Saturday, December 15, 2012

When Things Go Wrong

It is good that we are shocked when things go wrong.

That shock tells us that, for the most part, our lives are going as we would like them to go. We may have minor difficulties, but the shock they provide the system seems surmountable as we take a set of clearly-defined paths that show us the way.

Occasionally, a shock arrives without that clear path. Nevertheless, most of what the path needs to form is time. As time passes, we see the path ahead light up as the waypoints appear. Getting to those waypoints may be difficult. But we get there, and see, in the distance, other beacons light up.
Occasionally, a shock comes and all that lies before it is darkness.

But it is not quite darkness. Because we are humans, because we have eyes that always want to see the light, we see in the distance, in our heads, imagined waypoints. Splotches of light that might be a beacon, but might be a nervous remnant of some mote in Brownian motion floating through our field of vision. It may reflect some light from a familiar place, a similar path we once took before.

It might also be a mirage that leads us to a familiar place where we can hunker down ‘round the fire to ignore the wolves baying just outside that familiar circle of light.

Those false beacons may be things like gun control. They may be clucks of the tongue as we hunker, wondering where the civility of the past has gone. They may be a rote defense of a right to bear arms forgetting that somewhere as well there ought to exist a right to attend elementary school without someone coming through that door with a gun and a grudge you had nothing to do with. Our waypoint may be that violence in entertainment doesn't bleed over into violence in society. Or that entertainment is compartmentalized, that it has no bearing on behavior.

Where there is no clear path, we all run to the familiar fires, chant the familiar songs, wail the familiar wails and gnash the teeth we have gnashed before.

We are impatient. We recognize that finding the path forward often takes time, and we think by taking shortcuts of rhetoric and shortcuts of thought that we can start that journey and decrease its duration.
Each time as we start off confidently into the darkness, we fool ourselves into thinking we know exactly where we’re going.

I do not know where to go from here.

I do not own a gun, but I agree with a gun-toting friend who says she’ll favor gun control when she knows everyone – everyone – will play by the same rules. The waypoints through the darkness to this goal are unlit, unpopulated, unfamiliar – because they call on a human nature that in light of events that spin us into the abysmal darkness we believe is absent or dulled or ignored in the factions screaming at each other over the barbed wire fences no one can see in the darkness because screaming is the preferred action to lighting a candle.

We may lament, as we stagger in the darkness – for forward motion, even motion that leas us in circles to dead ends we have visited before – is preferred to standing idly, mouths agape, not knowing what action to take. We lament in the darkness that no one sees our way as we strain to see the waypoints that may be real, that may be ghosts floating in the aqueous humor before us.

We may hear, in the darkness, the lament of Job (Job 3:23-26):

 Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?
For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters.
For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.
I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.

When shock comes to us, we are in safety. Our lives were quiet.

Now it seems we will have no rest. Trouble comes.

I do not live in fear that some tragedy will befall the ones I love. I do not live in fear that in exchange for security, some freedom may have to be withdrawn.

What I fear is that when events occur, the shock will diminish. We will not, as a society, scramble around in the darkness, chasing motes of familiar light as the beacons and waypoints that lead the way forward refuse to light – but rather we will refuse the light that is given to us as our ways appear hedged in. That the fear that comes when what we fear is upon us will fade. That when trouble comes, we refuse to blunder on in the darkness towards some distant solution, but instead remain idle, frozen, fearful to leave what pool of safe light we may stand in now rather than wander off into the darkness to find a newer, brighter light.

I fear not that we flounder as we seek the right way, but that we stop seeking and flounder in place.
The Book of Mormon prophet Ether saw it all, as he saw millions of his fellow men slaughter each other because they no longer saw the light – and here I speak not only of the light of God, whatever God you may call on, but the light that shows us, without divine intercession, that killing one another ought not to be done.

(Ether 15:14-15)

Wherefore, they were for the space of four years gathering together the people, that they might get all who were upon the face of the land, and that they might receive all the strength which it was possible that they could receive.

And it came to pass that when they were all gathered together, every one to the army which he would, with their wives and their children—both men, women and children being armed with weapons of war, having shields, and breastplates, and head-plates, and being clothed after the manner of war—they did march forth one against another to battle; and they fought all that day, and conquered not.

Conquering not.

”Do not be too eager to deal out death and judgment,” says another wise man – the wizard Gandalf the Grey. “Even the very wise cannot see where it all ends.”

Letting the shock wear so thin that we no longer feel it, except through a desire for revenge.

Or through a desire for smugness.

Or pride.

Or the ability to stand hunkered at our familiar fires and say, no, it is the others that are at fault, it is because of others that thinks like this happen, that things go wrong.

When it is for us to decide.

It’s us.

Eye for an eye.

Tooth for a tooth.

Which, of course, leaves us all blind and toothless at the end.

No comments: