Friday, March 03, 2006

there is no reason why.

today around 3:30, i opened up while sitting in my cubicle at work. i had 15 minutes to kill before i had to go run an errand with my co-worker, so i figured i'd peruse the day's headlines. amidst the other stories on the front page, one in particular caught my eye. i knew i should not open it. it was a salacious headline, a headline about something awful that had apparently happened to somone. i knew it led to a story that i didn't want to know, and didn't need to know. and yet sometimes, the masochistic impulse is too strong.

don't go to cnn and try to figure out which story i'm talking about, please. because you don't want to know. really, you don't. and if you already know, you don't want to be reminded. it is one of those stories that corrodes your faith in humanity to the degree that you can start to feel air whistling through the gaps. it's the kind of story that makes you cover your mouth with your hand instinctively, because though the urge to vomit may not be happening physically, it is happening in your mind.

i had to get up out of my chair and go lock myself in the bathroom, so that i could cry in private.

and here it is, four hours later, and i can't stop thinking about it. i am trying so hard to think about anything else, to distract myself, but it keeps fighting to the forefront of my consciousness. what happened to this person is so heinous, so unspeakable - what happened to this person is my worst fear realized. and it's not fiction. my worst nightmare happened to someone, in a real place, in real, agonizing time. and right now, honestly, i don't know how to deal with that.

i am writing about it right now because i don't know what else to do. there is nothing else to do. it's a reality that is sitting in my stomach, in the middle of my person, like an anchor. i feel like it's poisoning me with every passing second. it feels that way because it is unchangable - it happened, it's true, the world really is this way.

and of course, the crux of the problem is that i can't alter the fact that the world just is this way. not only can i not change it, but i also don't have a belief system with which to cope with that fact. i don't believe in a benevolent god. i don't believe in a malevolent god. i don't believe in multiple gods, i don't believe in fate, i don't believe that "everything happens for a reason." there's no good reason for what happened to that person, or all the other people who suffer tremendously and needlessly and who live awful, unappreciated lives or die tragic, hopeless deaths. my only belief is that there is no reason why. and that is of no comfort whatsoever when one comes face to face with the bottomless cruelty of humanity.

really, when i think about the wanton atrocity visited upon this person, i unconsciously draw in a deep breath, because it's like i almost start to drown in the thought. it is too much, and my body rebels against it.

i don't know when i'll forget about this particular story. maybe tomorrow, but not likely. maybe next week. maybe it will stay with me always, lodged in the part of my mind that stores fear and anxiety. but what i do know is that eventually, there will be another story on that i know i should not read - another story that will remind me of everything i do not want to know.


Kate said...

Hey you,

I'm so sorry the story affected you so strongly; I know the one you speak of because it describes exactly my greatest fears. To my mind, the media thrives on bringing up these horrible fears in us, particularly as women. We are gripped with fear, yet we read the sensationalism. It's how they pay the bills.

To be honest, I try not to read the news anymore. I don't need to be reminded of the cruelty humans are capable of. I'd rather spend as much time as possible reminding myself of our goodness.

Don't let that crap media change how you feel or how you act. We don't need to live in anywhere near the fear they make us feel we should live in.

jayniek said...

I don't even have to look. I think i was 7 words into your post and my stomach was flooded with lemon and milk.

it's time like this (that), that i wish (at least obliquely) i could cling to a glowing figure with long flowing tresses and a cross beaming blue. unfortunately, all I can do is coddle the curdling lemon and milk, trying so desperately to drain one or the other, even though it stings and attacks like fuck.

and it's never really "okay," or "better"...and never should be considered as such... because the evil already happened, always-already.

...that vicious liquid that'll never dry up.

and it shouldn't really:
be forgotten
be ignored.

But I tend to give myself absolute freedom to cover my eyes as long, hard, and fast as I want. It's like staring at the sun.

when the splashing calms, I tend to wait for the good...

And damn, I'll wait.
I'll wait like the best of 'em.
because if I believe anything (which I believe I do), it's that it's all somehow worth it.

Now to decipher that it.

Jared Goralnick said...

Some stories are so horrid that they're not worth what they teach...because to consider that humans might commit such atrocities would only make life less liveable. We need to trust that that's not something that's going to happen to us, otherwise we wouldn't make it through the days.

Don't think about it, Kate. That's not going to happen to anyone we know (it's less likely than dying in a plane crash) and it's not part of the world we live in. It's not.

kate.d. said...

it's not part of the world we live in. It's not.

oh jared, i think my deepest, most feverish wish is that this were true.

but while the odds are that it won't happen to me, i'm not comforted by odds. because it is part of the world we live in. i hope i'm lucky enough to never have such evil touch me, but it's there nonetheless.

and kate, you're right, i try not to read too much of the news either. but it's hard sometimes, when there are some things on which you want to be informed, and others that you don't. especially when they're always all mashed up together.

jayner - i think always-already is my new favorite word.

barb said...

oh wow, I'm sorry I'm just now reading this so you're probably feeling better by the time you read this comment but I just want to say reading your reaction was like reading an account of something very similar that happened to me once.

On November 2, 1997 I read a story in the paper about the war in Algeria and I don't know why it affected me so strongly, but it did. I had a reaction very, very similar to what you describe. One sentence in particular burned itself into my brain. That sentence is something like a mantra for me now. Or the opposite of a mantra. I have never ever forgotten it. The sentence was "the bodies of children were piled in the streets".

I read that and I just lost it. I mean completely. I thought if that is the world we live in, a world where the bodies of children are piled in the streets, then there are only two responses. One I can kill myself now and reject this world. Or two I can do everything within my power to change it. I can dedicate my life to altering that reality.

That's how I became dedicated to human rights. I don't know if I've lived up to that resolution as well as I could have but I've tried. The call was very clear and I responded imperfectly but I feel I have responded and that's all anyone can ask.

I disagree with the first commentator. I'm NOT sorry you were so strongly affected by that story. I'm glad you were.

educand said...

I think Barb touched on something I was going to say. I haven't read the story to which you're alluding, and I don't intend to do so because it sounds like it would trigger me all to hell, too. But even without a belief in a higher power, what one can do is recognize the roots of atrocities. They aren't like car wrecks or natural disasters (except that those, too, can be influenced by human dynamics), as another commenter suggested. They aren't, in fact, even senseless. Acts of violence perpetrated by human beings against human beings are the direct result of other acts of violence, be they deprivation of the full privileges of human-hood, justified by some inherent characteristic of those so deprived, or economic genocide or the obtaining of power by robbing it from those who are less powerful.

A rapist does not become a rapist without a culture that sanctions sexual violence and male entitlement. A drug dealer does not sell drugs without the co-occurring dynamics of racism and poverty that make this a more lucrative career path than a "legitimate" occupation. People in countries do not start killing one another without motivations that spring from social movements much, much larger than themselves.

If something is truly senseless, then nothing can be done to prevent it, and it is logical to despair over it. Almost nothing is truly senseless. Almost nothing exists without causes that can be identified and therefore changed.

barb said...

yes that's it exactly Educand! Thank you! When things like this happen it could just be sensationalism like kate said but it could also be more. I think it very well could be more than that too. It could be a moment of truth about the world that impels us towards action.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes all you can do is witness. And you witnessed. For all that word may have religious overtones at this point, I think it's a basic human abiliy--where comfort cannot be given to a suffering person, just being able to hold their pain in your heart and endure a part of it as your own, I think is a service. Maybe it sounds too mystical, but I don't believe that person suffered alone, randomly, senselessly. If even one person gave a damn, they weren't alone.

kate.d. said...

thanks, everyone, for your smart and thought-provoking takes on this. i appreciate it.

i'm pretty sure there's another post or two of responses to your questions and points in my head. whether i ever get them written is another story, but i'll try.