20th July’s tragedy has captured the world’s attention. Here I was, in a random corner of the world celebrating my mom’s birthday, while in some other corner someone else had made up his mind to destroy people’s lives forever.
The web is filled with all kinds of comments towards the Aurora tragedy. Most people, regardless of where they live want rightful revenge, a few others want him to undergo psychiatric treatment while another percentage appears to need mental treatment themselves, seen as they have been openly talking about attacking this kid’s family or vividly imagining disturbing things to be done to him.
Reading about the brave men who died protecting their loved ones touches my heart. I would have fought with my life and taken all the shots if it meant protecting the people I love. The one story that breaks my heart is that of Ashley Moser. She has received more than a lifetime’s worth of pain. Such stories do make me question the point of life?! After recently losing her father, she’s now dealing with the loss of her 6 year old, her unborn baby and has been paralyzed! Most of these victims were my age, which makes me wonder if I would’ve been one of those unfortunate people had I been living in Colorado? As the thought leaves me cold, I realize I feel a connection to this tragedy.
Seeing the shooter’s face plastered over news sites left me agitated and disgusted at first. My instant reaction was to hope he would rot in solitary confinement but the story that unfold is perplexing. Suddenly, it felt as though James Holmes was a lot like me (at some point). He obviously worked hard to get into a prestigious doctoral program, probably even gave his GRE/GMAT. As someone who is in the midst of doctoral application procedures, I know the amount of hard work, endless hours of research that go into writing a simple (non-science) proposal. The media loves sensationalizing everything negative, force feeding thoughts into our brains. There have been reports suggesting he wasn’t the genius that initial articles claimed he was but from my point of view, anyone who has managed to get on a funded doctoral program specifically in neuroscience is not average.
From the looks of it, he came from an upper middle class, educated background like me. In school he was the straight A’s kid, just like me. Although I wasn’t an introvert, I was the awkward overweight geek that loved video games and had a boring social life. There are probably a million other kids from the 80s who can relate to James’ background and probably most of us are still struggling with unemployment, settle for lower jobs and encounter extreme competition. Times are hard.
The only difference is that this geeky, mellow guy somehow did a 360 degree that most of us don’t. Those disturbing images from his Adult Friend Finder profile are a clear sign that something was so wrong! If he was losing grip on reality, why did no one notice? More importantly, how does a smart kid go about withdrawing from medical school and the parents don’t find that worrisome, even if the kid is a grown adult?
On 20th July, humanity died some more. I won’t make excuses for James’ behavior because I don’t know the real situation but from what I gather, he seems mentally ill. Honestly, anyone who thinks of doing what he did even if it was just for notoriety, is mentally ill. Terrorists have a motive, Holmes appears to have none. I feel empathy for James Holmes because I can’t imagine what went through his mind when he decided to throw his future away, especially since he must have dedicated crazy hours towards it, without any care for the consequences his family would have to face and more importantly, with disregard for the lives his victims lived. There is a heartbreaking video which almost brought tears to my eyes, where some trashy reporter questions James’ father at the airport. Sadly, there are more victims of this tragedy than reported by the media.
This one is turning out to be a long post but today’s therapy for the soul is a Prayer For Broken Hearts. We have different views and I understand many people would believe James Holmes is giving an Oscar worthy performance, pretending to be unwell. When I saw his glassy eyed photos from the courtroom all I could see was a man who had lost his soul and his conscience. Weirdly, that look reminds me of the time I was so deep in despair, I was walking around the town cluelessly. For a week or so, I could smell my tears every-time I breathed. One afternoon, I spent my lunch break at Waterstones, staring at books, hoping someone had written something about healing hearts, which is when I picked up The Alchemist. The sad thing is, we will all fall down helplessly, lonely and heart broken on the floor, many-many times throughout our lives. Some end up bitter, some turn it inwards, some turn that pain into something productive and some end up like James Holmes.
I don’t have the right to decide whether or not to forgive him, only the victims have the right to do that but as a human, I am free to pray and feel empathy. I still struggle with compassion, even today I have a mental list of everyone who has wronged me (I guess many of us do) but evolution for me is learning to experience compassion because everyone we meet is having a hard time and has struggled with some part of life no-matter how perfect they appear. We will probably never find what went on in James’ mind or why no one noticed the absurd transformation in his behavior. He could very well, deliberately in his right mind have planned these attacks or he could have been experiencing paranoid schizophrenia, either way when a kid that looks perfect on the paper loses it, it is bound to leave a trail of questions. Some may think, why bother finding answers, just make him pay but if we stopped questioning, wouldn’t that lead us back to being the cavemen we once were? A zillion evolutionary factors are responsible for leaving most of us ridiculously heart broken/depressed/disturbed at various points in our lives, while the remaining population is battling mental disorders day in and day out. Why are mental issues stigmatized? It is so easy to call someone ‘crazy‘ or ‘unstable‘, consider them an outcast and want them put down like a rabid dog. Sadly, the society forgets that we are (apparently) evolved human beings.
Another question on my mind is, why do we as a society hate so fast but love too slow? Pink was onto something with that song Ave Mary A.
A recent discussion with my friend made me feel as though a deep connection is what lacked in James Holmes’ life. A few might think it is very naive of me but I really do wonder if an understanding close friend could have spotted James’ changed behavior well before hand. Yet again, I’m not sure what his situation was and whether he had a best friend he could confide his problems in but I strongly feel, had this concerned individual existed, the outcome of many lives would have been different.
I hope all the victims who lost their precious lives and their rights to live their brilliant dreams, find peace. This tragedy touched me on a deeper level. We may never know if someone who died in that theatre was struggling with his/her own depression or mental disorder. I also hope the victims who are survivors find some miraculous strength from within to face the nightmares they were unfairly forced to live through and finally, I hope James Holmes is treated back into sane consciousness so he realizes the intensity of the damage he’s done, the lives and dreams he’s taken away and the value of his own more than blessed life that he threw away. There are many, many kids around the world who wish they had the resources to pursue a higher education or an opportunity to study at a prestigious university.
Sometimes I feel like a horrible person for empathizing with James Holmes but then I wonder, if I had a choice between being the victim who was hurt from the outside or being James himself, who is damaged from the inside, whose life would I choose? My life’s biggest lesson has been facing the consequences of my actions, staring straight into that pain, learning lessons and hoping I can eventually transform on the soul level. I’m not sure how James Holmes can transform but as a spiritualist and optimist, I believe all our souls are on a human journey, nothing stays static but change and growth. It is inevitable for us to go on with our lives with zero impact on other lives, whether James comes back into our reality or not, he is still connected to greater humanity. May be this deranged, solitary, hate and pain filled path Holmes has chosen is his journey in search of his lost soul. When I think about those painful court room photos of the disturbed boy, I sure pray so.
Me and most of the people I know are going through some kind of emotional trauma or another, I just hope to channel all the love within me to every broken heart in the world. This moment seems the right moment to do so. Wishful thinking, may be, but I’d like to believe love is an energy that connects us all. I’ve noticed people say- Would you feel empathy if you were a victim? but the paradox with this incident is, wouldn’t you feel empathy if you really knew the shooter?
Here are a couple intelligent articles that inspired me to write,
The dehumanization of James Holmes– The Guardian UK
James Holmes: Schizophrenic– The Radula
Broken hearts all around the spot
I can’t help thinking that we lost the plot
Suicide bomber and a student shot
Tokyo, I think we got a problem…
Ave Mary A, where did you go? Where did you go?
How did you know to get out of a world gone mad?
Help me, let go of the chaos around me
The devil that hounds me, I need you to tell me
Child, be still, child, be still…