Monday, December 17, 2012

Drop the finger, pick up a mirror

Here is a story. 

Twenty-eight children sit in a classroom. They have hung up their coats in their individually decorated cubby holes lining the wall, beneath their artwork and drawings. They each pick up the Science book from the back shelf, take their seats and wait for the lesson. The teacher begins. They talk of stars and the solar system. The teacher talks about the Universe. They are twenty-eight small people listening and reading aloud and making spit balls, and picking their noses. And then, time stops, and the twenty-nine people in the room freeze at the sound of a loud noise.

You know, like a bang, or crash, or maybe a boom. A sound wave at first, but once it reaches the ears, a process in the mind rushes to make sense of it. And before the mind can make sense the room is changed, the world and universe and stars and planets all flip, and something unnamed is gone, but somethings are at once left behind.

And the people left behind are caught in the lessons of society's how's, and yet are oblivious to the why.

What of the students who now go home and ask their parents the why. And of the parents who can't talk to their children whom have been taken as pieces from the now to the who knows when. And what of the people trying to make sense of the why.

What of the tragedies that go unnoticed and under the radar, unlearned.

A mortician publicly discussed the importance of talking to children about violence and death. When they ask the why, do we tell them we know why?

We could say, our culture has violence and that violence has meaning. But beyond that, we can not say.
We can look into the barrel of a gun as if into a mirror. Yes.
Or, we can feel powerless-up against a force of nature.
We could say it is out there and there are bad people, and it's scary and uncertain, and one day somebody could happen to pass through your life, and they could take it.

We are those children. Caught in the how, and oblivious to the why, we are torn between bitterness and hope.

And we look to the ones we fear most, as if they are the why. We look to the other, the stranger, and they are the why.

We need the why. The why is the space where our bullet-holed hearts and minds mingle to tell us the meaning for our pain.

According to Webster Online,

Massacre is:
 1. a) the indiscriminate, merciless killing of a number of human beings
     b) large-scale slaughter of animals
2) Informal an overwhelming defeat, as in sports

Multiple messages occupying the same space. And in that space a construction, a meaning about right and wrong, black and white, good and evil, and where we all reside is formed.

What happens when multiple meanings crash into each other? Is it like a boom, a crack, a fizzle, a snap? Can we hear it?
Is a massacre of others a crime against the self? Does this construction lead to an irresolvable world?

Mark Twain said,
“By trying, we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean.”

In jest.

I sift through the recesses of my heart for a reminder of beauty where no beauty seems possible, for a reminder of kinship when isolation feels inevitable. I ache for the reminder that lonely does not mean we have to pretend to be someone we are not, and that my actions towards those around me are the most significant force constructing the world I live in.

Researchers in primate behavior study aggression in chimps. They try to make sense of inter-group violence. Jane Goodall spoke in an interview with Bill Moyers about how she reconciles a world which equally contains cruelty and violence communally with solidarity, and ultimately, love. She said, “ I reach the conclusion that I do believe we have brought aggressive tendencies with us through our long evolutionary path. I mean, you can't look around the world and not realize that we can be, and often are, extremely brutal and aggressive. And equally, we have inherited tendencies of love, compassion, and altruism, because they are there in our closest ancestors. So, we've brought those with us. It's like each of us has this dark side and a more noble side. And I guess it's up to each one of us to push one down and develop the other.”

These are the conflicts of multiple forces which rage within us. Within us and against us. Against us and within us.
Perhaps the need to answer the why is to escape. To escape the scariest story of them all. Not the story of crimes of others, but of the brutal massacre of the self.

All our secrets are the same.

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