Over the course of a lifetime most of us have to face experiences that show us how easily the everyday fabric of life and the world around us can tear.
But sometimes there is an extraordinarily intense concentration of such events in the world outside of our own personal experience. And when this happens we find ourselves staring deeper into that tear in the fabric and contemplating the seeming randomness of tragedies both large and small.
Many of these events, as it happens, are covered by one kind of insurance or another. In some of these cases, that provides a consolation of sorts; in others, it’s almost beside the point.
In the past week there have been a number of events that, while unconnected, show how fragile the ordinariness of life that we take for granted can be.
First, of course, was the unbelievable massacre of some 32 students and faculty members at Virginia Tech by a student who was deeply disturbed.
Granted, after the Columbine High School rampage 8 years ago, it became more difficult to think of a school as the sanctuary it should be. But memories tend to be short and the utter unreality of what happened in that Colorado school faded for many of us. It’s also easy to ascribe the outrageousness of that event to the peculiarities of the 2 students who perpetrated it and then killed themselves.
The killer at Virginia Tech was indiscriminate in his victims. Young and old; male and female; student and faculty. American, European, Asian. It didn’t matter.
But taking into account the 6 degrees of separation that bind us all, it’s hard to believe that each of us does not have a connection, however tenuous, to one of the victims. I know 2 people who had friends or relatives who were shot on the campus. One died; the other, an 18-year-old girl, is in critical condition. Her physical prognosis looks promising, but how long is it going to take her to get over having seen classmates shot in the head?
The second recent event was the car crash that involved New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and had him seriously fighting for his life for a while.
You have to wonder what, if anything, was going through the governor’s mind as the Chevy Suburban he was being driven in was speeding up the Garden State Parkway at 91 miles per hour with emergency lights going full force. Why wasn’t he wearing a seatbelt?