Through a Lens Darkly
The Dark Knight Before the Dawn
Even as we struggle, though, we are given the perfect antidote with which to defeat it: goodness that is every bit as inexplicable as its counterpart; goodness made manifest in truer, deeper heroism than could ever be captured on film. Ordinary, everyday human beings whose one brief moment in the public consciousness will be forever linked to the memory of that night in Aurora, and who will stand forever as a reminder of the way to overcome it. People like Alexander Teves, John Larimer, Matthew McQuinn, and Jon Blunk—young men who used their bodies (and their lives) to shield their loved ones from the killer's attacks. Men who chose to "do the right thing" not because it was easy, or because they thought they could succeed in surviving its clutches, but because they recognized during those terrifying moments in the darkened theater that it is our response to evil that most defines us, not our ability to defeat it.
Perhaps that is why I find myself returning to the Dark Knight saga in spite of myself—returning to a theme that runs throughout all three of Nolan's films, and that might serve us well in our efforts to move beyond the Aurora shootings: the importance of striving for the Good no matter the consequences.
Our battle with evil should not be built upon the likelihood of vanquishing it in this life but must been recognized as a virtuous action no matter its outcome; that is a vital step in our ability to cope with the emotional fallout when evil comes. As Alfred says when quoting Wayne's idealistic father, we fall "so that we might learn to pick ourselves up." But implicit in that advice is the understanding that the act of rising from a fall is an essential part of overcoming that failure—a claim further bolstered by Wayne's realization in Batman Begins that "it's not what I am underneath, but what I do that defines me."
Fear, failure, suffering, and sin are inescapable components of our fallen human condition, and while we can resist them in this life, they will never be eliminated from "this vale of tears." Heroism and the confrontation of evil—a confrontation most often achieved through suffering—is the only way to truly grapple with the problem. To paraphrase Alfred, we must learn to get back up; to rise again, and press ever forward towards the light.
In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent reminds Batman that "the night is darkest just before the dawn." Despite the darkness of Aurora, we must hold fast to the belief that evil men and their actions—much as they may consume us—are mere blips on the road to salvation. We may be incapable of defeating evil through our own power, but our willingness to do battle does not go unrewarded.
For us, the journey is the destination, and that journey through the darkness of this life is never undertaken alone, for we are ever accompanied by The Dawn Himself: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).
Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. He blogs at Crisis Magazine, where he also contributes feature articles on a variety of topics.