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You Wonder Why

24 days ago, 58 concertgoers attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas were shot and killed in what has been determined to be the worst mass shooting in United States History. We mourned. We honored the victims. But most of all, we had questions. Questions about the motive, about safety, and about our gun laws. Questions about the state of this world and the men and women we often see as incapable of committing such a heinous act. Questions needing answers so we can heal, move on, and bring everything to a close.

Here tonight, on October 24th at 10:52 pm, most of these answers still haven’t been figured out. Looking forward, I doubt many of them will ever be solved. We know who the assailant was, where he was when he gunned down innocent people, and what time the act began and ended (although there’s still some discrepancy about this). We don’t know why he did it. We don’t have the resolution we often see in instances like this.

He was depressed.

He was bullied.

He was suicidal.

The assailant was none of these, which brings me to this question:

Who are the answers for?

As someone who has fairly severe anxiety (I even got nervous before writing this little essay) answers are the smooth seas to my storms. When you literally get freaked about everything, you want to be in control. You want to ‘Seize the Day’ as Robin Williams said so eloquently in Dead Poet’s Society. The best way to do that is by putting yourself in situations where there isn’t a lot of mystery; ones where you don’t have to think about the whys and how comes. People with anxiety hate the first draft. They live for the revisions. You learn and learn, gaining more knowledge about a situation, before using it to your benefit. Believe me, I try to do this all the time. I think I am in control of the situation because I know everyone around me and what they’re (hypothetically) going to do.

I can’t tell you how many times this has backfired. Got to be in the millions, folks.

I hate to say it, but the answers aren’t always there, and if they are, they usually aren’t that beneficial to your psyche. But even worse than that are the personal narratives we create to justify their existence.

1. Ghosts are real

If you haven’t heard of ghosting then you obviously haven’t spent much time in the dating scene the past couple years. Good for you! Ghosting sucks! To paraphrase here, ghosting is the ‘radio silence’ after a date you thought you killed. It’s the lack of response after the ten (let’s be honest—twenty) text messages you sent to Carl/Carlie and got no response. Zilch. To put it bluntly, ghosting means a big fat N-O. It doesn’t take a psychic to figure it out.

This pisses people off. There’s nothing more frustrating than not knowing why a relationship didn’t get started. There’s nothing more hurtful than being in love with someone for a year and then see them walk away without leaving a clue. What did you do wrong? Where could you have corrected your mistakes? The questioning and the sleepless nights start to come, and they come with a vengeance. “If I only knew why they didn’t like me, I could learn from my mistakes and bounce back.”

Don’t fret, for I have some good news. Those answers that you so desperately want to know? They only bring PAIN. What good is it for you to know that the reason they dumped you is because they really don’t like the freckles on your face? What good is it to know that your parents terrify them, and they think you’re just like them? What good is it for you to know that they never loved you anyway? Do these answers throw a wrench into what you think of yourself?

But Andrew, doesn’t finding out the truth help you understand the situation better? Yes. I want to be clear here—I’m not lamenting the idea of getting answers, I’m trying to make you question why you want them in the first place. This person that’s ghosted you or broken up with you… do you really think they are the best individual to determine what path you should tread down next? Does their opinion have any value now that they’ve made it abundantly clear they’re not interested? Why do you so desperately want to know?

When you’re the victim, answers are a cool, soft pillow that grows warm and hard overnight.

Answers are like a drug, and drugs will mess you up, man. People lose interest. People move on. People like other people. Sometimes the answers are simple and it makes it worse. Their rejection was completely out of your control.

And here’s how it can really screw things up. What if all the things you think you need to change are what the person you’re going to fall in love with desires? Answers are not always truths. Most times they’re opinions. We don’t like everyone, so why do we get so mad when someone doesn’t like us? It’s just their opinion. It’s one out of 8 billion. Knowing every reason so-and-so no longer wants to be with you might just drive you insane. Worse, it might make you lose faith in yourself.

2. A Broken Clock’s Right Twice

Last weekend Michigan football got whooped. Penn State made utter fools out of them. Before the game, I was listening to ESPN radio, and a man called in absolutely trashing the Michigan defense, saying they weren’t going to be able to stop them, Penn State was going to win, yadda yadda yadda… overall, I was fuming. The way the man talked made me think of those people you avoid at parties. The contrarians who love to push your buttons. Boy, did I want to see that guy eat his words.

Then the game happened, and not only did Michigan embarrass themselves on National TV, but this man, this stubborn, annoying man was right! And it pissed me right off, man. Because I know that the Michigan D is good— I’ve seen them play live. They were ranked #1. The polls! It was just an off night, right? They’ll bounce back…

Do we seek answers to prove someone wrong?

After I heard the man trash Michigan, I no longer wanted them to win just to win. I wanted them to win so that the man would look like a fool. I wanted answers that would not only justify my beliefs, but change his. When it comes to sports, sometimes it does go our way. Even the bad teams win every now and then. But we tend to take it personally, don’t we? My belief that Michigan’s defense was actually good was shattered once Penn State took the field. Sure, it was only one game, but good defenses don’t blow one game. I didn’t get the answer I was looking for. The man did, though. Boy, did he ever. I bet he was calling all his buddies saying, “See! Seeeeee!

Sometimes we try to control an event we have absolutely no control over.

The thing is, this man is going to say the same thing every year. There will be times where he is dead wrong. There will be other times when he is right. Either way, I will have no control over the outcome other than distancing myself from getting so wrapped up in what others say about my team.

3. Narratively Speaking

Last year the campus at EMU went through some turmoil. Someone had spray painted racist sayings throughout campus. People ended up protesting that not enough was being done to root out the racists who had committed the act.

It turns out a black man did it. We still don’t know why.

Now, I’m not condoning this man’s actions, nor am I denying the basic fact that racism is prevalent throughout our culture today, especially on college campuses. What I’m trying to say is that in this instance, the narrative the people were creating didn’t correlate with what actually happened.

If you want me to kind of flip sides here for another story, recently five teenagers were being looked at for throwing rocks off an overpass near Flint, Michigan. One of them struck a passenger and killed him. Bunch of morons and I hope they’re sentenced to the full extent. Immediately, people in the online community were screaming for the police to release the pictures of the five teens, saying they were obviously black and trying to hide their identities so it wouldn’t hurt the urban community.

Um, all five of the teens were WHITE.

Are we seeking answers to fulfill our own narrative?

As someone who sometimes likes to read headline news, I skimmed varying articles about the shooting in Vegas. And let me tell you, the message boards were a sight to behold. If you ever want to feel a dark and unsettling feeling in your gut, read message boards. Before the shooter’s identity was given out, people were already making assumptions. “It’s another Muslim attacking our country.” “It’s a liberal shooting up a bunch of conservative country fans.” “It’s a gun-lovin’ conservative who can’t cope with the world.” Each person, so stuck in their own narrative, was actually wishing who the killer would be. Wishing! Because then they’d be right. The answers would say so. I’m sorry (not sorry) but that is absolutely deplorable. When we use answers to justify our own ignorance, then we are truly blind. It goes back to the ghosting thing. We want to find all the dirt on the person who hurt us, because it fulfills the narrative of us hating them. It makes it ok.

It is not ok.

So, it makes me wonder—what good will come from knowing why the Vegas assailant did what he did? It’s certainly not going to offer healing, because 58 people died senselessly and aren’t coming back. What are we hoping to gain? What narrative are we hoping to construct? What if we find out it’s such a trivial thing? “Some people just want to watch the world burn,” Alfred said to Bruce Wayne in the Dark Knight.

Sometimes there is no why

4. Hidden

If you’re a Christian, the beginning of the Bible is literally about two people who wanted to find out the answers and screwed it up for everyone else. If the first chapter—in what is arguably the most famous book in the world—is about the danger of knowing everything, shouldn’t that be the catalyst for our entire life? If you believe that God knows everything, that means He’s deliberately keeping information from you. That means that He knows all the ways you can succeed and all the times you’re going to fail. He knows how you can get out of that and He won’t tell you.

Does that piss you off? It’s ok if it does. It’s ok to question every now and then. What I’m trying to say is that knowing everything isn’t everything. It can actually make you arrogant.

If an angel showed up and told you that if you went to Canada you would die, would you go? Gosh, I hope not! He just said you would die! But get this—what if he came back and told you how you would die. Would you go then? Do you think you could somehow avoid it now? The angel never said you wouldn’t die, but now that you knowwwww, you can be more careful and try to move on.

BUT HE NEVER SAID YOU WOULDN’T DIE!

See how the answers can sometimes cloud our judgment? When we know it all we can do it all, right? If we knew our futures we would avoid all our embarrassing mistakes. Tell me, what would you learn then?

Ripe (the book I’ve been working on since I took my first steps, it seems) deals a lot with the struggle between knowing and experiencing. One of the main characters is very bright. He has the smarts to figure out all the answers. The problem, though, is the way he goes about it. He’s smug. He’s arrogant. He hates his father and the answers only justify this hate. Even though it’s good that he figures them out, and even though he helps hundreds and hundreds of kids along the way by doing so, these answers do nothing but damage his soul. They are a poison in his lungs.

It’s not about what you find but how you find it.

I hope I haven’t confused you too much. It’s almost 1 A.M. now. Yikes! I only want to start a discussion. I don’t have all the answers in this essay (sorry). I’m not saying that detectives should give up their professions and let all the answers be unsolved. I’m simply asking you to check yourself. When you’re trying to figure something out, does it benefit your mental health? Are you trying to justify your own narrative? What methodology are you using to get to the solution? What are you trying to gain?

Instead of asking “What did they do?” ask “What can I do?”

Instead of worrying so much about why a deranged individual killed 58 people in Vegas, worry about how we can come together as a nation to prove that the answer to all evil is love.

* * *

Are you part of the rat race?

Or are you part of the human race?

You fuel your fake dreams.

And now you can’t sleep.

 

And so you wonder why (yes)

You wonder why (yes)

And so you wonder why (yes)

You wonder why (yes)

 

Life it happens to you, you know, you know

The days and nights won’t stop.

You think it will never be you, you know, you know

But there is no way out.

 

Are you running in circles on a never ending line?

Are you running in circles on a never ending line?

Are you running in circles on a never ending line?

Are you running in circles? Running in circles?

 

Keep trying not to worry.

But you’re part of the machine.

You fuel your fake dreams.

And now you’re never asleep.

 

And so you wonder why (yes)

You wonder why (yes)

And so you wonder why (yes)

You wonder why (yes)

 

Life it happens to you, you know, you know

The days and nights won’t stop.

You think it will never be you, you know, you know

But there is no way out.

 

Are you running in circles on a never ending line?

Are you running in circles on a never ending line?

Are you running in circles on a never ending line?

Are you running in circles? Running in circles?

 

Life happens. It happens.

Life happens. It happens.

Life happens. It happens.

Life happens. It happens.

 

“Life Happens” by Ardyn

 

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