Guns up the tally much higher than knives or poison possibly could. Yet, even with the smaller body counts, our society would still be just as sick.
Unless, of course, one believes that mass killings are a reflection of some inherent flaw with the perpetrator and not a reflection on society. Perhaps, one could argue, the killer has a chemical imbalance that we might fix with medicine. Or, maybe, his upbringing was deficient. If so, through the allocation of more money to end poverty or improve schooling, we could prevent such heinous crimes from happening again.
What all of these proposals have in common, is that they are modern solutions to modern problems. And, in so being, they are all dialectical in nature. They attempt to find the one point of conflict (guns, chemical imbalance, poverty) that, if resolved, will end the problem.
As a society, we do this all the time. We do it with abortion, gay marriage, taxes, climate change, and so on. Always, the issue is whittled down until the exact point at which two sides conflict is found. Then, the two sides are encouraged to battle it out, with the notion that the stronger (more correct) side will eventually win and that everyone will benefit for it.
It's Darwinism applied to social issues. Societal evolution through natural selection.
Yet, as is apparent today, we are clearly not evolving.
This is because all of these proposals conveniently ignore the reality that murder is a fundamentally immoral act and that, therefore, it is primarily a moral problem.
Unfortunately, modern civilization doesn't deal very well with issues of morality. It is too unscientific a topic to be properly appreciated today. It cannot be dialectically broken down.
The problem doesn't reside with one side or the other. Instead, the problem resides in our entire method of dealing with problems. The problem is the whole dialectical notion that through conflict we create progress.
This dialectical notion underlies every single aspect of modern civilization, from free speech to capitalism, from democracy to terchnological innovation.
It has created this modern world that we currently live in; giving us all of the good, as well as all of the bad. Today, the bad is especially relevant.
As painful as it is to accept, if the problem lies with the very nature of our culture- the underlying values of our civilization.
Not too long ago, before the modern era, people did not think along these dialectical lines. Instead of striving for growth, the idea was to search for balance. Instead of competition, cooperation was endorsed. Instead of emphasizing conflict, effort was made to create harmony.
Progress was not the ultimate goal, but peace.
To take abortion, for instance, instead of arguing ad infinitum over when life begins or whose rights come first- the fetus or the mother- we, as a society, could be seeking out the points in which we all agree. Since virtually no one thinks that abortion is the best-case scenario, we could start by emphasizing, and celebrating, that shared value.
Through actions such as this, however small, we create harmony in society. More harmony creates more love; and love, of course, creates moral people.
These are tiny, deliberate steps. I can't help but think, however, that they are the only light in the darkness.