We use this word a lot to describe horrific things. “A senseless tragedy.” “Senseless violence.” And usually we take it to mean that there is no sense to this, that is it nonsense, this thing that has happened, we cannot make sense out of it because to any sensical person it is impossible to think this way. Justifying it is meaningless. You might as well try to argue that the world is flat. We cannot make heads or tails of it. Senseless.
But I think in the immediate aftermath of tragedies, we also mean that we are numb, that we are “destitute or deprived of sensation,” because sometimes the best way to handle such news is to shut down, at least for a moment. Even worse, the hits just keep on coming. Syria. Beirut. Paris. After a while, the pain deadens the nerve endings rather than awakening them. The sensation, the hopeless, helpless sensation, is there, but it is lessened with time and repetition.
Do we mean, perhaps, that our sense of outrage is limited? That it is senseless to maintain a sense of anger because these things happen so often and the world is so dark?
I hope not.
I hope, instead, that we mean that we need to take a breath to ready ourselves for the feelings that accompany the confusion.
I hope we mean that we cannot make sense of these things because there is no sense behind them. I hope we mean that it does not make sense to warp faith into violence, and that it does not make sense to blame the whole for the sins of one part.
And because we can recognize that, because we can say that we do not think that way and we will not think that way, we can do something. We can change something.
It will be slow, and it will be hard, but we can make the world make sense again.