When the dust settled at work today, I read an article about a bomb that went off in Kabul, one that killed a lot of people. Perhaps you heard about it.
The article was quite graphic.
I hear or see newscasts about attacks and bombings in all sorts of places, and when I do I picture it all happening in a nightmarish make-believe land somewhere other than anywhere near me. The pictures I see on TV or in articles should affect me emotionally more than they do, but they don’t. I’ve become desensitized to horrific scenes of brutality.
After watching the second airplane hit that tower and then, worse, watching the buildings crumble while the woman standing next to me crumbled right along with them as she watched loved ones be destroyed in front of her, not much else can shock me.
But today when I read that article, I wasn’t shocked, I was shook. I was not traumatized, I was sensitized.
The article that I read described the scene in grotesque detail. My imagination put me in the thick of the chaos and horror because my mind was given freedom to make the story real. The writer described charred body parts and bloody body bags. And I was suddenly there. I saw those body parts. A leg. An arm. A foot. My mind saw it all.
For a long time I’ve been stuck in a “who am I really” rut, and while trying to figure myself out I have realized that I have not been exploring myself but humanity as a whole.
Who are we?
As I envisioned inanimate clumps of burnt leg-shaped flesh strewn about the road and picked up by those clearing the scene, I thought to myself how those parts, moments earlier, were pieces of someone’s body. That burned leg belonged to a human, who in an instant prior was a whole body of busy organs and rushing blood and firing synapses. A whole body not only awake and breathing but sentient. And more than that, a soul. A precious human soul was physically reduced to that burned piece of leg that was carted off like rubble in a construction zone. The leg of a precious soul could be you or I or anyone we know. Can you imagine your bloody charred pieces coated in ash among the pieces of eighty-something other people?
I’m sitting in a comfortable leather chair, in a climate controlled environment, eating chocolate and typing on this ridiculously expensive handheld device. I’m wearing a soft blue sweater to keep myself warm in this cold-kept room, drinking clean water (as far as I know) and eyeing an unopened bag of puffed Cheetos.
I have very, very, very little chance of having my pieces violently torn apart in a fiery explosion while I write this post from this black leather cushy chair. But today I imagined it, because a journalist did what papers and TV rarely do, which was give horrifically gory verbal details of what happened while I slept peacefully in my king size bed of cotton sheets and fluffy pillows, safe with all my limbs intact. The pictures that news media generally warn of being so graphic are no more graphic than what I’ve seen in movies, though I’m sure there are worse real ones that would make me retract this point—it’s hard to tell the difference between real and imaginary when I am so detached from the situation.
Who are we?
Crocodiles feed their young. Humans are barbaric.
I’m looking at all of this from a broad perspective including all humans in all of recorded human history.
I’m looking at this broadly as a study of humanity.
But what brought me here wasn’t the questioning of humanity nor the need to decry an unspeakable act. What brought me here was my wake up call. People are losing limbs in the streets. People are getting blown to bits, and a writer took the care to slap me hard across the face with this reality.
Do I sound sheltered and naive?
I should, because I am.
I decided to poke around the internet and come up with a few examples of how horrible humans have been to each other since forever. I was disturbed. I knew some things, things about the Romans in particular, but wow. I won’t post any of what else I found from that era. Then you have heads floating in recreational lakes (okay, one head in one lake) on the border between Texas and Mexico and little boys in Africa with machine guns fighting a war against their own people for a government using them as a means of genocide. Or is that America? I get confused. And the Middle East…then, now, forever…destroying themselves while radicals creep into Western Europe to take over what the last conquerors did. Except the Nazis. They tried taking over, but instead they destroyed things and places and people and buried all of it in lime pits for the rest of the world to reclaim and repair and mourn with seething anger.
I don’t know much about any of this except that mankind has, is, and always will attempt over and over to self-destruct. We pesky do-gooders are getting in the way of the death goal by mucking up what history has tirelessly worked to achieve.
Again, what do I know. I mean that with all sincerity of ignorance. In terms of war and brutality, outside of watching those towers fall one morning, there is really only one threat I am familiar with. I spent years of nights falling asleep in fear of it.
I’m thinking of a way to wrap this up, but there isn’t one. I can no more sum up my thoughts as I can all the evil that provoke them.
Or here, this got me through a lot of sleepless nights. Fretful days, too. It’s something, if not a reaction to a situation that offers some hope for something in some way.