So, I was talking with a friend last week about chipper stuff—mortality, death, and whatnot.
We were discussing how the scariest moment in anyone’s life is the minute one recognizes a parent as a person. Not Mom or Dad. Just regular everyday people.
What if you met one of your parents in the grocery store like a regular stranger— would you like them? Would you respect them? Would you want to know them better? If you had grown up together as peers, would you have been friends with your Mom? Had a crush on your dad?
Try to wrap your head around it for minute—it’s not easy. It’s probably uncomfortable. It is for me.
It’s weird when you remove familiarity and force yourself to see people for what they are and not what they have become. If you ask any person to name three people they admire most, there is a decent chance one of their parents is going to be on that list. And yet, those same people might not even take the time to be friends with that same person if they were not related.
They say familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t think that’s always true.
Look at this picture:
I mean, HOLY CRAP is that a handsome man or what?
It’s Joseph Stalin.
Or as he was known back then, Iosif Dzhugashvili, the twenty-something year-old son of a humble cobbler from a small town, who had only recently been kicked out of a seminary for lack of tuition payments. He wanted to devote his life to helping the poor through God but they kicked him out for being too poor. Irony much? From most accounts back then, Iosf was well-liked and respected in his community. He stood 5’4” and had a withered left arm and everyone thought he was handsome. This photo, a mugshot, was taken in 1906, just as he was becoming what we would probably call a “community activist.” By 1934 he would kill fifty million people. Let me repeat that: Fifty. Million. People. Some of them are probably relatives of people who are reading this blog, yet here I am wondering why nobody put this man on the cover of Tiger Beat.
Now raise your hand if you feel like an asshole.
|Forsythia flowers get their name for their foresight — They are the first spring blooms to trumpet the arrival of a new season and the beauty that waits in the months ahead.
Where am I going with this?
I don’t know.
Last week, when everything was going on in Boston, I kept thinking about that photo of Stalin – not because there was some sort of Russian/Jerkoff/Delusions of Grandeur connection, but because I wondered if those brothers ever thought about the impact of their actions. Did they know what would become of their lives? Just like I wonder if the man in that photo ever thought about what would become of him, his life, his legacy. Did these men, all of them, know, truly know, they were choosing a path of hate and harm?
Did they think their actions would be worth the consequences? Or did they think, deep down, that they were operating for some higher purpose?
Look, it’s not that hard to understand how one person can act out in blind rage alone – mental illness takes to reasoning like a truck takes to a turtle – but, how do multiple people buy into the same delusions? How do people who start out good and normal and well-adjusted turn into murderous zealots? How did Iosif Dzhugashvili turn into Joseph Stalin?
And here is what’s really scary; What is to stop you or me or you or anyone else from heading down that road?
We think we know ourselves inside and out. Mothers always think they know their children better than anyone else, and yet, whenever there is some horrible and violent story on the news, who is always the first person they trot out in front of the camera, crying and blathering about how He could never do this and I have known him all his life – he wouldn’t hurt a fly and all those other things we have all heard 100 times? It’s the mother. It’s always the mother. The person who knows them best is never the one to see it first. Likewise, the child who thinks they know everything about their parent might not have even scratched the surface to viewing them as people, objectively, and not just good ol’ Mom or Dad.
Stuff like this bothers me. It keeps me up at night. I spend hours thinking about what sort of crazy breeds within me and my loved ones and then I have to watch videos of fat puppies in salad bowls just to calm down. It’s pretty disturbing. I digress…
What I’m saying is that basically, we’ve all been there – and if we haven’t, we should. We should let ourselves think about this stuff and not brush it off as a freak incident or someone else’s problem. I’m not advocating for paranoia, I’m advocating for thoughtfulness.
I firmly believe that second-guessing the familiar brings me a step closer to foresight and preparedness, and more importantly, it makes me appreciate all those things and people I might otherwise take for granted. At least that is what I tell myself. I tell myself lots of things… like, that it’s good to acknowledge the unpredictable because that means we might have a skootch of a chance at spotting it sooner.
It’s good to recognize that each of us has it within us to create magnificent acts of kindness, as well as frightening acts of terror.
It’s good to recognize we do not know ourselves, or our loved ones, as well as we might think.
…and then it’s time for more fat puppies.