When a Divine Spark Goes Dark

We were talking about yesterday's shootings at Virginia Tech in the office today. Over 30 people killed. Worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history. Shades of Columbine. Someone mentioned Kent State.  For me, what came to mind was stories of a guy in a clock tower in Austin TX.

It is a credit to my UU colleagues that while we expressed great sorrow for those killed, and especially for those left behind to grieve the loss, none of us vilified the shooter. No talk of evil, etc.

Still... I wonder... what makes a person want to kill a bunch of people that he doesn't know?

I am grappling with our belief in inherent worth and that each of us carries a spark of the Divine.  How can divinity wreak such evil?

Not long ago in church I tried to expand upon the analogy of the flame - our divine spark, our inner chalice.  Fire needs fuel to grow - it needs connection.  The easiest way to extinguish a flame is to cover it, isolate it from the oxygen around.  Even when battling large forest fires, where it would be impossible to cover or isolate from oxygen, the strategy is to dig fire lines and otherwise isolate the flames to keep them from spreading.  In isolation a flame dies.

In social isolation our divine spark dies as well.

That still doesn't explain why one would kill so many others.  When one is so isolated from the rest of divinity, suicide is understandable but why violence towards others?  Even in the dementia that comes from rage and desperation, there is still a kind of rationale, even if it only makes sense to the killer.  To think otherwise is to deny that person's worth.  What did the shooter hope to attain by his actions?

The only answer that I can think of comes from the amazing movie Crash.  In it a character describes feeling so socially isolated that one might intentionally crash into another just to feel the connection.  For one brief moment, as he was impacting the lives of others in the biggest way possible, did he feel more alive?

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