The past week has seen two more tragic mass shootings. The most recent one was just yesterday in Boulder, the home of my alma mater, the University of Colorado, and just a short drive from our home in Denver. Colorado has seen so much gun violence and so many mass shootings over the years.
Below is an excerpt from NO REGRETS LIVING about evil, guns, and the trajectory of humankind. I hope the perspective it shares will bring some solace to all of us who grieve for the 18 innocent lives lost to gun violence just this week in Atlanta and Boulder.
“Earlier in the book, I expressed some dismay about the direction humanity is headed—reading or watching the news each day lends serious weight to that dismay. Looking only at the microcosm of human existence—our society’s daily experiences—it’s easy to become discouraged. How will we ever evolve into a better civilization, a civilization wherein humanity collectively finds its inner spark of goodness? The spark of goodness which I know exists and for which I’ve given so much evidence in the preceding chapters.
But to see that we are, indeed, on the road to a better world, we must look at the totality of human existence. Are we closer to finding the collective sparks of goodness within each of us today than we were, say, one thousand years ago? Five thousand years ago? So many of our friends are fans—addicts is a better term—of the Game of Thrones TV series. I personally can’t understand why—I find it repulsive, which is the point I’m about to make. I am stunned by the sheer horror of humanity’s medieval existence as portrayed so vividly in that fictional show and I can’t bear to watch it. Yet history books tell us that GOT fiction isn’t far from the truth. The societies that preceded us by hundreds or thousands of years were, to repeat myself, repulsive. Aren’t we, as a species, more compassionate, tolerant, civil, and purposeful than in eras past? And even within our own time, haven’t we proven that people are educable and capable of betterment? Of igniting an inner spark of goodness, if only for a few moments in time? Haven’t the preceding chapters on the capacity of humankind to heal and cure proven the spark is alive within us?
But for every two steps forward as a civilization, sadly there always seems to be one step backward. History has a way of repeating itself. Anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia continue to rear their ugly heads despite what should have been defining moments in history. And how is it possible that, despite the lessons of slavery, the tragedy of the Civil War, and the vile Jim Crow laws, racism still pervades so many aspects of our society and of societies around the world? The recent murders of innocent African-Americans at the hands of police or vigilantes has ignited the most powerful reexamination of racial justice in the United States since the time of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
Once again, I believe, we will advance as a civilization because of those tragedies and the courageous voices speaking out on behalf of the victims and on behalf of all who cherish decency and fairness. The price to pay for that advance has been high, but, if change for the good does occur, the legacy of the victims will be a powerful one.
Another sad step backward. Guns, the evil heir of the vile Valyrian Steel weapons from the Game of Thrones era (yes, I googled, “GOT weapons”), are a pox on all of us. It only takes one deranged and armed individual who does not cherish the precious life he has been given to ruin the lives of others. Mass shootings in places of worship and the targeted killings of police officers further highlight the persistent hatred in certain segments of our society, while seemingly random shootings in schools, malls, and movie theaters remind us that it’s not just religion or authority under attack.
Clearly there are landmines along the way, but overall the evidence suggests an upward trend line for humanity and that we are closer to discovering the inner sparks of goodness within each of us than we were generations ago. I believe we are slowly inching our way toward igniting humanity’s collective spark.
As long as we don’t destroy ourselves before we get there.”

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