“The mystery of human existence is not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”
About a year ago I was shocked to read the story of the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Australian baseball player Christopher Lane as he was jogging down a tree-lined street about 80 miles south of Oklahoma City in Duncan, Oklahoma. Police allege that Chancey Allen Luna and James Francis Edwards Jr., who were both 16, and Michael Dewayne Jones, age 18, randomly shot Lane. Each teenager is charged with first degree murder.
According to Police Chief Dan Ford, Lane appeared to have been randomly chosen. Later, the media reported that one of the three boys claimed to be “bored,” and so they followed Lane and killed him for “the fun of it.” Prosecutor Jason Hicks called the boys “thugs,” describing how Luna pulled the trigger of a .22 caliber revolver as he sat in the rear seat of their car.
Even though nearly a year has passed since I first read that story, I am still trying to wrap my mind around what these three boys did and why they did it. Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist, wrote on Aug. 22, 2013, on Foxnews.com/health that he felt it was more than boredom which led them to do what they did.
He said, “When normal people are bored, they go to the movies, go shopping or skateboarding or take a drive to the beach. Only when people are severely psychologically disordered do they think up murder as an antidote to boredom.”
Ablow concluded that the claim of boredom by this young man occurred “…because his very disordered mind was like an echo chamber that allowed his feelings of being annihilated, dehumanized and dead to boomerang back to him as an impulse to kill.”
Although I am not a specialist in these matters, nor do I know any more details than I read from the media, Ablow’s insights do make sense. There certainly seemed to be much more going on with these boys than mere boredom. But even if much more contributed to their actions, their own self-narrative claimed it was because they were bored.
This all came to me when I read Steven Garber’s thoughts on “The Culture of Whatever” in his “Visions and Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good” (2014, p.69). He described how at times we give a casual shrug of the mind and heart on a minor matter with a gentle “whatever.” Sometimes this is nothing more than a “playful response” to a passing issue. “Whatever” can almost sound like a mild case of boredom.
But a serious case of a “culture of whatever” can also cause extreme behaviors which precipitate what these three boys did. If there is no reason to care or purpose to live, who knows what the human heart may be capable of doing.
For some matters, Garber says, “The reality of pain and evil in this life requires a response that is more than the culture of whatever provides. Some choices are awful choices; they do not and cannot exist in a moral universe of their own making.”
Such reality would be the killing of an innocent young man by three boys, no matter what their reasons were for doing it. This we know: whether it was boredom or an extreme case of the “culture of whatever,” the life of one young man was prematurely snuffed out and theirs will be changed forever.
In Dale Carnegie’s words, “Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness you had thought could never be yours.” Now that is an antidote for anyone plagued with the notion of someone who is bored to death or has even a mild case of the “culture of whatever.”
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
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