Monday, October 23, 2017

A Motive Behind the Las Vegas Shooting?

We may never know why Stephen Paddock fired on the concert crowd outside the Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Hotel that horrific night, October 1, 2017, leaving  58 dead and  547 injured.  Authorities have searched for his motive in his politics, religious beliefs, marital failure, loss of money, medical history, and drug use but can find no satisfactory link or answer. 

   In a way we could deal more successfully with this appalling slaughter and further the healing process if we knew why he did it. The cloud of unknowing hangs over the victims, the city, the nation at large.

   I do not pretend to know his motive, but I wonder if Paddock simply fell into the dark hole of despair. Perhaps, despite his money and seemingly care-free lifestyle, he came face to face with a meaningless existence, finding nothing of value in his own life and feeling jealousy and anger that others had something that he did not.

   If, in his mind, life had treated him badly, he would get revenge by bringing misery and death into the lives of those around him.

   Psychiatrist Victor Frankl’s experience in a concentration camp during World War II convinced him that “the striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. That is why I speak of a will to meaning in contrast to the pleasure principle” of  Freudian psychoanalysis or “in contrast to the will to power stressed by Adlerian psychology.”

   He recalled the decision of a fellow prisoner who had made “a pact with Heaven that his suffering and death should save the human being he loved from a painful end. For this man, suffering and death were meaningful.”

   Frankl concluded that “Nietzsche’s words, ‘He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how,’ could be the guiding motto for all psychotherapeutic and psychohygienic efforts regarding prisoners.”

   Perhaps despairing Paddock became killer Paddock because he decided, “I’m not OK –You’re not OK” either. Without meaning in his life Paddock gave into a meaningless massacre.

   Something was missing in Paddock’s life and the emptiness became unbearable. He gave in to misery rather than continue his search for meaning.

   For Christians, Jesus’ revelation “I am the way and the truth and the life” ( cf Jn 14:6) is an invitation to find meaning not in material possessions, nor in power, nor in sexual perversion, nor in escape from reality by drugs, nor in self-inflicted harm, but rather in a person, in Jesus himself, Son of Man, Son of God.

   Anyone without a sense of meaning in his life soon feels he is worthless. The Judaeo-Christian tradition counters such a conclusion with the assurance that human beings are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), that humans are “crowned with glory and honor” (Ps 8:6), that God so loved the world (human beings included) that He gave his only Son (Jn 3:16), that “what you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me” (Mt 25:40).

   The search for meaning, for motivation, leads many of us to Christ.

   We may never know Paddock’s motive, but we can be sure that protecting the sacredness of human life, of proposing the truth of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, and promoting the dignity of and respect for others can be an antidote to the malaise of despair and the disease of revenge.


No comments:

Post a Comment