A Menacing Portrait of Reality – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Source: Toronto.citynews.ca

There was yet another mass shooting on the streets of Toronto in late July. Danforth Street in mid-summer would be filled with people of all ages enjoying a Sunday evening meal, stroll, or cold beer.

The suspected shooter has had years of dealing with serious mental health issues. His family is no stranger to considerable mental and legal issues. They described him as suffering from “severe mental health challenges” and struggling with psychosis and depression.

The family’s statement said that the interventions of professionals were unsuccessful in helping him, and medications and therapy “were unable to treat him.”

Mental health concerns are a fairly common problem for people in our world. Most are able to deal with the difficulties and live a normal life, thanks to family, community and appropriate medication.

Unfortunately, there is a  small minority whose issues become a problematic issue when they become imbalanced and get hold of a weapon. Who knows what causes them to reach the breaking point?

The result can be a wild shooting on Danforth Avenue or a rampage down Yonge Street with a vehicle. Of course, we know that not all matters of random violence warrant the word mass.

We hear on a frequent basis about men and women who reach the breaking point and lash out at people around them – family, work colleagues, or total strangers.

Any prison official can tell us that it is impossible to remove everything that can become a weapon in the hands of someone who is looking for revenge. An office worker can do a lot of damage with a sharp pencil. A simple kitchen knife is able to be used to cause pain.

The usual question surfaces in the days and weeks after a major issue of violence: What can be done?

Then all the experts (and that includes anyone with an opinion, someone whose expertise is rooted in their life experience and their favourite media commentators) tell us that it’s a matter of (fill in the blank).

Take away the weapons. Lock up the crazies. Hire more cops. Make it difficult to get hold of a gun.

Those who know the world of mental health and the integration of those with struggles into the community probably have the best ideas. But it can be tough to bring elected decision-makers on board.

Like most people, I am growing in a distorted picture of the world. Is it due to increasing incidents like shootings, terrorism, mass murder, and so on. The threat of climate change adds to the distortion.

On the very same day that the Toronto papers carried coverage of the Danforth Avenue shootings, there was a headline that stated, Suicide rate rises with temperature: study. The study showed that researchers predict that climate change could cause tens of thousands of additional fatalities than would otherwise be expected. I felt like screaming out.

One of my university professors used to speak of the menacing portrait of reality. I have long-since forgotten how he described this, but it’s what I experience more and more in this world. It’s a menacing world out there.

A part of me has had more than enough of the world and its craziness. I can appreciate why so many want to separate themselves from the world and find a quiet place in the woods.

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Paul Baker
    Posted at 06:20h, 05 August Reply

    Thanks Phil. A very thoughtful and provocative reflection. Politicians take heed!

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 12:00h, 05 August Reply

    Thank you Philip.

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