Sunday, January 9, 2011


Major tragedies loom large in our minds, conscious and unconscious. They partly organize our perception of reality. In their light, we interpret our daily trials and travails. We construct their significance in ways that are meaningful to us as individuals and groups, from a daily to a historical scale. It isn't surprising then that in one tragedy, we find messages from another, that we interpret tragedies in terms of each other. Some tragedies are the result of unthinking, such as the sinking of the Titanic, or the fire on Apollo 1. Some are the result of planning, such as 9/11 and the mass shooting in Tuscon that has severely injured Representatve Giffords, killed six, and injured numerous others.

Regardless of their planning or their unplanning, because they serve the same function in our minds, taken together, all tragedies present an intricate web of synchronicities, or perhaps more accurately, tragichronicities. They can be positively arresting. The floor drops from under our minds when we hear that Christina Green, one of the most tragic victims of this shooting, was born on 9/11. Some may register a bit more astonishment on hearing that her grandfather's name is Dallas, the scene of another great political tragedy, another famous headshot, and the he managed both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, the city's two teams.

Speaking of Dallas, most will at least register the fact that the Tuscon shooter's middle name is Lee, and that bucking the trend set by John Q. Public, who never calls himself John Quentin, but following in the footsteps of previous American political assassins and serial killers since at least John Wilkes Booth, he prominently uses both his given names and his family name.

Some souls blessed with superior awareness, which some call paranoia, may have caught the fact, briefly reported on the news, that a helpful physician named David Bowman, himself at the scene of the shooting, saved lives, perhaps including Giffords'. They may subconsciously not have been surprised that Giffords is married to an astronaut scheduled to be in command of the Space Shuttle's final mission this summer, a dramatic and some would say tragic event in its own right. Here we have the interesting case in which the fictional tragic loss of an astronaut in an epoch defining novel, winks at us from the midst of a real tragedy. The loss in space of the fictional David Bowman, of course reminds us of the loss of the Discovery crew, a ship which Giffords' husband also commanded before its tragic accident.

Finally, a tiny coincidence firmly grounds us back into the present, in which Arizona's eighth district was the scene of a great tragedy this January 8th.