In the aftermath of the shooting last week on another college campus, I am reminded of a common response to such horrors: to pray and seek solace from God.
In my opinion, the purpose of reflection, meditation, and contemplation in times like these has two purposes. First, cultivating a sense of loving kindness directed toward the families suffering from this tragedy may lift ones own sense of kindness as well as impact those far away. Second, reflection on the cause of such tragedy may increase the application of reason and awareness of the roots of such behavior. The perpetrators of these senseless acts of violence are suffering, suffering from delusional thoughts brought on by brain chemistry and social environments. They are actions that arise when one is disconnected from others, threatened and at times feeling omnipotent. Most of us are spared such intense feelings by our own brain chemistry and social networks that might catch us if we drift too far from what is considered 'normal' behavior. Medication serves to adjust chemical imbalances that lead to psychoses, paranoia, and delusions, but as is often the case, adherence to medication can be problematic.
We need to reflect on the reality that we each have within us: a capacity to harm others - whether the extent of your harm is malicious gossip, outmaneuvering someone in business, or telling a white lie. Science has demonstrated that evil arises in good people all the time, a consequence of both individual biology and social environments.
As members of the human species - of humanity - we need to reflect on our social environments and ways to protect those of us that slip into the dark actions of evil. We need to make access to weapons designed to kill a barrier that is so tall, virtually no one can scale it. We need to increase public awareness of signs and symptoms of mental illness, such that early detection and quick response to such signs trigger immediate action by friends, family and the social environment in which we live.
Reflection and contemplation of our deep interconnectedness - our similarities, if you will - and the capacity for evil inherent in us all - is a valuable exercise. I know that if we reflect on our dependent nature, it may lead to direct changes from within, by your own thoughts, feelings, and actions - by increasing your own awareness. God may provide quiescence for you to contemplate your connection to something larger than yourself, but without awareness of your own role in each and every action of human nature - and human steps of improvement - the inspiration generated is lost.