Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Thinning Out the Plot

                        Student: Why is there evil in the universe?

                       Ramakrishna: To thicken the plot.

Yesterday, I stumbled on the news of two mass shootings in California. I watched Stephen Colbert report yet more ridiculous and outrageous lies from a Congressman representing my country and a former president give an incoherent eulogy for a supporter. I went for a walk and listened to my Audible book, which took a dark turn and had my favorite character murdered so gangsters could keep making money from gambling, drugs and prostitution. None of it was what I needed to hear. None of it was what the victims deserved. 

Earlier that day, I met a lovely man whose mother danced in the Guntherschule where Carl Orff taught music. He also became a dancer and she lived a full life and left at 96 years old. We sorted through the memorabilia he was hoping to pass on, from train tickets to conference brochures to concert programs to newspaper reviews from the 1930’s and 40’s. One was a course in Paris on expressive dance with registration details in both German and French, but the date was 1943. At first glance, everything so normal— a simple announcement and form to fill out to learn how to more fully express yourself— but then the realization that this was in the midst of the Nazi’s ruling Occupied France and nearby, concentration camps were working their evil.

All of it left me yet again baffled as to why human beings, those complex and complicated creatures who I meet and mostly appear to me good-hearted, can do what they do and cause so much misery, suffering and hurt. I get these things on Facebook of scam artists after who-knows-what trying to lure me into some ridiculous trap with the headline, “Look at who we know that just died.” What kind of person would do something like that? I mean, really?

I’ve always thought Ramakrishna’s flip answer above was witty and clever, but really, I’d be much happier with a thinner plot and kinder people. Today I fly home after a marvelous three weeks that fed my constant optimism about the human capacity to be nice, kind, caring, intelligent and fun, meeting old and new friends who prove the point. The people at the airline counter will do their part to honor our contract, the pilot do his part to get me home safely, the flight attendant bring me some food and drink, all the small and big gestures we count on every minute of our life. The seen and unseen hands helping us in our small and big needs and accepting our help in theirs. If you think about it, the entire fabric of our lives depends on people doing what’s needed to get the food to our table, the books and movies to our eyes, the music to our ears. They care for the parks we walk through, fix the potholes in the road and make sure the lights at intersections work, open their hospital doors when the body fails. We count on it all and don’t wake up fearful that some anonymous stranger armed by the NRA will randomly kill us that day for no reason whatsoever. And yet. 

I’ve spent a lifetime trying to figure out how people can be so downright evil—including how I can have caused the hurt to myself and others that I have—and have come up with hundreds of plausible reasons and excuses to try to make it understandable. But in the end, I’m still left with “Why?!!”

If you know, please contact me.


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