Senseless Act of Poetry

tree-in-fog

As the Newtown “anniversary” approaches I came back to this poem I wrote on the day of that tragedy. It seems our world is confronted with the realities of these shootings almost every day now. The likes of Newtown, Roseburg, or just this week the San Bernardino shootings, are all too frequent. For most part, there really isn’t any good or “proper” way to express thoughts or feelings about these events. Historically, in times of great joy or sadness this is poetry’s job, to express the inexpressible. That is what I love about poetry.

I’m not sure why I even picked the Newtown tragedy to write about three years ago. As far as I can tell, there have been ~85 school shootings since Newtown, and I have no connection to any one of them. No connection of course other than being a citizen of this country, disgusted at the face of evil, and at the time found no other expressive outlet other than poetry. At the time (September 2012) I had watched a live news broadcast showing a typical “car chase” in Los Angeles that ended in a visibly paranoid [perhaps mentally disturbed] man committing suicide, mistakenly broadcasted live over the air in real time. For some reason this incident was still fresh on my mind on December 14th. The face of evil has many disguises, but I think it probably feels the most horrible, the most evil, when it surfaces among our schools and children. Those lives we try to protect the most from situations in the world just such as Newtown.

The verse below has gone through some revisions over the last three years. Not many, but enough that the day it was written is still fresh on the mind, yet time has allowed for perspective. The name of the poem could have been Columbine, or Roseburg, or any number of names. The words seem to ring true to me no matter the title. Evil may have won on this day, but ultimately it’s time is fleeting. So, here are the words I penned that day.

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Newtown

News Reports of the Shooting a Newtown Elementary School
News Reports of the Shooting a Newtown Elementary School

Our wounds come at first breath
In the blood of a garden at rest
Toil cursed upon our commute
Commissioned to die in our youth

Hope like a blanket will be
At the coming He will set us free.

There are virtually no words to describe the news today. Is this our culture, our time, in which history will judge. I’m sad for all those involved today, God be with those families.

Newtown by Scott Fillmer

No Greater Love Than To Lay Down Your Life for Friends in Aurora

People gather outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, at the scene of the mass shooting. (Karl Gehring/Associated Press)
People gather outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, at the scene of the mass shooting. (Karl Gehring/Associated Press)

Every time I read about this story I can’t help but think how incredible this was. There wasn’t just one person who gave up his life for another in Aurora Colorado, but three people, who died in place of a friend. This story for some reason reminds me of the story about Arland D. Williams Jr., dubbed the “sixth passenger.” Do you remember this guy? He was one of the survivors of Air Florida Flight 90, a flight from Washington National Airport headed for Fort Lauderdale. On January 13, 1982, the Boeing 737-200 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River. Williams was given the chance to take the life-line from the helicopter, and each time he passed it to the next person, all of which were saved, and then he died before they could rescue him.

I’m not sure why Williams’ story comes to mind, but perhaps because that was really the first time in my life I can recall the act of giving up your life for another. I was 12 years old, living in New Jersey at the time, and I remember going to church that Sunday, and listening to a sermon about what this man did by giving up his life for those other passengers. For some reason, that flight and Williams’ actions, have stuck in my mind since that tragic event happened 30 years ago.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

This is what Jesus told his disciples in John 15:13, and this is exactly what, at least three people did, in Aurora Colorado last Friday night at the premiere of The Dark Night Rises. Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves all took a bullet trying to protect their girlfriends while the horrific shooting went on in theater number nine. This is the very message of the gospel played out in horrific fashion right in front of our eyes on national television.

This is honestly something very difficult to fully comprehend. Words just can’t adequately imagine the sacrifice made by these people, yet, this is what the very basis of our faith in Christ is built around.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:6-8

In these few sentences, Paul brings together words that exemplify the Christian message, and show exactly what Christ did for his followers. We look at the actions of these heroic people I listed here, like Williams, Blunk, McQuinn, and Teves, and we praise them, and honor their incredible sacrifices, and rightfully so. They died for a friend, and in Williams’ case, he died for several strangers he never even knew. But Christ, who died a horrific death, for centuries of sinners, is given no such praise by today’s culture.

What view would we have of Jesus if we truly pictured him diving in front of a bullet, dying in our place, in a crowded movie theater in a typical 21st century American town like Aurora? He did do this for you.