Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Observations Around Tragedy

My friend and instructor used to tell us a tale, or perhaps parable, about a day when a Chinese family celebrated the birth of a grandson. A religious leader (I don't remember the actual title) was invited for a blessing. The blessing was "first may you die Grandfather, then you (to the now father), and then you (to the new grandson)."

Everyone was confused at first but then all agreed it was a powerful blessing.  When that sequence is inverted, we experience a near universal horror.

I attended "The Hobbit" this week. Four themes emerged for me. Our strength to excess is our weakness. Humility is a gift to oneself. There are powerful forces at work in the world and we do not control them. We all dream/wish/hope/desire to be able to call on the forces of goodness so as to make ourselves and others safe from the powerful negative forces. 

In a fantasy world, certain folks can summon goodness to fight evil.  In our world, that is often not an option.

We could pretend to have an answer for unconscionable killers, auto wrecks, plane crashes, tsunamis, home fires, abusive parents, etc (AKA orcs and goblins). We do not have an answer. Horrible things happen. We love anyway, or are as good as dead.

I am not suggesting that there is nothing to be done to prevent tragedy. I will say plainly: hijacking a moment of tragedy to suggest that empowering pompous assholes called politicians to deprive the citizenry of rights is offensive to me. It is a repulsive choice, full of pretense about what governments can or cannot do, and about how your grief means more than my rights. Government is not Gandalph. Government is Saruman, laden with the pretense of wisdom, overmuch power, hubris to spare and only one step from becoming the next cause of horrible tragedy.  In the vast tally of tragedy, government owns the balance by a wide margin over natural disaster and individual evil.

I'm not just talking Hitler, Stalin, and Hirohito.  How about Lincoln, who sent 500,000 to their deaths?  How about the government that authorized citizens to own, buy and sell human beings for the better part of 100 years, making Lincoln's choice look justified? 

I am also struck by how moments of surprising tragedy can arouse us while we remain immune to an equal but expected tragedy. How many children will die of parent abuse this year? Many more than 20. How many will die auto wrecks? Arson events? Plain old house fires? Bike accidents? Drowning? Poison?

Do we suggest that pools should be outlawed? Cars? Houses?

What accounts for the discrepancy in perception? How can we be deluded that changing a law will change human behavior when we all KNOW, know for certain, that is untrue? To wit, the drug war, which is putting millions in jail but cannot be said to have stopped one person from using "unlawful" drugs. Drug use is even higher among the youth of Iran, which has an even more draconian anti-drug government than ours. 

And if guns could be "controlled", would it be any better if we saw bombs used vice guns, as we do in countries where they have "controlled" guns? 
We live in a world in which at all times unspeakable pain is experienced by parents and children. There is no Gandalph to whom we may appeal to hold these goblins back. What then is within our circle of control?

These are the questions I find to be of  value:
How will we act to defend ourselves and our loved ones? Will we be prepared to act in the event that our actions might save another?
How will we live with joy and passion in a world that may take away all that is dear to us in an instant?
How will I do what I do with more skill, more care, more result and less effort so that I can be certain I am giving my best love to my friends and family and children?

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