The Search for Humanity Continues

07/21/2012 10:34 am ET Updated Sep 20, 2012

Much of our life is dedicated to an attempt to understand through reason -- rational, logical thought -- our existence. What do experiences mean? How do they relate? How does one event connect to another? What steps do I have to take to achieve a particular objective? Philosophers and theologians ask more fundamental questions such as 'why are we here?'

But when one human kills a dozen or more other humans who represent no threat to him, nothing seems to make sense, nothing is reasonable or rational. It causes us to question whether society is breaking down, whether there is a dark side to human nature beyond the reach of reason and sanity, even whether the veneer of civilization has become so thin that it is slipping away.

As awkward and uncomfortable as it is, candidates for political leadership should provide some reflection on such events to help us understand them. Candidates for president and other offices are social and cultural leaders as well as political ones. The political media who transmit and translate political messages to us should try to get candidates and elected officials to address fundamental questions regarding the health of our society. Neither politicians nor journalists seem comfortable dealing with these basic issues, but we need them to do so.

But the same is true of other leaders. Now is the time for major figures in the entertainment industry to discuss their role in society. Do they merely entertain? Or do they have a larger obligation? We need religious leaders, businesspeople, educators, and a large number of others to discuss the causes of mass casualty human crimes.

There are two possibilities: either there are underlying reasons for this, or it is just one-damn-thing-after-another randomness and there is nothing we can do about it. The latter is a tempting explanation, that is if you live elsewhere than in Colorado. We Coloradans think this is an exceptional place. But this is the second time this has happened in a very few years. Will there be a third, a fourth, or even more?

There is no reason in the world for any civilian (non-military, non-law enforcement) to have an assault weapon. There is no reason for those on the terrorist watch list to be able to buy 50 caliber sniper weapons. The large majority of those of us who are gun owners don't believe so and the so-called gun owners organizations do not speak for us.

Mass casualty crimes, crimes against society at large, involve gun ownership. But they involve much more. As a student of political theories and systems, I'll continue to try to understand irrationality, including in the halls of Congress, for years to come. But as a student of theology and philosophy, I'll continue to search for a better understanding of the human heart -- at its best and at its worst. Whether in Norway or Colorado, there are demons at large that threaten our attempts to understand human existence in rational terms and in spiritual terms.

We have a long way to go before we can claim to have rid ourselves of them and to have achieved a truly human society.