Writing should be a righting, but at its best it is only an attempt at such a lofty goal. For most of us who have the audacity to call ourselves writers, we barely scratch the surface of honest catharsis.
It is a warmer than average New England April night. Minuscule droplets of water dot my computer screen, but not enough to concern me yet. A distant rolling thunder can be heard, and the wind in the tree tops is strangely wild despite the relative calm of my porch.
Tonight people where I live are rejoicing. The second of the two Boston terrorists has been caught. Thankfulness for the men in blue is at an all time high. With this thankfulness I have full and heartfelt agreement, but I am not rejoicing tonight. I wade deep into a strange melancholy.
An hour ago I responded with a couple Facebook posts trying to define my feelings:
“Pete and I sat together listening to the blues while Dzhokhar was caught. Both glad and sad at the same time.
The tragedy of death., the tragedy of youth, and the tragedy of human experience all crash in together, and I feel these things all at once. I know better than to ask why.”
Then a few minutes later,
“There is a lightness in Salem tonight. A beyond the norm happy gentle party feel, and it so conflicts with the emotions surging within me. It feels like a shallow alien planet tonight.
Oh, how I realize that both safety, and vengeance are low on my list of values.
I am the alien.”
Something deep inside me understands radicals. Perhaps it is my American heritage, reaching back before the American Revolution. Perhaps it is the American tendency to identify with the underdog. Perhaps again it is my deep affection for my Welsh heritage with its history of oppression at the hands of the “British Empire.”
Two brothers of Chechen descent reigned terror over Boston on the day of our celebrated marathon, and then once again in the last 24 hours. The people from a small war torn country writhing under the iron fist of the stronger Russian machine have shown themselves resiliently rebellious, but here in Boston outside the homeland war and against some shadow enemy they are not rebels. The death of unsuspecting innocents turns hopeful rebels into senseless terrorists.
When I was13, I first read the Lord of the Rings, and somehow captured a value I carry with me, and cannot shake: “Life is not worth living, unless there is something worth dying for.” This value influences my life daily. It informs every action I take. But, this is not the same as saying, “Life is not worth living unless there is something worth killing for.” What appears to be the subtle difference in that one word change (dying versus killing), is the difference between offering others life or death – the difference between the rebel and the terrorist.
My inherent radicalism is currently captured between two developing theological schools in the 21st century. Radical Orthodoxy seems uncomfortably un-radical as it folds itself back into a Catholicism I do not identify with, and the Radical Theology of many of my friends seems to fold in upon itself through a lonely Christian materialism. In the attempts to rediscover wonder and wildness, it still somehow seems that both God and the world are wilder and more wonderful than either of these theologies.
Moments like this are the evidence of my tension between a wild world and God of wonder, or perhaps a wild God and a world of wonder. Yet again I ask myself if I am a part of the wild of this world, and I know the answer is yes.
I can identify with rebels, and yet not with terrorists, but one is not far from the other. Perhaps we are only a single word apart.
And so I sorrow for everyone, the dead, the wounded, those surprised and upended by tragedy, and those whose life and youth is wasted in the evil designs of older, darker minds. And I sorrow for (or perhaps “with”, if I can feign such nobility) God, who weeps with us.
“Wylit, wylit Llewellyn. Wylit waed pe gwelit hyn” *
*Gerallt Lloyd Owen wrote Fy Ngwlad in 1969 for a defeated feeling Welsh population when the English paraded their authority openly on Welsh soil. In a strange upending of the literary purpose of this poem the first lines sing to my heart now. Most you can neither understand the lines, nor pronounce them, but if interested, you can find out about them at this Curious Astronomer blog post.