I’m not even certain how to begin writing this, but perhaps sincerity will do the speaking. Three years after the Isla Vista shooting, I’m finding myself thinking about what transpired in my beloved college town. This is the first time I’m finding myself not in Santa Barbara thinking about what happened, and the sorrow, shock, and surrealism of a tragedy striking far too close have been replaced by a longing to understand. Frustrated confusion mingled with silence are all I have left this year. The obvious question then was: why? But the more compelling question now is: how? How did a life become so distraught, so self-consumed, so unrecognizable to humanity?
On the night of the shooting, I found myself reading up on what had happened, watching the intensely disturbing YouTube video, and reading the “manifesto” that had been written, and I remember thinking that this was the work of a person who deeply misunderstood the source of value in life. Tonight, I re-read many portions of the manifesto, and I still think that intuition was correct. Perhaps the more religious among us would be inclined to chalk the enormity up to “man’s fallen nature,” and I don’t disagree. Nevertheless, I’m not certain that I’m fully persuaded by a description that seems so bereft of the utter darkness that we witnessed. It just doesn’t seem like a complete enough description given the implicit resignation of the phrase; it seems more like the manifestation of radical despair and unmet desires. Upon reading the manifesto tonight, I was met with conflicting pity and disgust, yet there was also a part of me that wondered if our world hadn’t groomed such a tragedy from the beginning. Obviously I am not trying to justify what the killer did nor am I pinning the blame on society; this was truly a case of senseless, hopeless violence. Yet, the questions are overflowing. Did he have friends to help him through these troubled thoughts? How did his parents not perceive the issue from an early age, when he seemed to have begun his deviation from living a full, vibrant life? What could we collectively have done differently?
I’m not entirely sure I’ve had enough time to understand – it may very well be the case that his story is not one to be understood. But more than anything, I find my heart broken once again for the families who lost their loved ones in the most unnatural way. I will never know the depth of suffering that the friends of the deceased endure every year around this time. All I can do – all we can do – is be faithful each year to honor the memories of those whose lives were claimed and be reminded to love those around me with kindness and with respect. I believe that the end is drawing ever closer, and so I must believe that a loud voice from the throne will eventually say, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And yet, in the middle of an especially dark night, I am finding it difficult to bear the burden of tears that have yet to be wiped.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.