But what we need most is not declarations of the undoubted meaning of the catastrophe, but lament. We need not commentary, but poetry.
The causes of this kind of calamity lie not simply with a lack of the adequate laws, or with the blaming or this or that group. What hidden rage could possibly cause an individual to murder without compassion or sorrow fifty of his fellow creatures? It cannot be reduced to one simple strand. It is, like most evil, absurd.
We want to generalise – to read the event in the light of cultural themes that are familiar to us – when what happened is filled with hideous and strange particularities.
What the word “tragedy” allows us to do is to sit in the dust bewildered at what has happened; to recognise that others are in agony, and that as human beings, we have been spared that agony not because we are virtuous, but because – this time – our group wasn’t in the frame.
The sixteenth century poet Sir Phillip Sidney wrote of tragedy that it
teacheth the uncertainety of this world, and upon how weake foundations guilden roofes are builded.