Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Knocking Over Rock Formations

You may have read this story about a group of young men deciding to knock over a rock formation.  They were caught on video.

There is a place in Finland near my mother's apartment which I have often visited on my previous trips when I needed solitude, the company of ancient giant oaks, spruces and white birches, and the odd temporary silences in the middle of the usual human noises when nature speaks to us.

It's a park-like area, with grass, those giant trees, a few stepping stone paths, all surrounded by a very tall hedge.  Someone takes care of the area, but the gate is always open, and there is no prohibition to walking under those giant trees who mutter to each other in unknown languages when the wind rises.

I asked people about the place and was told that it was a cemetery for a few decades from the end of the 19th century to the 20th century, but its use was abandoned because of too high a water table.  Initially the gravestones and metal crosses were left on the graves there, but vandals decided to play with them and so they were removed at some point in the 1980s.  Still, there are graves under that green grass.

I also found that one of my fore-mothers is buried in that place.

Until this year, two massive stone benches allowed people visiting the site for exercise or for letting their children play or for just a place for an elderly person taking a walk to sit down and observe nature.

The benches were each built from three massive stone cubes supporting a very large rectangular stone, appearing impossible for anyone to move.  My mother has a fifty-year old picture of two young girls sitting on one, arms over each others' shoulders, smiling into the sun.

What appears impossible to destroy (ideas, whether good or bad,  the power of giant countries) may not be.

This year someone had destroyed the stone benches.  They were not only knocked over, but hacked to smaller pieces, so that where there once was a bench there now is a pile of rubble, surrounded by beer cans, cigarette ends and the typical litter of certain types of human activity.

I link this to the Oregon story, because there are similarities:

The great thrill of illegitimate destruction, which I imagine the perpetrators felt, the feeling of power in attacking something others (those stodgy others) value, giving the finger to "the man," impressing others by one's daring and, finally, not giving a f**k.  Both stories are also about "property" which many view as not belonging to anyone, public property, in at least an indirect sense, or "lost property" which belongs to anyone who has the guts to appropriate it.

The stories differ in that whoever destroyed the stone benches had to plan the operation, had to bring some serious equipment to achieve their purpose.  And, of course, the Oregon case is about the destruction of something more valuable, because the stone benches could  more easily be replaced.

Some rock formations inside me were also knocked over.  I realized, with some anger, that I privileged my attempts to understand the motivations of the destroyers, gave them the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps they were teenagers from dysfunctional families, perhaps they had suffered a recent death in the family, perhaps someone whom the society had treated harshly wanted to pay it back, perhaps they were just very young with undeveloped brains (but massive arms).

The anger boiled up, because that order meant I was quickly tiptoeing past my own pain and the likely pain of many others who used the place for a refuge, the pain caused by violence having been done to something one loved.

And I am not the person who creates dysfunctional families or who kills loved ones and I am certainly not the society.  Yet part of the harvest the perpetrators gleaned was my small pain, my small disappointment, my small sorrow, this anger which may not be so small.  Is that thought what the destroyers enjoyed?  Eye for an eye, pain for a pain?

I call my pain small because it is, in comparison to other pains.  But I shouldn't have tiptoed past it by telling myself about the possible pains of the perpetrators or by reminding myself that the trees, at least, are still standing.  Because all people matter, including those elderly who now have no space to rest in the middle of their daily health walks, or who have to take that walk down a busy street if they need benches.  And if someone comes for the trees with a circular saw their great age and wisdom will not help them.  Only human intervention can.

A trivial story, this one, on a political blog.  But I have a feeling it is directly interwoven with the way I have written about politics, the way I may have tiptoed past some pains, in my haste to analyze other pains.