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How Do We Find Beauty in the Pain? Reflection on Sandy Hook

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It has now been more than two months since the inexplicably tragic massacre in Newtown, Conn. Anyone with a child in their life who they care for -- a son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, step-child, pupil or friend -- no doubt shuddered when they found out that such a gruesome act of violence, the kind of thing that only our worst nightmares are made of, became a sobering reality for the parents of 20 young schoolchildren, as well as the families and friends of the six brave adults who were gunned down in the senseless shooting.

However, perhaps the greatest challenge isn't sorting through the pain of this horrifying event, but finding the silver lining. If we can come around to this, to view pain as something greater than an obstacle we must endure, and credit it as an element of living that's essential for our growth, we'll be left with more than just emptiness following such an incident. In each case, there is another side of the unspeakable.

In Judiasm, the immediate days after someone passes are referred to as Shivah, which is a formal seven-day period of mourning, in which the departed's closest family members are allowed to simply, but fully, feel their grief. The mirrors in the house are covered to eliminate any inclination for vanity (and to help the departed soul by not confusing it with its own reflection, in case it lingers in their familiar home) and food is brought in by friends so that mourners don't have to be preoccupied with even their most basic needs. The idea behind this custom is not only for the mourner to honor the dead, but for them to immediately and directly deal with their loss. Indeed, this is a time to actually sit with the bitterness, the dark side of the coin.

In nature, bitterness is often the marker of a toxic substance. Plants produce bitter-tasting compounds that are designed to ensure the future survival of the species, deterring predators from taking a bite before the fruit is ripe and the seeds are ready to be sown. The period of bitterness is woven into the fabric of nature, an integral part of the process of growth. As part of this tapestry, we are familiar with this physical phenomena; but as highly-conscious and evolved beings, we also possess the sense of its metaphysical aspects as well.

The still-undetermined turn of events that led Adam Lanza to so heinously take the lives of his innocent victims, on the physical plane, clearly is something that makes us puke. Yet, on the other hand, there is another side that we are left to ponder, something that, according to this plan, somehow supports our growth. What is that? What part of this horror do we need to swallow, and how do we transform its toxicity?

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