Friday, June 18, 2004
How Life Imitates Life
This is my pondering piece for the weekend. I can do it without any research, so it's pure pleasure to write. This week's topic is on life imitating life, which is much deeper than you might think. It's a pun on life imitating art which is a pun on the reverse and so on, but it's also my feeble way to make the point that sometimes our little private circles reflect the big circles in which we are all just a bunch of caged hamsters.
For example, I have read today about the beheading of an American civilian in Saudi Arabia, and I have felt disgusted and so very sad for the family of the poor man who just happened to become a symbol of something in the hands of some people who no longer deserve being called people. The sadness isn't just about this one victim and those who suffer and suffered with him, but about the way the world seems to be changing: towards something coarser, more stupid, more elemental. I can't help comparing this all to the last days of Rome or the total outlawlessness of the early medieval period in Europe, and I feel like weeping and tearing my hair and scattering ashes on my sackcloth.
Instead of all that (which would be so unproductive), I am going to tell you about something that happened to me several years ago. I went out one night to walk the dog. It was pretty early, and I was slowly walking down a busy shopping street, looking at the goods in the shop windows, stopping to buy an ice-cream cone and sharing it with the dog and so on. Then I got an idea for a theory about something, and went into the private state one does when developing a new theory. The world went on at the same time, and what I didn't realize was that I was walking straight into a gang war. One gang was chasing a member with the other gang, and the chasers all had knives in their hands.
All the other pedestrians scattered away, of course, except for one very stupid goddess and her much smarter dog who was trying to get away, desperately. Some good soul pushed me into the entranceway of a restaurant, to protect me, presumably, but the poor guy that was being chased had had the same idea of this doorway being a sanctuary. So there we stood, side by side, squashed against the door which opened outwards, and all the chasers with bared knives were running towards us.
This is when I woke up and let the dog go. But I couldn't get myself out of there, and could just watch when the assailants reached us. For some happy reason the first one to reach us decided not to use his knife. Instead, he grabbed one of the steel chairs from the restaurant's outdoor section and tried to hit the member of the opposite gang with it. He hit me on the head instead.
I survived, of course, as goddessed cannot be killed. But I suspect that my head has never been the same. The dog also survived and wasn't even hit on the head, and neither was the gang member. This gang war had only one real casualty, and she had nothing to do with the war itself, except for the fact of having stepped into the same configuration of circles.
This is how I often feel about terrorism, the war against terrorism and the war in Iraq. The casualties are people who were thinking about something else, eating ice-cream or walking their dogs. That's one of the reasons why I don't write about these events very much, except to plead that they be stopped. Though of course I know that I am an intended participant in these wars, and that the terrorists for example have definite designs on how I should live (barely, and totally invisibly), but nobody ever really asked my opinions on how any of this should be run and most of the time I feel like a rabbit in the middle of the road, frozen in the headlights of all those cars and not knowing where safety is.