Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech & Kurt Vonnegut

16 Apr. 2007, Cho Seung-Hui decided he had had enough of this world. Cho Seung-Hui, opened fire in a dormitory and classroom building on the Virginia Tech campus, killing 32 people before committing suicide. It is a tragic event for everyone involved. Here is Utah, this comes in the wake of a recent, and much closer, shooting at Trolley Square. Life is tragic.

The recently deceased Kurt Vonnegut put it well: "It appears to me that most highly evolved Earthling creatures find being alive embarrassing or much worse. Never mind cases of extreme discomfort, such as idealists' being crucified. Two important women in my life, my mother and my sister, Alice, or Allie, in Heaven now, hated life and said so. Allie would cry out, "I give up! I give up!"

"The funniest American of his time, Mark Twain, found life for himself and everybody else so stressful when he was in his seventies, like me, that he wrote as follows: "I have never wanted any released friend of mine restored to life since I reached manhood." That is in an essay on the sudden death of his daughter Jean a few days earlier. Among those he wouldn't have resurrected were Jean, and another daughter, Susy, and his beloved wife, and his best friend, Henry Rogers."

"Twain didn't live to see World War I, but still he felt that way."

"Jesus said how awful life was, in the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are they that mourn," and "Blessed are the meek," and "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.""

"Henry David Thoreau said most famously, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

"So it is not one whit mysterious that we poison the water and air and topsoil, and construct ever more cunning doomsday devices, both industrial and military. Let us be perfectly frank for a change. For practically everybody, the end of the world can't come soon enough."

What would Mark Twain have to say if he could see the world today?

Cho's roomate, Joe Aust, a 19-year-old sophmore, was interviewed by the New York Times' Marc Sontora about Cho:

"[Cho Seung-Hui] was my roommate. I didn’t know him that well, though.”

Aust said that he never saw Cho with a girl or any friends for that matter.

“He was always really, really quiet and kind of weird, keeping to himself all the time,” he said. “Just kind of anti-social, didn’t talk to anybody. I tried to make conversation with him in August or so and he would just give one word answers and not try and carry on the conversation.”

“I would notice a lot of times, I would come in the room and he would kind of be sitting at his desk, just staring at nothing,”

The police were surprised that even his roommate knew so little about him. Not that this situation is Aust's fault in any way, but isn't it sad that a person could reach such an emotional state that they would flip out like this, and the closest person in Cho's life, for better or worse, tried making conversation "once" 8 months ago.

So, when we try talking to someone once and when they make it apparent that they are shy, distraught, withdrawn, possibly hurting in such a way that it is hard to interact at a casual level that we let them continue to bump along their way.

It just serves as one more reminder that, "For practically everybody, the end of the world can't come soon enough."

If only people were like tea pots. When the steam and pressure begins to build a whistle would sound.

But people aren't tea pots.

I suppose the key is to take both Thoreau's and Christ's words--combine them--and live by them. Assume everyone's life is as dark and desperate as Cho's and determine to mourn with all those who mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and we will find that we are not far off in assuming everyone needs someone to help them through this life.