riddling

Yesterday’s morning headline announced that police had vowed “to solve” the shootings at the New Orleans Mother’s Day parade. They meant, of course, that they intended to discover the perpetrator of the violence, with the goal of seeing public consequences for his/her crimes.

The thing that I’ve been thinking is that “consequences” do not equal “a solution.”

Think of things which may be solved. Riddles, for instance; algebraic equations; puzzles. Riddles are designed to obscure and yet all the while point to their solutions. The problem of a riddle is simply “What is the answer?” And, when that answer is discovered, the problem disappears. Similarly, the problem of an algebraic equation may be “What is the value of x?” And, when the value of x has been duly discovered, the problem no longer exists. A jigsaw puzzle’s problem is “How do the pieces fit together?” and it evaporates when the pieces have all been placed.

For each of these examples the “problem” is a sort of hole which the question perfectly describes. The answer to the question fills the hole, and there is an end to it. But the problem of the New Orleans shootings is not perfectly described by the question of “Who fired the shots?” And the holes created by the shooting will not be filled when that question is answered.

To say you can “solve” a crime by catching a criminal is to say a thing that isn’t true. Most of our problems don’t come with neat solutions.

It was a weekend of celebration for me. New milsestones. Old friends. I saw again how love makes radiant and how love wounds, looked back over four years of roads, of expectations, of fulfillments, of disappointments, of surprises.

We learn about problems, solutions, consequences by framing questions which may or may not describe the holes in things, imagining answers which fill the holes, finding out that sometimes they don’t, framing more questions. I’ve watched love come sweeping in, unquestioning the questions away, making the imagined solutions seem absurd; and sometimes that love is a glory and a gladness, and sometimes it simply breaks each question in two, so that the problems are more, the holes deeper: what drives a person to open fire on a celebration of Mother’s Day?

What kind of solution can a police force offer to this problem? Here we need not simply apprehension and punishment of criminals, but healing of bodies, of minds, of hearts.

And so we celebrate and we grieve, puzzling out the puzzles, riddling the riddles, framing and reframing questions, waiting for the One Who is Love to sweep in, unquestioning the questions away, making the imagined solutions seem absurd, with a glory and a gladness to heal the holes no “solution” mends.

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