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Aug 6

Written by: Greg Runyon
8/6/2009 1:00 PM 

I just read the ramblings left behind by the guy who shot up the gym outside Pittsburgh the other day.  I can't decide whether I'm glad I did or not.  On some level, I feel bad for taking in his thoughts, which he clearly intended to be found and consumed.  You hate giving a guy who killed several people what he wanted.  On the other hand, it was in some ways illuminating, and I suppose I have some hope that perhaps professionals in psychology/sociology/counseling will be able to learn something of value that might prevent the depth of desperation that led to that shooting from happening sometime in the future.

 

For the record, I'm not sure I would recommend that most people read it, certainly not anyone too much younger than about 18, unless you have a trusted adult to read it and discuss it with you.  There is a lot at work in those 4600+ words, and it's not really for the faint of heart.  If you are currently experiencing some level of depression, I'd avoid it too.  Also for the record, I’d like to make it clear that none of the claimed wrongs that that guy suffered justify his taking of innocent life.  There isn’t anything that justifies that.

 

That guy had a surprising (to me anyway) degree of self-awareness.  I was expecting less, let's put it that way.  He had a pretty good grasp of his external problems, most of which centered around not having female companionship, and problems that extrapolated from that root problem, such as perhaps not being as successful as he might like in his job, and not really enjoying the company of people in general anymore.  What he seemed to have the least grasp on was how to get beyond the negative internal dialog that developed from the root external problem.  At some point he became locked in a cycle of not being able to see a reason to live.  He became convinced that nothing he did would change his circumstances, and that he would suffer for the rest of his life, alone.  Tremendously sad.

 

It seems likely that he was a guy who tried to do the “right” thing for a very long time, and didn't end up living the life he expected to live because of it.  Expectations can be very dangerous things.  If you create an outcome in your head of how things must end up in order to be the way you want them, you will become a slave to that rigidity of thinking.  Acceptance of how things are can be very freeing.  He was unable to see that.

 

He at times rails against women on his blog, for whose attention he was clearly desperate, but also mentions on it that he had a lunch date in May with a woman he met on the bus.  He goes into no detail about that date, but mentions that out of the 30-million women he estimates to be attractive in the U.S., none of them want to be with him.  He goes on to say that he hasn't met anyone in 30 years he wanted to be friends with.  It's the waffling that he did that was so fascinating to me, on the one hand saying that, and on the other saying that he was pleased to have been invited to a party where he could meet people and talk.  All of it is so tremendously sad.

 

There are more terribly lonely people out there, I think, than probably anyone would be comfortable admitting.  And while it's usually guys who snap like this and start firing weapons at innocents, I'm sure there are many, many people of both genders who feel this isolated as they walk life's path through this crowded world.  Thankfully, most of them will not respond to their loneliness the way this fellow did. 

 

Erma Bombeck once wrote that it seems “rather incongruous that in a society of super-sophisticated communication, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners.”  I don't know what year she wrote that off the top of my head, but seeing as she passed away in 1996, she certainly has missed the maturation of many of the communication tools we use today, which I would argue only exacerbate this phenomenon.

 

Communication is everywhere these days.  The real problem is that connection is not.  I'd argue, in fact, that all of this easily accessible communication has devalued communication, perhaps has devalued relationships.  You can Reach Out and Touch Someone™ pretty much anytime, from anywhere, via a number of methods.  I fear this ease has too often dumbed-down our discourse.  We expect instant gratification, and when we don't get it, we move on.  It may present a challenge in this day and age for someone of this this killer's ilk, who's been perhaps rejected far too often, and is just looking for the first slight hint of flaw in or disinterest from others to confirm his internal view that he is, on some level, unlovable.  He seemed quite able to communicate, given the writing he did, but most unable to connect.

 

That date he had in May is what brought this thought to mind.  He was lonely, and particularly interested, it seems, in having a woman to love and be loved by.  As I said, he gave really no details about this lunch date.  I’m curious:  Who initiated the date?  Why was it apparently not, in the end, to his liking?  He either approached--or was approached by--a woman, and a date was arranged.  There must have been at least a mild mutual attraction there.  Where did it go wrong?  There is a reason that no connection was made there.  Maybe it’s just that he came off as a creep.  That might even be likely.  I won’t ever know.  People are having interactions all the time with other people that can change the course of history.  Had that date worked out…

 

We spend all this time texting and Facebooking and Twittering, and your phone in your purse can connect my phone in my pocket, but are we as people connecting?  I know more meaningless stuff about people I hardly know than I ever could have imagined, and I’m sure it’s the same for them with me.  There is a core group of people who know me well, very close friends and family, and who love me despite my flaws.  I guess that is what this guy lacked.  He describes his family in less-than-glowing terms, and seems more or less estranged from them.  Toss “no real friends” onto that pile, and now you’re getting somewhere.

 

Was he inherently evil?  Probably not, at least for much of his life.  He may have been evil at the end, and certainly his actions at the end were evil.  But I’m guessing he was a guy who came off as fairly normal most of the time, who felt wronged and wronged and wronged again until his worldview became so distorted as to make what he did at the end of his life seem to make sense to him.

 

You rarely know what kind of baggage people are carrying around with them.  He was toting a load, that’s for sure, a load that got more and more oppressively heavy as his life went on, until he in one final terrible moment heaved it all off of his back and onto the rest of the world.  It’s a tragedy to a greater or lesser degree for all of us that his burden became so great.

 

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