Saturday, July 14, 2007


The road is marked by long black skidmarks that curve into a wall. We see the broken place in the cement blocks as long deep scratches, but the spot bears no sign of debris, of broken glass. A house collapsed in on itself, only char and foundation left. We did not see the smoke -- the siren noise was lost in nightsound months or years ago. And whole towns rusted out, their skeleton-crew populations remaining like scavenging insects on a body in a field. We cannot know the details of each blighted dream we pass -- we know of such heartache only by inference, the way memories are called up by smells. Thus is the world scattered with scars, silent as statues' eyes.

And so it is with people, all of us, who stoop or limp with disregarded pain, who wince and flinch at motions disconnected from conscious memory. We wear the mute scars of accidents we can't even recall, and become known by them. They work themselves into our character like the branding of cattle -- I am owned. If we are granted a lifetime sufficiently long, we might know something of ourselves. How can we know anybody else? Don't we have enough private pain, that we can feel the world's anguish only as a symbol?

I do not believe mankind is fundamentally good. Are insects fundamentally good? Are animals? They follow their natures. This is a sort of goodness. But we will not be fooled by ambiguity. Wisdom can increase with time, but so can corruption. It may be that everyone has heard the small voice of conscience. But voices fall silent when they go unattended. Conscience can despair just as people can. Good? None is good but God. If there is no God, there is no goodness.

Let us then be kind, and gentle. Let us be patient and generous. By doing so, we might pull together the shattered pieces of some broken heart and help it mend. We do not know the cause of every pain, but we know there is pain. We did not cause it, but what can we do to soothe it? It is the obligation only of conscience. We are not bound by it. But somewhere there has to be a rebuilding, so that the future is at least a little less bad than it otherwise would be. There must be some repairing, so that the distinction remains, between humans, and insects and animals. There has to be some sort of healing, some chance for it, not only at the level of tissues and cells, but in that unseen way, of remembered pain and dreams that succumb to bitterness.

Can’t we do this? I'll start. Just let me know you need it. Because I can see the signs, the scars, the flinch -- but I have courage only enough to feel compassion, and none to fend off a defensive attack. The way I'd do, if you approached me. Sorry. It's nothing personal. I've just learned to keep a safe distance. If that's your story too, well, then let's at least pass a wry smile between us. Maybe find something to laugh over. It's a start. We'll see who cracks first.

But anyone who loved me, I would cherish, and I would love them forever.


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