Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Gravedigger Scene

Eugene Delacroix, “The Gravedigger Scene"
You read terrible news stories which you can’t get out of your mind, like the Bangladeshi mother trapped in the rubble in the collapse of the Rana Plaza who only wanted to see her child again (“Last Hope in Ruins: Bangladesh’s Race to Save Shaheena," NYT, 5/4/13 or the boy killed by a bomb running towards his father in Boston Marathon. Damascus registers insolubility, Pyongyang intransigence and Teheran inscrutability. However, it’sthe irreversible quality of the solitary instance that seems to repel all the powers of the reasoning mind to make sense out of chaos--otherwise known as defensive behavior. The coach in an amateur soccer league dies after being punched by a goalie. A gas station attendant in Michigan simply disappears, as does a young teacher in New Orleans. A limousine goes on fire and a bride on her way to her own bachelorette party dies (“Bride, 4 friends die in bachelorette limo," CNN, 5/6/13). Those who believe in the hereafter find comfort that the souls of the dead hover above us, at least for a while—either that or find themselves speeded off to a better world. However, even the believer is occasionally stopped in his tracks. Something like the destruction of a civilization is too much to fathom. To be reckoned with loss has to come within a limited compass. Overload the conscious mind and, like an accident victim, it goes into shock. Only three people died in the Boston Marathon, but the effect was almost more powerful than  9/11 since you knew exactly who they were.

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