Leading up to the trauma (any trauma), Everything Makes Sense. Of course, it -- meaning life -- never really makes sense. Rather, we simply superimpose a grid of logic and predictability, which most of the time works. But trauma comes along and reminds us that our narrative grid is just a fairy tale.
On a more micro level, think of Tom Petty. I was reading this morning of how he was a tortured soul who struggled with an abusive childhood, insecurity, severe depression, a miserable marriage, heroin addiction, and alienation from his children.
Nevertheless, he apparently came through it all, and then BOOM! The worst sting of all, just when you least suspect it. Indeed, if Petty were conscious, he might well have said something like, "What's this?! This can't be! I battled my demons for decades and came out the other side of hell! You know, resurrected!"
That same cosmic BOOM is awaiting us all, no matter how many comforting stories we tell ourselves. And perhaps more often than not, it will be a Total Surprise, as it was for the victims in Las Vegas. Were they ready for it? What a stupid question! How many people have the luxury to meditate on their death every day, to keep it front and center, such that it is the Constant Companion? And even then.
People understandably don't like to ponder the randomness of it all. If our personal fairy tales are there to deny the power of chance, our collective ones attempt to do so in a more systematic way.
As to the latter, you might say that this approach tries to situate the random element in a higher order -- similar to how Thelonious Monk could take the sour note and integrate it into a deeper harmonic structure. That requires a large musical mind. The smaller mind will just hear the wrong note and not know what to do with it. It's just a mistake instead of an uppertunity.
I think it takes a wide and capacious soul to acknowledge the power of chance, which amounts to conceding our permanent and insurmountable ignorance.
Churchill for example, observes that "The longer one lives, the more one realizes that everything depends upon chance," and that "Chance, Fortune, Luck, Destiny, Fate, Providence" are but "different ways of expressing the same thing, to wit, that a man's own contribution to his life story is continually dominated by an external superior power":
If anyone will look back over the course of even ten years' experience, he will see that many incidents, utterly unimportant in themselves, have in fact governed the whole of his fortunes and career.
Especially in war, "Chance casts aside all veils and disguises and presents herself nakedly from moment to moment as the direct arbiter of all persons and events."
Churchill knows of what he writes. Examples from his life abound, but on one occasion during WWI, when stationed at the front, he was called to a pointless meeting that was ultimately canceled anyway. Five minutes after he grudgingly took off for it, a bomb landed in his trench.
What is one to think in the wake of such a near miss? Yes, "I was spared." But why? And by Whom? And why not the others? Etc. Churchill was aware of a "strong sensation that a hand had been stretched out to move me in the nick of time from a fatal spot." But he doesn't pretend to understand the nature of the Hand.
Can we control the Hand? No, of course not. The best we can hope to do is tip the scales. There is no 100%. I would compare it to the casino, where the odds are always tipped in favor of the house.
Indeed, the house -- Death -- always wins in the end. But perhaps we can do things to delay his triumph. I, for example, have type 1 diabetes. That's a big tilt in favor of the house. Therefore, I do everything I can to nudge it back in my direction, for example, taking medications to keep my blood pressure and cholesterol even lower than they already are, working out every day, avoiding stress, sleeping well, getting enough alcohol, etc.
But we can never actually see the state of the playing field. I'm trying to tip it in my favor, but there is no controlled experiment. You can do everything right, but things nevertheless can and will turn out wrong.
Perhaps in the end, the best we can do is place the randomness in a higher order, a la Monk. Is this an intellectual dodge? I don't think so; chance presumes predictability; randomness must be parasitic on order. Indeed, the only reason we can perceive chance is because of order. Otherwise the two would be indistinguishable.
Robert Spitzer writes that "Death and loss are intensely negative moments within an ultimately loving eternity."
In this context, our brief lives are "a time for choosing who we are and who we will become." Thus, "Death is significant for only one major reason -- to compel us to make the fundamental decisions that will define our eternal character."
We know when things go wrong. But we will never know how many times the angel of death has passed us by. No one can hear or see the countless bullets flying past as we navigate from one horizon to the other. There is one with our name on it, but that should only serve to keep our souls concentrated on that distant shore.