Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Day 45: The horror

Warning: This is a morbid post, but I hope you will understand what I am trying to say.

I was camped down on the lake, but the showers and laundry were all on top of the valley. My bicycle still broken, I trudged up the hill in the heat with my things until I reached the building. There, I discovered I had nothing that I needed. There was no laundry detergent for sale there, and besides that, I had brought my bag of clean clothes, not the dirty ones. I thought to at least shower but the bag I thought contained my soap and shampoo was actually my minor electronics bag: it had the cords and chargers for my camera and other things of that sort.

So, it was back down the hill to get what I needed. Drudgery is the birthplace of thought, and I couldn't help thinking about a story Dave had told the previous day.

I had remarked how out there on the river I have no river, no contact with the news. If there is anything significant happening in the world I would never know, but that doesn't necessarily mean it would be significant to me. One Mississippi River kayaker was treated in terrible suspicion as he tried to lock through. Unknown to him, nineteen highjackers had just crashed four planes in the days before, and anything unusual was taken as a major threat.

Dave said there was one story in the news about a boy, who I think was traveling by bus from Edmonton to perhaps Toronto. Somewhere in Saskatchewan the man who sat next to him killed him, in a quite brutal and shocking manner. I heard just enough of the story and just little enough detail that my mind went crazy imagining the event, and I could see it quite clearly; the blood and guts, the horrified crowd stampeding off the bus.

I think as children the emotional horror of violence must be quite overwhelming, quite terrifying. As we grow up we are exposed to it in stories and film, and we become desensitized. Society needs to desensitize us because it wants its wars and executions, so it isn't long before the headshot, the killing fields, become mere facts of life.

Still, there are certain acts or events so unusual, so outside the bounds of what we might even imagine, that it renews the horror all over again. And maybe worse, too, because the emotional realization comes with an adult's understanding of how the blood and organs work, how tenuous life is, and how miserable it can be for those people left behind. The killing, which I will not describe, fell into this category. His neighbors said he was a nice guy, maybe quiet. Nothing unusual about him.

Of course we want reasons for these things to happen. Since the perpetrators are often young men, video games and loud music often get the blame. Perhaps instead something in their childhood caused them to act this way, or if we are in a certain mindset, something is wrong with their race or religion. If there is nothing that seems violent or strange about the person, maybe the real problem is their life was too boring. The monotony of the post office or government bureau drove them to murder. It doesn't matter what the reason is, as long as we can find one.

Later, my ritual cleansing finally complete, I was hiking in the trails by my campsite. Some group had very kindly placed large signs, metal maps, at every intersection, but as far as I could tell had neglected to mark your current location. I soon became completely lost in the maze of trails, as dark clouds flew overhead, releasing just a sprinkle of water on me.

So what if there is no reason? The mind is made of meat, as murder shows. What if the killer really was as ordinary as you or me. In one minute, blood, following its random course through his skull, favored this region, and not that one, and as a result he acted out in this way. Nothing special about him. It could happen to anyone.

I think acceptance of mortality is one of the defining traits of maturity, so I don't think the horror of this kind of action comes from the idea that I might be randomly killed by some other person. I already know there are many ways I could die, and most of them random. I could be struck by a car or by lightning. I heard of a girl who died in her sleep. Why, the doctors never could tell, and she was no older than I. You must simply expect that death may come at any time, so use your life wisely and with that understanding until then.

We also have this understanding of our friends and acquaintances, that we cannot know how long they will be around, so we must enjoy what time we will be together.

If I can accept the idea of my death, the idea that I, an ordinary person, might be driven to kill by some random occurrence in the brain seems too revolting to contemplate. I hope that such a thing is impossible, but my knowledge of how the brain works is not too comforting in this regard. So I think part of the horror is the concept that we might do such things, randomly, for no reason, this blood cell went this way instead of that. I hope I am wrong but cannot know. A man shoots up his office, a mother drowns her children. They never conceived of it until that moment. Horrible.

It doesn't seem possible to come to peace with this idea. If such demons live in the soul of every person, it is as though the mass of the brain must lend its cooperation to hold them at bay, and no peace can be made with the physics on which thought rests. So I have no choice but to believe the man was weird and twisted, and trust no proof can be produced to show otherwise. If you search his computer maybe you will find images of terrifying violence. Listen carefully to hi conversation and you will hear only the ugly, dark side of things and not the light, not happiness. At the very least I hope he had some prior contemplation, some fantasy of using his knife in that way.

A strange thing to hope, but it would be some reason that I, and you, harboring no evil thought, cannot be like him.

Day 45 ended: 50*46.429N, 103*47.659W
(Again, these coordinates, being the same as day 44's, are uncertain.)

1 comment:

Jessica said...

Hi Kevin- Christ will give you the reasons. I so enjoyed meeting you and will pray for your safety and a peace that will come from loving the Lord. You asked for book suggestions in a later post; may I suggest some of Paul's writings in the New Testament? You are on an adventure that most wouldn't think of to even dream about. I hope you find what you are looking for. Thank you for sharing a bit of your trip with us. God Bless, Jessica