The Day After the Day After the World Did not End

And I remembered how Earth is a heavy teacher yet is so much loved by the creator of planetary beings. I did not want to leave mystery, yet I was ever curious and ready to take my place in the story.”

~From Crazy Brave, a Memoir by Joy Haro

The world did not end with the Mayan calendar. Or when the odometer turned from 1999 to 2000. Or whenever else it has been predicted to end. There are no end times with apocalyptic endings for some, while others get carried, their bodies still intact, to a heavenly place where they will no longer have to suffer being human, yet still be in possession of their human body.

My favorite take on the end of the world was Maureen Dowd’s opining that it never came at a time that worked in her favor, like while she was staring at the empty computer screen trying to come up with what to write for her column.

End times do seem comforting when faced with writer’s block. Saved by the apocalypse or the dog eating your homework.

There are some who think we must become worthy of god’s love. Or those who say god loves us in spite of our human frailties. But we have to submit to that view if we want to be carried, our body intact, to a heavenly place when end times come.

But that is not my experience of god. I think god is in awe of our being human—that we love imperfectly and with no guarantee that our loving another won’t shatter us—yet we love nevertheless.

I said in my last post that for the residents of Newtown, the world as they knew it ended. For them, the apocalypse came to be. They loved and were shattered by losing those they loved.

Their pain and sorrow rippled through the world. Gave pause.

So in some ways, the world as we know it did come to an end, a week before the Mayan calendar ended.

And so it is time to create a new world, write a new story for our world.

I think Wayne LaPierre is a raving lunatic. His take on the story is to arm everyone to the hilt. In my opinion, he is delusional, living in a paranoid world where monsters lurk and we are armed monster killers. He assumes that we will recognize the monster, and never be guilty of mistaken identity.

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

~Fredrich Nietzsche

He also says that the American people are on his side because we value freedom. I hate when people use that word “freedom” so loosely. Freedom from what I want to ask? Freedom from fear is usually what I think. Guns never come to mind when I think of freedom from fear.

But maybe that’s just me.

I started the Writing Shed to change my story. I think really what I was doing was finding my story—the story that is mine to live. And my story is about freedom from fear. That doesn’t mean never being afraid, never feeling fear. It means not letting fear drive me. Not letting fear of mortality keep me from living. Not letting fear turn me into a pitiless monster.

The pitiless monster might be just around the bend. It could be the crazy person carrying a gun, cancer invading my body or the body of someone I love, a drunk armed with a car killing me or someone I love. There is no end to the guise the pitiless monster might take.

So I choose to cherish my life and make the most out of it. The carrot for me is not that I will be taken at the end time, body intact, to a place that has always seemed vague and not really very interesting to me.

The carrot for me is living, to find my story in the story of the “Earth that is a heavy teacher yet is so much loved by the creator of planetary beings.”

The Day After They Were Taken from Us

IMG_0199“A police officer entered the room and put the parents’ worst fears into words: their children were gone. The wails that followed could be heard from outside.” From the New York Times 

It’s the day after, when you wake up and life reveals it wasn’t a dream — a nightmare. Life as you know it did end. What was lost is lost. What was taken away was taken away. And before you is the void you didn’t see coming — life as it now is.

There are many ways that life can end as we know it. A trusted friend betrays you. Your job gets taken away. A loved one dies. A madman looks in your five-year old’s eyes and takes her life away.

“Were they afraid, did they see something coming?” parents asked a pastor at the site.

Please, please tell me her last memory is of my love, not the gaze of the pitiless monster.

It was, it seemed, a safe place, Newtown, Connecticut. The kind of town where children were safe — safe from the pitiless monster. But it was not.

The heroes in this carnage are the teachers and staff who tried to save the children. The responders who told the children they were evacuating to hold hands and close their eyes so they wouldn’t witness the horror. The clergy who made themselves available to the parents whose children did not come home to them.

Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger thinks we should arm teachers, that if they had guns, the innocent would have been spared.

I disagree. That is not in their job description, nor should it be.

There is no doubt that this resistance to killing one’s fellow man is there and that it exists as a result of a powerful combination of instinctive, rational, environmental, hereditary, cultural, and social factors. It is there, it is strong, and it gives us cause to believe that there may just be hope for mankind after all.”

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Costs of Learning to Kill in War and Society

In his book, Grossman says that one doesn’t learn to overcome the resistance to killing, one is conditioned to overcome it.

I’m not opposed to that conditioning. I just think that it needs to be reserved for soldiers and law enforcement — men and women who can call on their own pitiless monster when appropriate, but aren’t seduced by its power.

“Victims Identified as Connecticut Town Seeks Answers,” a headline reads.

There are no answers — or at least none that satisfy or soothe or make any sense or make the unacceptable acceptable.

But, nevertheless, we need to ask questions. The right questions. Questions that start with the knowledge that we all have a pitiless monster inside us.

We need to talk about guns and our rights regarding them. I do not think we have the right to hunt with assault weapons. I do not think we have a right to an arsenal of weapons — particularly automatic weapons — any more than we have the right to abuse our children because they are ours.

We need to keep guns — particularly automatic weapons — out of the hands of those who have been seduced by their pitiless monster. The only way we even have the chance to do that is by making them illegal for civilians to own.

I am an American. I am neither proud nor ashamed of that. It is simply a part of who I am — the country that is in my heart.

So I feel compelled to help shape its culture — to make it one whose heart beats to the rhythm of hope for mankind, rather than the paranoid fear of “them.”

I will hold the people of Newtown, Connecticut in my heart and hope that that small act will help heal the humanity that was lost when the 27 lives were taken by a man who was taken away by his pitiless monster.

Some wisdom about talking to parents who have lost children: